Team Treehouse Review: Project 1, “Create a Simple Website”

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Team Treehouse LogoWorking in Team Treehouse, I decided to join the track, “Become a Web Developer,” since, well, I’d like to become a web developer. This is one of the excellent aspects of Team Treehouse in comparison with other learning sites, like lynda.com: the “tracks” you follow develop real-life skills using projects, rather than offering you CSS 101 and a string of uninteresting videos that leave you writing notes to retain anything at all. Right off the bat, I was pleased with Team Treehouse and this slightly non-linear approach.

Team Treehouse: What do you want to learn today?

The first project in the “Become a Web Developer” track is to “Create a simple website” for a bakery called, “Smells like Bakin”, complete with logos of bacon-laden cupcakes wafting what I think are meant to be delicious aromas.. but sort of look like trash fumes. Not really relevant.

Build a Simple WebsiteThe teacher for this project, Nick Pettit, is well-rehearsed and explains concepts well without being condescending.. you know those developers. Hah! You didn’t know that? You.. you.. how did you make it past diapers, you.. you.. nitwit?! Imbecile?!

None of that with Doc Pettit, which I like. At first he has a sort of irritating boy band faux-fauxhawk quality, but he grows on you. We see the end result – a basic but appealing website with images and text floating all over the damn page, or at least that’s how it seems to the beginner. Having worked almost exclusively in 9-year-old-friendly HTML (back when it was literally HTML 2.0, I kid you not) and WordPress (as a full-grown woman, dammit), HTML structure is not my forté. CSS I understand quite a bit more but still use in solid “hacking-at” fashion.

Nick walks you through several specific text editors to use, a practical application I really enjoyed. I settled on downloading Sublime2, which is the program Nick uses on his screencast as well. He then walked us through a couple necessary features on the software and how files should be named and structured. We dived right in, setting up an index.html page with the necessary HTML tags, including <!DOCTYPE>, <head>, <html>, etc.

From there, in easily digestible videos, punctuated every 10-12 minutes by “code challenges” or quizzes, we setup the website’s HTML structure piece by piece, including <div> tags, HTML elements, div classes, and div id’s. Nick did a great job of explaining the difference between HTML and CSS — a distinction, honestly, I never knew myself. My hacked-at piecemeal knowledge simply left holes there, but a two sentence explanation sealed that understanding right up.

After the HTML structure was in placed, we learned how to reference additional, related documents using <link rel> tags, how to reset CSS, and how to use grids to set page elements in specific spaces. This particular lesson was terribly enlightening to me, as this visual structure always eluded me, probably due to reliance on WordPress and other apps.

Bit by bit, we put together the website in a way that seemed so straightforward and simple, until it looked like the example from the beginning of the project. I took a few notes, especially for heavily nested classes and elements, so I’d remember what went where, why, and when. Otherwise, I felt I absorbed most of the information simply by hands-on experience, and I loved that.

Smells Like Bakin' Team Treehouse Learning ProjectThe screencasts were balanced by videos of Nick providing narrative and lecture, a welcome change to keep the interest up. I never felt bored or lost by the process, a perfect pace. Of course, the course is quite basic, but I felt good about learning the building blocks to creating proper, strong structure.

From this first project, I’m definitely excited about continuing to use Team Treehouse. I’d recommend it to anyone who considers themselves a hands-on learner who values experience (isn’t that everyone?). How far or deep into the concepts Team Treehouse goes I still don’t know, but so far, so good. Really, really good.

Sorry, Lynda, but you’re trailing here. I’ll use your videos to fill in a bit, but Team Treehouse is my main squeeze at this point.

Rating: 4.75/5 – Nick could possibly have explained a few things in greater detail (such as class and element nesting and proper order), though I anticipate that coming on later. Overall, super impressed all around.

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