My guide to becoming a web developer

In 2009, I began my life as a web developer. I had previously built a few fun little first person shooter games in Actionscript that featured enemy stick figures but other than that I was completely clueless. 5 years later I was hired as a Senior Software Developer. Some people think becoming a web developer takes genius, a lot of people don’t even know where to begin. Realistically, anyone can learn what I know, and this is exactly how to do it.

1. Learn Html

Before anything else, you need to do this. It’s what the entire web is built around. And, you can learn enough in a few hours to be proficient.

Go to w3schools. Read it. Then open up notepad and write an html web page. It’s going to look ugly, but it’s a great starting place.

2. Learn CSS

Make your html not look ugly anymore. I recommend reading w3schools and then trying to style a website that you visit often.

A few pain points:

  • Learning Floats
  • Learning position styling
  • Realize that web designers have gotten really good at their jobs, don’t worry, you will get there.

Use stack overflow by searching for your questions. Also, from here on out, google your questions. The answers will make more sense with time.

3. Learn Javascript

Just learn the basics for now. Use Code Academy. Then go back and make your web page and make divs hide and show when you click them. Immediately realize that you want to do a lot of things quick and easy. So…

4. JQuery

Realize that you can load in a CDN that provides an easy way to do most of what you will ever want to do with basic javascript. Here is a hint:

// Do something

Learn about selectors. Go back and change your hide/show javascript to JQuery. It’s a one liner.

5. Begin Learning PHP

To learn PHP you will need to set up an environment that allows you to use PHP. I recommend googling something along the lines of “Getting started with PHP in {My Operating system}

Know that you are going to need a local server. Start with apache. Mac has one built in, and for windows you can use WAMP. Google it.

6. SQL

W3 schools again. (Notice a trend). Build a database and mess with it. This shouldn’t take very long to have a general understanding.

7. Get better at everything

At this point you should be able to develop a website. Practice makes progress. You should know how to build a website that looks decent and should be able to take user input to do things on the site. Go through a few tutorials on building a blog or a forum in PHP. 
Don’t look into frameworks yet.
You should be able to build your own blog and it shouldn’t be gross. Google MVC and learn what that is. If you see something in your code that is repetitive, make a function for it.

When you can build a blog from scratch without having to rely on google, go ahead and start applying for Jr. Developer jobs (if that’s what you’re into).

7. Frameworks

Realize rebuilding the wheel is stupid. Google both of these:

  • Bootstrap
  • Laravel

Use bootstrap to make your life a lot easier when it comes to styling web pages. And Laravel will make your life a million times easier when it comes to writing applications with PHP. Really take your time learning Laravel. I seriously recommend watching everything you can on Laracasts. Those videos will take your programming to another level.

8. Realize you don’t know Javascript

Now that you’ve found JQuery as a crutch for everything regarding client side programming, stop. Javascript provides pretty much everything you use routinely without needing Jquery. On next site you are working on instead of using JQuery use a vanillaJavascript equivalent. I recommend googling “{Do this} in vanilla js” for everything you need to do.

This is a big step towards the next level of web development.

9. React / Vue

Pick one, google it, and learn it. Build something simple. It’ll probably be a to-do app. Then build something more complicated.

Along the way you will need to learn about npm and gulp. It will make no sense at first, learn it anyway. This will take a little time to wrap your head around, but it’ll be highly beneficial.

10. Python

Learn another language. This will teach you a lot about programming and will give you ideas that you previously hadn’t thought of. Each language has strengths and weaknesses. It’ll be important to learn the right tool for the job.

11. Get a Job

Even if it’s contract work. You‘ll learn a lot about the lesser known issues in programming. You’ll discover how to scope a project and how to plan for the future. Without working on larger projects, your programming skills can easily become stagnant. Working for a client or an employer will help refine your craft.

12. Build something cool

Realize that programming is fun. You may have forgot that along the way if you’re trying to make a living by programming. Have an idea? Build it. Don’t worry about making the next Facebook or anything, just build something that you want to use. This is how you’ll keep your love of coding, and it’s the reason most of us get into it in the first place.

13. Keep Learning

Along the way you probably will have also had to learn about servers to some extent. Get better at it. Learn to use the command line. Figure out which tools you like using the most. Learn other languages, learn other frameworks, learn other processes. The more you learn, the better and faster you will be. Also by this point you will realize that the learning never stops because this industry changes rapidly. Keep at it, and enjoy!

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