This week we submitted an assignment that required us to use XML and CSS to create a short document for technical communicators. Basically, it was an introduction to using markup and style languages. But having no experience whatsoever of either XML or CSS, it goes without saying that I found this a challenging experience.
But I was not the only one on this steep learning curve. The discussion forum on Sulis allowed my classmates to post questions and queries about coding problems they were having. It was such a wonderful resource to have, and I can honestly say that this assignment would have taken me ten times longer without all their guidance, advice, and tips.
Overall, I enjoyed this assignment. I liked having the power with CSS to control exactly how various elements appeared on a page, the size of the fonts, the alignment, and so on. I appreciated the logic of the coding, and it made sense when looking at simple examples on the superb W3Schools site. However, frequently when I attempted to replicate a piece of code in my own document, it just didn’t come out the way I expected.
In the end after a lot of trial and error (which is an important method of learning), I managed to produce a serviceable document for viewing online. However, it only looked good when opened on Chrome. Viewing it on another browser caused all the text and images to shift on the page, creating a terrible muddle. And I have no idea why that happened.
I only really gave it one shot at preparing the XML document – I really didn’t have time to play about with creating a different hierarchy of elements. So I wonder if the way I structured the XML file caused some more difficulties with the organisation of the CSS file. Often I felt that I had to invent some odd work-arounds with the CSS in order to produce the output that I wanted. This was so frustrating because I was full sure that there was a simpler, more direct way of doing the same thing, but I just didn’t know how.
Markup and style languages are some of the most important tools for technical writers to learn. After this first attempt at using these tools, I am left with a desire to learn more about them. Fortunately, as discussed previously, there are numerous resources online that I can use to learn these languages. I think that completing one of these courses will have to be my next step if I am to have any hope at all of remembering how I completed this assignment.