The guide I wish I’d had when I started my Web Development journey
Visual Studio Code
It’s laughable how long I spent knowing how to write code, but not where to write it. The answer is Visual Studio Code. There are other options out there, but VS Code is developed by Microsoft, and as such to me is the Microsoft Word of writing code — but completely free. Not a lot more to say on this, just go and download it now.
Stick to the Frontend
You may or may not notice that a recurring theme is emerging at this point — I haven’t once touched on anything relating to backend development. This isn’t a coincidence — In my option, frontend is much easier to both learn and practice than backend, and the experience of actually being able to directly interact with and show other people what you’ve created is hugely rewarding. I’m sure some people will take issue with this point, but the reality is that you can create and deploy a website without building a backend, but you can’t build one without a frontend.
Take a React course
The course is a little dated in places — take the additional “New!” section found at the end of the course after the “Stateless Functional Components” section — but overall it’s a brilliant introduction to both React as a framework, and many other important Web Development concepts like Git, Webpack, and deploying applications. By all means shop around and look at other courses, but I took this one, and highly recommend it.
Make more stuff
Covering Git and GitHub through the aforementioned React course really open up your ability to demonstrate your abilities as a developer — with the knowledge afforded to you by the aforementioned course, just start building stuff, even before you’ve finished it. There are literally infinite possibilites of stuff to build — a few examples of web apps I made are as follows:
- Noughts and crosses / tic-tac-toe app
- Retro snake game
- Wordle clone
Use online tutorials, or just wing it — the more stuff you make, the more experience you get, the more problems you encounter and have to fix, and the more capable you become as a developer.
Beyond the Frontend
By this point you’ll legitimately be a solid frontend developer, and frankly deserve to be hired. It’s still always worth broadening your knowledge where possible though — and this Node Udemy course is a good place to start. Although my role is primarily a frontend developer, I still need to dabble in server-side code from time to time, and this course gives a good foundation for both Node itself and backend Web Development concepts in general. It’s also delivered by Andrew Mead, and as such is a logical companion to the aforementioned React course.
I nearly included “Get a Mac” as an item in this guide, but removed it for hopefully obvious reasons. Clearly not everyone is in a position to get a Mac — it’s not a dealbreaker, and there are plenty of guides online for how to get started without one. With that being said, if you’re fortunate enough to have the opportunity to get a Mac of some description — it doesn't need to be shiny and new or anything, it just needs to work, and ideally run the latest version of MacOS (even that isn’t essential) — you should get one. Swallow your pride Windows people, Macs are just better for Web Development!
A few words on Bootcamps
There’s a very good chance that at some point that someone has suggested to you, or you’ve generally read about, Web Development bootcamps. I myself am a bootcamp (I won’t name the specific one here) graduate — It was a great experience, and introduced me to a lot of essential concepts, as well as giving me some good material for job interviews. However, it also didn’t cover a lot of stuff, and the real fundamentals of my current job aren’t really that closely related to the bootcamp’s content at all — the programming language isn’t even the same! I can’t speak for all bootcamps, but in my experience, it didn’t really seem hugely well optimised to land you the first junior developer role, and felt more geared towards aspiring product managers.
If you have the means and the time to do a bootcamp, go for it — mine was great fun, and it did give me some good experience collaborating with people on projects. Realistically though, for the cost of a bootcamp, you could buy a decent MacBook, spend £30 on those Udemy courses, and potentially cover all of your costs of living for at least three months while you plough through this guide. Honestly, when framed in that way, the bootcamp is quite hard to recommend.
There clearly isn’t one prescribed way to go about becoming a Web Developer; some people will probably read this and scoff that I didn't do this or that, and that’s probably fair enough — I’d unquestionably recommend that you read as much as you can, and take in as many viewpoints as possible to best inform and shape your own. With that being said, I do really believe that I’ve covered the early stage fundamentals well here, and I’ve cunningly outsourced a lot of the slightly later-stage content to a Udemy course. Depending on your circumstances, I reckon it should take anywhere from three to six months to get through this guide in the depth required to develop real proficiency in frontend web development. Don’t rush it, take your time and really try and internalise all the different concepts — doing it as fast as possible definitely won’t be of any benefit. I’d love to hear any thoughts on this article by developers both inexperienced and experienced alike, and wish any aspiring devs the best of luck on their journeys!