Becoming a Web Developer— Where to Start
Feb. 28, 2019, 7:27 p.m.
| Written By: Tanner S.
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When I first started to learn how to become a programmer, I had some difficulty making sense of all of the knowledge and resources out there. It can be a little overwhelming to figure out how to go about this. I wrote this primer as a way to help point people who may be having this same problem, and to help make sense of the many different moving parts when learning how to code.

There are a lot of people out there that may tell you different approaches. This makes sense for me, but everyone is different so use a process that works best with you.

Determine Your Goal

Try to think about what you want to do. What do you want to get out of programming?

Do you want to change careers? Do you want to create your own web app? Do you want to start your own business? Having these questions in your mind will help you gravitate to the right resources to help you with your goal. If you don’t know at this point, its fine. Maybe you just want to learn how to program with no other motive. That is fine. Just keep these in the back of your mind.

What is Programming?

Programming can be thrown around a lot. But what is it exactly?

Programming is the act of writing instructions that you want a computer to do. As a programmer, you can think of yourself as a translator. You are translating from a human being (yourself) to a computer’s language.

Picking a Language

In the long run, the first language(s) you pick should not matter. The only real difference between different languages is the syntax. The logic and functionality is similar across pretty much all languages. However, when you choose your languages, you should have an idea of what you want to do to start off.

Front End Web Development

If you want to become website developer, you should start with HTML, CSS and Javascript. These languages are how browsers work with webpages, so any modern website will likely rely on all of these. These languages will be the foundation of your website development career and are called “Front End” languages because they are forward facing to the user.

HTML is the language that websites are written in. This is a must know language for website development, and the first one you should focus on.

CSS helps add styling to your websites. This is what makes your website actually look good. You can change the color of content, change the layout or do any number of things.

Javascript will help you add interactivity to your website. It will allow you to provide feedback when a user clicks a button, or do some sort of action on your website.

Back End Web Development

Back End Web Development is what allows you to create dynamic websites and web apps. This refers to all the programming that goes on under the scenes. So, when you go to YouTube and search for a video, YouTube is accessing its Back End (specifically its database) to return the videos you may be looking for.

You can use many languages to code on the back end, including Javascript, Python, PHP, Java and Ruby. There are a lot of moving pieces with back end development, so it is important to know of a few frameworks.

Libraries, Frameworks and Other Tools

As you become more and more comfortable with the first three languages, you may realize that you are writing a lot of code for very simple tasks. Or, you may realize that you are repeating yourself a lot. Well, if you have realized it, chances are others have as well. That is where libraries and frameworks come in. Libraries and frameworks contain a lot of code that you can use and are written by a third party. First, let’s look at some front end tools.

Bootstrap is a front end library that helps easily create responsive websites quickly.

JQuery is a front end library that simplifies your Javascript code. It does everything that Javascript can do, but better and more efficient.

React is a widely used front end framework relying on Javascript. It creates very fast websites and is widely used. Angular is another framework that has similar features.

Sass is a language that works with CSS. Instead of tediously coding in CSS, Sass makes it much faster to style your websites. Since it works with CSS, all valid CSS code is valid Sass code, so it is not a steep learning curve.

Next, let’s look at back end tools. Here are a list of popular back end frameworks that help you create/maintain your data for your website/app.

Django is a back end framework using Python. It is great for building scalable websites quickly. Flask is another widely used Python framework.

Node.js (also referred to as Node) is one of the most (if not the most) popular back end framework around. It uses Javascript, so it can easily be used with most front end Javascript frameworks.

Ruby on Rails (also called Rails) is a back end framework built with Ruby. It was extremely popular but has since declined in use.

Spring MVC is good if you enjoy coding in Java. Java by itself is a very in demand language and is widely used.

Resources

Now that you have a better idea of what to learn, the next question is probably going to be “where do I learn it?” Well, the internet has plenty of tools to help with this.

W3 Schools

W3 Schools has a lot of great reference materials to rely on when you need a quick question about syntax or something straightforward.

Stack Overflow: https://stackoverflow.com/

Stack Overflow has plenty of threads and posts that include questions from other developers. If you have a question about anything regarding programming, chances are that it was already asked and answered on Stack Overflow. It is typically one of the top, if not the top, result when I type in a question to Google.

Udemy: https://www.udemy.com/

Udemy is an online learning platform that has thousands of video classes on almost any topic you can think of. Most of their classes are around $10 or so, and contain a lot of information. The first class I took was The Complete Web Developer Course, and was a great crash course/overview of all of the technologies you will likely come across.

Reddit: https://www.reddit.com/

Reddit, of course is also a great resource. Got to different subreddits for other people that know the language you are trying to learn, and try to help out other people as you are learning.

Bootcamps

There are many programming bootcamps that teach you how to become a web developer or programmer. It depends on your financial situation, and many can be quite expensive. Some of them will only charge you tuition once you have a job, so that may also be interesting for you.

They generally last between eight and twenty-four weeks (depending on the scope of the bootcamp) and can be full time or part time.