A Web Developer’s Rucksack

February 29, 2016

My Coding Cave

This is my coding cave. It may look like my office with the blinds drawn, but don’t let that fool you. Like any belly of the beast, it can be a dangerous place. Once you’ve entered, there’s no going back… and inside, sunlight and bathing become optional things.

In my web design + development projects, coding means front-end web development, custom WordPress theme development and WordPress theme customizations. When I’m coding, I’m all in; I focus on getting a project built within a compressed timeframe. Then, when I’m done, I can go outside, see the sun and finally take a shower again.

This means I need to pack well before I begin.

I’m intrigued by the tools people use in their trades, like the ranger’s preferred hiking boots or the writer’s best-loved pen. Although front-end web development may not have quite the same universal appeal, below are a few of my favorite supplies that I like to bring into my coding cave with me.

If you have your own recommendations for coding tools (or great hiking boots or pens for that matter!), I’d love to learn from you in the comments below.


Sublime Text & CodeKit: I use Sublime Text to work with HTML, CSS, PHP, JavaScript and more. It’s a fast, sleek and simple code editor that gets the job done. CodeKit is a Mac-based code compiler that’s super easy to set up and use. I use it for projects that have LESS or SASS stylesheets to compile and minify code.

Bones: Instead of building WordPress themes from thin air, these days I tend to rely on the Bones theme for a basic foundation. It’s well-commented, uses SASS and is mobile-first, so it provides a clear place to start for most custom designs.

Make: Many projects don’t need a fully custom WordPress theme. Due to a combination of design/schedule/budget needs, a customized theme will work just fine. For these types of projects, I’m currently enjoying working with The Theme Foundry’s Make theme. It has a simple, fast page builder interface that lets you customize page layouts without the issues and complexity of most other builder themes I’ve tried. The code is clean and easy to work with, which helps in setting up child themes for custom styling.

TextEdit: With all of the complexity, steps and layers involved in coding, I find the simplest of methods works best to keep myself on track. Mac’s TextEdit does the trick: I save a file with my code to keep quick lists of to-do’s, tests, bugs and fixes.

Audiobooks: I’ve discovered over the years that listening to audiobooks helps me concentrate while programming. I liken this to the Ballmer Peak phenomenon, which I’ve also tested but found not to be quite as sustainable. The perfect audiobook offers the right hint of tipsy distraction that helps the programming part of my brain stay focused on solving problems. Like Ballmer Peak, too little or too much of a good thing can quickly offset the balance: a bad book can make programming painful, and I have to hit pause if a good book gets too interesting.

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9 Comments

  1. Rosie

    Ha! Love it. Especially the Ballmer Peak — I had never heard of that before, but it definitely makes sense. I’ve always said I become a professional darts player halfway through my second beer, but once I’ve finished it I’m done for the night! A fellow Sterlinger suggested listening to movie soundtracks while I work (she listens to them 24/7) — it totally works!

    Reply
    1. sarah

      Thanks Rosie! Somehow the drinks don’t help my dart playing at all… But soundtracks are a neat idea– that would definitely add some drama to the more mundane tasks of the day!

      Reply
  2. Alexandra Dickerman

    Maybe we have a lot of resistance, so sometimes our new ideas have to sneak in and take us by surprise, like having a brainstorm while we’re taking a shower.

    Your supplies sound arcane and mysterious to me, but I’m definitely attached to my own set of essentials — including a hot cup of sweet black tea.

    Thanks for the insights Sarah!

    Reply
    1. sarah

      Oooo! I forgot about the tea– you’ve gotten me hooked on that too! Thank you!

      Reply
    2. Yoli

      I like the idea of ideas having to sneak in and take us by surprise!

      Reply
  3. Naomi Rayman

    What a beautiful website and I love its fun and festive look. I’m in!

    Reply
    1. sarah

      Thanks Naomi! So happy to have you!

      Reply
  4. Yoli

    Love it! I don’t have any essential coding tools to share, but I do like to listen to NPR.org programs while I work. One program I love, especially if I am having a hard time digging into a project, is http://www.npr.org/series/tiny-desk-concerts/.

    Reply
    1. sarah

      Thanks Yoli! Great recommendation– I’ll check it out!

      Reply