|Testing HTML Skills|
How can you tell if someone really knows their HTML / CSS?
I was just wondering if anyone has any opinions on this. We are recruiting a new Producer at the moment. They will be coding HTML (pref. XHTML) and CSS.
I simply don't have enough applications from people who genuinely handcode. They might say so on the application, but I when I view source on supplied portfolio sites and can tell by all the spare empty tags or terrible tables!
I need a way to test the DreamWeaver etc. users to see if they could cope in a hand-coded environment and check how much of their knowledge is genuine.
Does anyone have suggestions for the kind of questions to ask? As someone who's always hand-coded, I'm kinda stumped! Or am I wrong to place so much emphasis on handcoding?
Looking forward to hearing your comments!
Here's a litmus test that I've used recently to good result:
1. Ask them to explain what a DTD is
2. Ask them to explain quirks mode and standards mode
If your candidate is familiar with those two areas, they've almost always got the goods. If no candidate has that knowledge, pick the one who seems best and begin remedial education.
But those two questions really cut through to the core of the knowledge you need in an HTML worker.
There are some standardized HTML tests available, but I haven't looked into this are since 1998. At that time they were very well done, but the license was a bit pricey, as I remember.
Give them a print flyer and ask them to hand code it as a web-page using compliant, stuctural xhtml and css. The source will tell the story. If you see one big image or a ton of little ones in table cells, they're either lazy or don't have the goods. Also, be sure to check it in a couple of different browsers.
Ask them what the answer to life the universe and everything is. If they answer 42 then your golden.
no but seriously, tell them to make a website that looks the same in NS4.7 through IE6 and everyhting in between. If they can do that then they win my cookie. Then run validator.w3c on them and print out a list of the errors.
Where are the people who actually want qualified html coders around here?
I had an interview recently where there was an html sample about half a page long that we were supposed to correct.
By the time I had identified the errors, and made notes about how the code could be improved, I had used up the rest of the first page and half of the back side. It was fairly clear from the sample (and from the company's websites) that no one in the company was as experienced as me.
This was followed by a very congenial interview, and I didn't even get to move on to the second round of interviews...@#@%#$#!&*
Anyway, to answer the question (and since you asked about html and css), I might ask them to produce something slightly tricky, but fairly quick - like a horizontal menu bar - according to a provided (visual) sample. If they do it with presentation correctly removed to the css, you have a good candidate. If they get the css correct and use a list to do it, you probably have quite a strong candidate...
As long as you give them a computer with a program they are familiar with it is fine.
People don't often like change and if you ask someone to do something in a way they never do things, it will not show you what they can do for you.
I use the programs for syntax highlighting only. I write all the code myself. If they know what they are doing you will get good code, if they don't it doesn't matter what program they use, it will still be bad.
First thing I would do is run their developed page through the W3C HTML and CSS Validators. Based on those results, I would then determine their level of competency when it comes to coding.
Handcoding is a necessity these days. Due to the issues that are prevalent with WYSIWYG editors, a few hand tweaks here and there may be required.
I wouldn't get too hung up on finding someone who can build a page from scratch using Note Pad. I'd also be looking at their WYSIWYG skills and whether or not they understand how the program works.
I'd be more apt to give them testing on basic html tags. Do they know what tags to use, when and where?
Good question and some excellent responses but I'm wondering about your application. The question seems to indicate that you have a static web site without much maintenance required.
Are you planning an interactive site (e.g., forms, logins, user responses, etc.)? If so knowing (X)HTML is just the beginning. You will also have to have someone with database skills (e.g., MYSQL) and server side programming skills (e.g., PHP).
|You will also have to have someone with database skills (e.g., MYSQL) and server side programming skills (e.g., PHP). |
Yup, but you may also find that a few of them are lacking in the basic necessities. Seriously, I've seen lots of invalid code over the years generated from a multitude of resources, you know, those geeky types. ;)
It's not that the code they wrote didn't work, there just happened to be a more efficient way to do it and write valid code at the same time. Many times its just the simplest of things like not closing a tag properly or incorrect nesting.
Either way, it would be all those little things that I would be looking at. Most programmers are going to be very good at what they know (the big things). Tell them that they have to design the application using CSS and XHTML or even .NET for that matter, and pay very close attention to that first response. If you see a blank look, that might be an indication that something is wrong. ;)
Thanks for all the suggestions: they are just the kind of pointers that I needed.
Just for the record, it's precisely because we don't have a static site I need a decent hand-coder. Sometimes elements on a page have to be moved around: it's a total nightmare in HTML where everything is fixed into nested table td-s with declared heights and widths. And if you have a team of people all able to work on the same files: WSIWYG bloat is just impossible!
We're just at the start of the process, so if anyone has further suggestions, feel free :)
How much does it pay and where do I apply?