Adopting a new technology

Embarking upon a technology change-management project

Knowledge gap After finishing graduate studies, I was so tired of formal education that I stopped looking at the latest research in business, new developments in technology and other academically geeky topics that interest me a lot. Recently, while upgrading my websites to the current internet standards, I was faced with the challenge of learning a whole bunch of new things in a limited amount of time and, in the process, discovering that I wasn’t prepared for the transition. Here’s how I managed to reconcile a solution and manage the change.

Frustration

Over the last five days, I have spent thirty five hours redesigning this website. The last time I designed anything was three years ago, back in the summer of ’09. At that time my understanding of wordpress (the software that runs this blog) was at a sufficient level and the technology, at least the portions I needed access to, was within reach.

Sadly, since then, I haven’t managed to keep up with technology related to the new standards of web authoring at all. Technology, as you know, advances at an accelerating rate and the revelation of my knowledge gap came in an embarrassing manner. See, I taught myself webdesign a decade ago using internet resources, purely as a hobby and nothing more; meaning I didn’t work on it full-time. If one were to learn webdesign today, I fear it would take a substantial amount of one’s time just to keep up with the technology that is used to run a blog’s back-end. There is so much information that the time devotion alone is certainly uncharacteristic of what one would imagine the commitments of a conventional “hobby” would be.

At my study desk Coming to terms with the fact that I neither had the time nor the motivation to learn something new was a struggle. I’ve always been, to an extent and for the things I like to do, a fan of building things from scratch, but this time I lacked the knowledge and had no foreseeable way to acquire it. Webdesign knowledge, in particular, was something I was very proud of. Therefore, the solution, of not being able to design myself and having to use an off-the-shelf product instead, was fundamentally against my usual disposition. It made me quite depressed for an evening or so.

However, that’s how life is and I figured it wouldn’t be bad at all to rely on products designed by experts.

Approach

I started logging the hours I was spending researching various products and trying to understand how they work. There are three main stage of this project:

  1. Research: There is no doubt I am sticking to wordpress. However, the number of development frameworks, theme environments and template options available on the internet is quite overwhelming. After a lot of research and testing, I picked a framework and a theme I wanted to work with.
  2. Learn: WordPress has moved from v2.8 in 2009 to v3.4 in 2012. The numbers may not seem significant but the back-end has undergone a real and wonderful conceptual shift to a logical, clean and efficient design. In addition, new standards for HTML v5, CSS v3 are now in the market. As a result of these changes, I am completely unfamiliar with the new features such as hooks, responsive layouts or typography.
  3. Implement: Finally I am going to implement the new standards on the two blogs I run and make them fully compliant to current standards and flexible enough for future upgrades. This stage also includes cleaning up older posts, maintenance and optimization of web pages.

Nature of work involved

Activity map for change management Time required for change activities

A record of my time investment on this project is shown in the charts above, although I understand that it’s usefulness to other people is obviously limited. Nevertheless I wanted to illustrate, in general, what a technology change management project like this entails. These charts may aid the planning of future technological change-management projects.

  1. First, I wrote down the key outcomes I wanted to achieve, namely, the use of current standards, responsive layout, good typography and a load speed of four seconds. Among the plethora of options, I shortlisted two frameworks (or a parent theme in the later case): Thematic and Hybrid and settled on the Esplanade parent theme.
  2. Next, I mapped my existing knowledge to the new php, css3, html5 information I was acquiring. Sadly, much, rather most of the technology was beyond my reach (given the time constraints), so I settled upon using open-source, off the shelf materials that I could modify.
  3. Finally, I started making modifications to my website, starting with the low hanging fruit such as css modifications and custom queries, followed by some advanced hacks using hooks. Once this was done, there was the daunting task of bringing page load speeds to under four seconds (which I haven’t managed btw) and performing general maintenance on the back-end of this blog.

Conclusion: A new algorithm

If you are braced with a similar challenge of adopting a new technology, perhaps the chart below will assist you in getting organized. I think the algorithm is pretty robust and adaptable to a variety of situations.
Algorithm for learning new technology ©Priyank.com

The result of this endeavour is this refreshed website, adhering to all current standards. Hope the effort was worth it..!

5 thoughts on “Adopting a new technology

  1. I would say it was definitely worth it! Great example of how one catches up with evolving tech overcoming internal resistance and external hurdles. Proud of you, keep up the good work!

    • Hi Mahendrra, thanks for the comments. I’ve noticed that there is a socio-cultural expectation to be on top of everything, be it latest phone gadgets or fashion trends. Too many things to keep up with, lol!

  2. You and I both… I dread upgrading my theme or to a new version of WP each time! Once you really get into it, anything can be fixed but it is time-consuming and takes a lot of research!

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