How to learn web development on your own

Original author: David Turnbull
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At the age of twelve, after I discovered the “Save as Web Page” feature in Microsoft Word, I began to learn web development. At first I learned HTML, then CSS and JavaScript, after which I grabbed a little bit from PHP and Rails (today I like Meteor). All these years I was thinking about getting a formal education, and I even saw some advantages in this, however, in the end:

1. It was too expensive.
2. It is quite difficult for me to get education in the format of an educational audience.
3. I already achieved quite a lot at that time.

But it was not always easy and simple. I didn’t just learn how to write code. I learned how to study, and this will be the topic of today's discussion. Here I have given five steps on how to learn web development.

1. Limit the area of ​​web development that is of interest to you.

You can’t just go and “become a web developer” by reading a specific book or watching a certain number of videos. Web development is a vast field, and attempts to become a jack of all trades in it will simply squeeze all the juice out of you, leave it with a broken trough, and you will not go far in mastering the material regarding the place where you started.

Being a web programmer is something like being a scientist. There are fundamental ideas that apply in all disciplines, but you need specialization. You will have to choose one area for yourself - it is much easier to learn new areas after you have already mastered any one - but you will not be limited by your choice. A person deeply familiar with PHP can do much more than someone superficially familiar with the top ten most advanced web technologies.

From this point of view, however, there is no universal solution. Once you've become familiar with HTML and CSS, just pick the one you're interested in. Maybe you need to find out why your favorite websites were created. You'll find that Rails is almost universally used, but the JavaScript shell is also gaining ground. I work with Meteor, because I like its properties in real time. Your considerations are not important. Just try to follow your own interests, as only this will support your motivation.

If you aren’t particularly attracted to anything, dwell on the most popular technologies, such as JavaScript and PHP. There are so many training materials for them that you will be amazed at the abundance of available support.

2. Ignore most of the “guides” from venerable web developers.

Experienced web developers often with good intentions offer recommendations for beginners who have absolutely no practical use. The reasons for this are as follows:

1. Do not forget that you are a beginner.
2. From one who has just begun to grasp the basics, too much is required.
3. There may be preferences based on issues you may never encounter (such as scaling to millions of users).

Ask, for example, which language you should start learning, and the debate that follows will have nothing to do with what is best for you. This will be a debate based on preconceptions that have been developed by developers over the course of their work.

And now about how I see it:

It doesn’t matter if you start learning PHP, Rails or JavaScript, or anything else. Why? Because to relearn from one language to another means absolutely nothing compared to the gap between not being a web developer and being a web developer.

There are experienced web developers with great tips, but when you are offered advice, ask yourself: “Is this really the best way for a beginner to learn this process? Or maybe it’s just the developer who wants beginners to learn this way? ”

3. Ask yourself a clear (and feasible) task.

After learning the basics of web development, try to create something without books and textbooks. In general, this is the most effective method to:

1. Feel the joy of creation.
2. Identify gaps in their knowledge.
3. Explore effective solutions to problems.

It does not matter what exactly you decide to do, but try to stick to the smallest possible project volume. If, according to your estimates, you need to spend several weeks to implement this project - it is too large. Make it smaller. You don’t want the project to last painfully long.

Also make sure that the project has a final point. What properties should he possess in order to be able to say that he is “completed”? You should know when it will be possible to relax and enjoy the work done (and this does not mean at all that the project is ready to be presented to the public, because there is no need to publish your creation).

In most cases, any project whose main task is to collect any basic data is the best way for a beginner to test his knowledge.

4. Strive for a clear daily schedule

When you start web development, in some areas you are making great strides, but there comes a time when your progress slows down, and this is the moment at which many novice web developers give up and become discouraged.

This is because beginners usually enjoy the learning process when they reach specific grades. Moreover, these marks are unpredictable. After gaining basic knowledge, one can not make any significant progress for weeks and months.

There is, however, an alternative:

Instead of focusing on achieving certain milestones, devote to the training and practice in web development a strictly defined time every day. A minimum of twenty minutes is a good time to start, but there are no clear boundaries and requirements. Just estimate how much free time you can definitely and constantly spend on this business.

The trick is to comply with the time period, is the pleasure of the fact that you can constantly observe it. New horizons will open before you as a pleasant addition, and not as an unpredictable goal.

5. Stock up on enough training materials. You

may have seen a Ira Glass video writing about code, in which he states that people "do a lot of work."

This simple faith leads to a state of excellence, and the idea is easily applicable to web development. To become a web developer, you need to write a lot of code, but many people do not realize that the code does not have to be proprietary. Of great importance is following the code taken from books, training materials and video lessons - for example, as on the SitePoint website and in books and courses from sites like Learnable.

You need to stock up on material - and you need to be aware of the meaning of each line of code when writing it - but even if you just cram, learning moves forward.

What most people do not consider:

Syntax is not the hardest part of web development. This is the main trouble for beginners, but subsequently the definition of a way of thinking that can help solve a particular problem becomes a big snag. The biggest irony is that often beginners often offer a more comprehensive solution than professionals.

Given the above, the advantage of following the directions in a large number of training materials is that:

• You can see how different developers solve different problems.
• You can see how different developers solve the same problems.

When you finally can work on your own project, such experience will give you the tools you need to:

1. Identify the core of the task.
2. Outline of what is required to solve this problem.

You may not have accurate solutions in stock, but that doesn't matter. Many problems in one form or another have already been solved by someone before, and half of the problem of “expressing your thoughts in the form of code” is to understand what you are trying to say. After you overcome this boundary, the syntax and all sorts of little things will seem much simpler.


I just shared a handful of recommendations “in general” on how to force myself to learn web development, but these are really the things that I would like to be told when I started doing this.

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