Hi. I’m glad you’ve got an interest in web design and development as a career path. If you follow my advice, it’s possible that within a few years you could be earning more than I do with my 13+ years of experience. Don’t get me wrong, I earn enough for my family to be comfortable, but I’ve geared my skill set towards a well rounded mix of web development, design, project management, and business consulting. It’s perfect for working with the type of amazing clients I’ve had the honor of working with, but it’s not necessarily the resume larger companies are looking for and easily understand. If you’ve got a deep understanding of a particular niche, you’re also easier to understand from a recruiter’s view.
Web development consists of 2 major divisions; as an aspiring web developer, you can choose to specialize in either or both:
- FrontEnd Web Developer is responsible for building and designing layouts, features, and appearance of a website. This role is also called client-side developer. This is what I am, since I come to the field from a graphic design background.
- BackEnd Web Developer is responsible for building the driving system of a website. They are responsible for building the best framework that allows data to be easily transferred from the web server to the web browser – as seen by the users. These guys can make a lot more money than purely FrontEnd
People who are skilled in front-end and back-end web development are called Full-Stack Developers – they are highly respected, well-paid, and always in demand. Deciding on a specification is important since there’s a limitless amount of skills to learn.
Firstly, you need a passion for building things and solving problems. This is done by writing code. The web moves fast, and it will be a big part of your job to move with it. You’ll have to learn new languages and get your hands on new tools as time goes by. It’s both a blessing and a curse, since I’m never able to just rest on my laurels but have to be actively engaged at all times in reading about broader web trends. Thus, it’s never boring.
I think there has never been a better time to start this journey, as thankfully for you, there’s now an ever expanding amount of free & cheap lessons out there to get you these skills and knowledge without having to enroll in a computer science degree program at a college.
Step 1) Pick and learn the skills you need to work in web development.
These are the websites I have found most helpful in getting new skills. Many of them have interactive lessons, in which you are presented a concept, given a problem, write some code, have it checked by the AI, given feedback, and then once you pass the lesson you can move on. It’s amazing and I wish I’d had this sort of resources back in the day. There’s so many it was hard to pick just a few, but the following are ones I’ve used and are of high quality. Even most of the paid course providers have free trials.
- https://www.codecademy.com/learn (most of their courses are paid, but many are free)
- https://thegymnasium.com/– Gymnasium offers free online courses on web development, design, user experience, and content creation. It’s offered by Vitamin T, the creative staffing agency that gets me gigs working for big companies, so it’s focused on skills that are in demand by employers.
- https://www.pluralsight.com/ – not for beginners. Super high quality, and mostly intended for people already working in the field.
General Introductory Course on Web Dev & Programming (free):
- https://learn.skillcrush.com/skillcrush-free-bootcamp/ – sells itself as ” A totally FREE beginner-friendly intro to tech, techies, and kick-ass careers in less than five minutes a day.” I haven’t actually taken this, but it looks promising.
HTML & CSS
HTML isn’t a programming language, neither CSS, but markup tools used to design web pages and user interfaces. It’s the very backbone of every website, therefore it is a must to learn for anyone aspiring to work in the front-end development field.
https://www.codecademy.com/learn/learn-html – Free Course
PHP is a server-side language created in the 1990s. It is the most widely used coding language when it comes to creating web pages. A back-end web developer must have sufficient PHP skills in order to get a job in the tech business. But as a front end developer it’s only sometimes useful. I use PHP extensively for my clients in the development of custom WordPress themes.
So those are the basics. There’s a ton more, but I don’t want to overwhelm you yet. If you go through those ~40 hours of learning and have built up some examples, you’ll probably be ready for your first entry-level job.
Along with those those basic languages, I’d also recommend getting acquainted with:
- Bootstrap – an open-source CSS framework, which provides a base for creating mobile-first, responsive websites. It’s lead competitor (which I preferred) Zurb Foundation has been retired.
- React.js – one of the hottest languages. Deep knowledge of this will make you instantly hireable.
- MySQL, or another DB system.
- Gulp or Grunt – process automators.
- Git – version control. required
- SASS – write faster and more flexible css
- Non-technical life skills not taught in school
If you’re finding it hard to learn 100% online, then there’s always in person bootcamps, but you’ll definitely pay for them. One of my neighbors took a local one a couple years ago, for 6 months, graduated, then got herself a well paying job with benefits working for GitHub. Some of the reputable local Portland providers of those are
https://www.alchemycodelab.com/, https://bootcamp.uoregon.edu/coding/, and https://www.epicodus.com/,
CS50: Introduction to Computer Science – Harvard University
This is a famous FREE introduction to the intellectual enterprises of computer science and the art of programming. It’s a self-paced 11 weeks long free course, requiring about 10 – 20 hours per week. I haven’t found time for this yet but hope to soon.
Step 2) Put your skills into practice
- Join a web development community, either locally in person (through MeetUp), which will give you feedback and advice
- Take on test projects, which will build up your portfolio, and even better, give you a sense that you know what you’re doing. Volunteer for your friends, non-profits, or join a local Hackathon.
- Practice! Practice!! Practice!!! Behind every successful website is hours of training and practice. You get better with repetition.
Step 3) Get a Job or Start a Business
There’s a ton of job boards out there with a ton of job listings. Before perusing those, I think it is useful to understand how employers end up writing those, and for that, I’d recommend reading the article Web Developer Job Description and Template to Make Your Next Hire at the website developersforhire.com.
Step 4) Stay current in the field
I mostly work by myself, in my own backyard studio office. This is a field in which you MUST be constantly learning in order to stay up to date on the latest trends, programming languages, efficiency tools, and news. Here’s a list of helpful resources that will introduce you and keep you educated about the career, the tech, and the concepts.
For those just getting started
- Code Newbie – CodeNewbie is a podcast that targets beginners and aspiring developers. It covers a wide range of topics, including web development, coding bootcamps, career transitions, and interviews with developers from diverse backgrounds.
- The Learn to Code Podcast – for beginners who want to learn to code, but don’t know where to start. Each week Chris Castiglione interviews people who taught themselves how to code, and landed awesome jobs as a result!
- BaseCS Podcast –
- CSS Podcast (by Google) – Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) is the web’s core styling language. For web developers, It’s one of the quickest technologies to get started with, but one of the hardest to master. Follow Una Kravets and Adam Argyle, Developer Advocates from Google, who gleefully breakdown complex aspects of CSS into digestible episodes covering everything from accessibility to z-index.
- Developer Tea: A short-form podcast hosted by Jonathan Cutrell, Developer Tea offers bite-sized episodes that cover a variety of topics relevant to web developers, including productivity, career advice, and technical concepts. More of a philosophy and soft skills podcast than one for gaining technical knowledge.
For those already in the field
- Syntax – Hosted by Wes Bos and Scott Tolinski, Syntax.fm is a popular podcast that covers web development tools, techniques, and career advice. It focuses on both front-end and back-end development. Good if you like banter.
- ShopTalk Show – A weekly podcast about building websites from Dave Rupert and Chris Coyier. Can be mostly technical, but a fun listen because the presenters are very funny, and talented individuals. Even more banter than Syntax :)
- Full Stack Radio: Hosted by Adam Wathan, Full Stack Radio focuses on web development topics with an emphasis on practical tips and advice for building high-quality web applications.
API knowledge is vital for web developers. APIs facilitate seamless integration, data exchange, and interoperability between applications. They provide access to extensive resources, enhancing functionality and saving development time. Understanding APIs empowers developers to create robust, scalable, and interconnected applications, improving user experiences.
- The API Academy Podcast – There’s only 3 episodes here, but they’re great introductions to the technology concept.
- All About APIs Podcast – seasoned API practitioners, product leaders and architects share tangible advice on what it takes to successfully design, launch and maintain APIs that unlock new growth opportunities. From new API-enabled growth opportunities, through developer experience, collaborative design, governance, to architectural and security best practices, you’ll walk away with practical takeaways about all things API.
- APIs you won’t hate – A no-nonsense (well, some-nonsense) podcast about API design & development, new features in the world of HTTP, service-orientated architecture, microservices, and probably bikes.
- APIs over IPAs – This series discussed “the burning topics affecting our industry”. I really like how each of the episodes is transcribed, so you can skim through the text first before diving into each episode.
- Smashing Magazine – Every Tuesday they send out an editorial email newsletter with useful tips and techniques on front-end and UX.
- LivingWithPixels – LivingWithPixels teaches you how to design and build websites without using any code, so you can start making a living with pixels. Explore this channel if you want to learn things like: web design, WordPress, Adobe XD and building a digital business.
- WPCasts – a channel is dedicated to teaching others about WordPress, general web development, and career advice.