This weekend I’ve been learning some basic web design skills. That is, after writing my rather preachy blog article on financial success here. I’ve taken myself on a basic CSS course, courtesy of w3schools.com and I’ve started putting together the basic outline of my very first ASP.NET website.On Friday I was taking a look at the ASP.NET templates that Microsoft provide, but the problem with these is that they all use some very restrictive CSS and Themes and Skins (Microsoft’s own styling standard that takes precedence over CSS) that I couldn’t get any of them to fit the style of the website that I wanted. So the only way forward then was to start from scratch, and actually take the time to learn how CSS, Themes, Master Pages, HTML controls and server side controls work. I feel a bit of my depth here since I’m used to working with WinForms and now I have an extra “state management” ball to juggle on top of learning a whole new way of working.
On top of this, Visual Studio and I aren’t best friends at the moment since it’s been giving me all kind of XHTML validation errors which I know aren’t true as I’ve inspected the code myself many times over. It turns out closing the page I’m working on and reopening it causes Visual Studio to re-parse the code and then it decides all is well and it was only messing with my mind earlier. How annoying.
I’m also training myself subconsciously by listening to MSDN Live Webcasts. These are online Powerpoint presentations with live video, made publicly available by Microsoft. And they are invaluable. In one presentation I felt so empowered to try publishing my website direct from Visual Studio. Apparently publishing an ASP.NET website is as easy as pushing a button. Well, I configured the “Publish Website” options and clicked “Publish”. Visual Studio proceeded to take my website offline (giving HTTP 403.1 errors to visitors) and deleted half the files in the root of my website (I did give it permission to do this), but then it spent 15 minutes trying to upload 2mb by FTP to the root of the site. It said “Publish Successful” after 15 minutes but my site was still down and a cursory inspection showed half the .aspx files missing. Did Visual Studio somehow compile my .aspx files into binaries for deployment? Who knows? A quick xcopy and 30 seconds later the site was back.
My next task is implementing forms authentication. Apparently this is as easy as dragging the new “Login” control from the toolbox to the design surface. Want a bet it will be a little more involved than this?
My “Web 0.1” login controls:
Versus “ASP.NET 2.0” (Server) Login Control
Seriously though, I need to run the aspreg_iis wizard (or whatever it’s called) to create the ASP.NET web admin forms, and then apply my new database schema to a neighbouring database which links with these users. Ultimately I’m planning for a massive take-up on this service and hence need to ensure that I can scale the statistics databases (summary stats & logs) away from the registered user tables.
Anyhow, back to work!