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Zach Saucier's thoughts

So you want to learn web development?

I’ve had several friends come to me seeking advice for how to get started programming for the web. Most haven’t given too much thought to the idea, but are intrigued by code or websites and want to learn more. If you’re in that position or somewhere similar, this post is for you.

What follows is a collection of recommendations that I have for a person starting out. I’ll keep updating it as time goes on. If you feel like it’s missing something or have a question, don’t hesitate to contact me at!

If you’re looking for a post about actually learning the core of web development, I created a crash course that you should check out!

Programming should be fun

If you’re not enjoying the programming you’re doing (at least once you’ve create a project or two), it might not be for you. In order to create something truly high quality all of the time, you’ve got to care about and enjoy it, at least some. With that being said, some programming projects are just plain dull and tiresome, so choose projects that you are interested in doing before you even start.

And if you end up not going down the path of programming, that’s okay! It says nothing about you other than the fact that programming is not for you. Thankfully we’re not all made to do the same thing.

Learn through building projects

It’s best to have some goal in mind. That way you have a motive and learn what is actually useful towards achieving that goal. Choose a project that interests you and learn all that you need to to accomplish that goal. If you end up wanting to switch projects once you’ve started one, that’s okay so long as you actually end up completing some projects.

Focusing on projects also makes it much easier to continue working on a project when you run into something you can’t figure out your first try. You will run into a lot of situations like this, even full time developers do, so not getting completely discouraged is important. Having an end goal will make it a lot easier to keep working to achieve that goal. In most all cases, you’ll be able to get it eventually! When you can’t, you’ll know for sure that it’s not possible.

A great way to learn through making projects is to take the projects that other people have made and edit them to do something else that you want – to remix them. Sites like CodePen are great for this since they let you see the code someone used to create something, “fork” it (creating your own version), and offer a built in editor with everything you need, no server required!

Focus on the core, not frameworks or libraries

The core of the web is built on HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Stick to those until you have a good understanding of how they work (including how they work together) before moving on to using any type of framework or library. This will help you down the road and help your understanding as you learn it.

Don’t worry about server stuff or build processes until you understand the core technology and are committed to development on a more serious level. They are necessary to learn some at some point, but focus on the fun stuff that’s not the setup. This way you can judge if you actually want to become a web developer and then invest in learning the more drab stuff and are less likely to get discouraged.

Don’t get “certified”

Any website that promises “certification” in some skill related to development is not globally accepted and is likely bologna, not worth your time and especially your money. It probably has some truth to it, but probably about as the same level as your high school grades represent your IQ.

You also don’t have to go to school for development, especially web development. School teaches how to think well and shows you a wider range of subjects than you would likely study without it. Actual work related skills and knowledge come from working on projects and working at companies, not a classroom.

Don’t stop what you’re doing

If you’re currently enrolled in a school program that isn’t programming, I recommend to try development in your free time before switching tracks. That’s because it is something that can be learned in your spare time a lot more easily than some other tracks. It also may prevent waste if you end up not liking development.

This is especially true if you already have a job. Income is income. Before giving up a guranteed paycheck for a fancy that may not work out long term, invest your free time to make sure it will work for you.

How long it takes to learn or get hired depends on the situation

There are countless factors to hire-ability, from ones related to your skillset to how the market is looking at the time in the area where you’re looking to get hired. The role at the company that you’re applying to also plays a huge factor, as they may be looking for someone who can come into the company fully capable of doing the job or may be looking to teach from the ground up – it just depends on their needs and ability to teach.

With that being said, to be a really good candidate the most entry-level job, I estimate it will likely take several months of spare time creating projects. For a less entry-level job, it’d probably require working on several larger, completed self projects that are used by people in the real world. And you simply won’t be able to get a senior level job until you have years of work experience.

Bootcamps can be helpful but are not necessary

None of the truly good programmers I know went to a bootcamp. They all picked programming up in their spare time because they found it enjoyable.

With that being said, I can see bootcamps being useful for two purposes: 1) giving you ideas for projects and motivating you to try and complete them (which I believe you can do without them if you’re self motivated), and 2) a community of people also learning and programming with you, which is probably the most valuable asset it offers. However, you can find communities of people who are building things, particularly ones online. I found a chatroom on StackOverflow that offered this community for me. This is the biggest reason why I contribute to StackOverflow.

I hope this has been helpful for you and gives you a clearer picture of what to expect in regards to the web development world! Let me know if you have any questions about what has been said or a subject that I didn’t cover in this post.