Try Coding, It's Fun
.

Try Web Development, It's Fun

August 05, 2018 by Reuben Reyes

You've heard some talk about this "web development" thing. Maybe you've been doing it for a while; maybe you haven't written a line of code in your life. Wherever you come from and whatever your situation, here's a reason to take the leap into web development: It's fun. You should try it.

MacBook with code editor, phone and notes laid out

cr. @grohsfabian on Unsplash


Why web development? Why not something else?

Technology is taking us to really weird places right now. Entrepreneurs are sending their electric cars to space. Robots are verbally abusing others on Twitter. Cryptocurrency is (was?) all the hype this year.

If you're interested in software programming, you could possibly take your career in any of those directions and maybe become the next Elon Musk, but here I am recommending web development. Why would that be?

If you have a computer, you can be a web developer

If you're a reader who happens to be new to coding, I want you to try this small exercise right now: Open up your browser's dev tools (On Chrome, that's Cmd+Shift+C or Ctrl+Shift+C). Go to your "Console" tab, and type this in:

document.querySelector('#secret')

What a heartwarmer! If I were you, I'd open up Notepad and save that code as findTheSecret.js.

You just wrote a small web crawler script. If you weren't a web developer before, you just became one. Congrats! That wasn't hard at all!

The point I'm trying to make here is that the barrier to entry with web development is really low, and if you have the drive to do it, there's nothing stopping you. Of course, not everything in the web dev world is settled with one line of code. But, after going down this path, after a lot of experimentation and twice as many obstacles, you'll soon find that you're able to write little scripts like that any time you want, automate whatever you want, or maybe write an app about whatever you want.

You can literally build anything

This is true of most software developer disciplines, and it's especially true for web development. I'd even argue that choosing the web as your platform takes care of most of the harder steps for you, like:

  • Getting your computer set up to write code (All you need is a text editor, forget an IDE)
  • Getting people to download your application (Is it hosted on a website? Probably! Who downloads websites?)
  • Deploying your application (Used GitHub Pages? Netlify? Hell, think back to 2005... remember MySpace? It's really easy still to get your application out there for all to see.)

And once you're past that, what you build is completely up to your imagination. Web apps can be anything from blogs like this one, to animations of Moustached Nannies, to large-scale networking applications like Twitter. Communities like CodePen, GitHub, and freeCodeCamp are full of projects that got their start just off the top of one developer's head, and can be really great inspiration for what's next for you!

The community is fantastic and diverse

This may just be my observation, but web developers tend to come from every walk of life you can imagine, and we're all drawn to some aspect of the craft, whether it be the artistic possibilities of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, or the sheer complexity of the code you can write for the web.

Go to a developer meetup; no doubt you'll find people who all enjoy getting their hands dirty with web technology. But one person might be raving about CSS Grid, another complaining about how we don't have decorators in JavaScript yet, and the WASM dev across the room is is lecturing everyone else about how Web Assembly will be taking over the Internet in 2020.

A dinner party. If you were expecting a picture of a web developer meetup, I'm sorry.

If you haven't been to a meetup yet, now is always the best time to go! cr. @srosinger3997 on Unsplash

You'll find that everyone is good at something. And if you reach out, that person who's good at something will be happy to help you understand that something. Everyone helps each other. Web developers are overwhelmingly passionate about what they do, eager to share what they know, and if they're doing it right, they're eager to learn from you, too!


Okay, but how do I really start?

Maybe you already have an idea of what you want to write. But now you've got yourself thinking: Where do I begin?

I get it. Even if you're not actually brand new, the hard part with any project is starting, but that goes for anything you need to give effort towards. Feeling some anxiety about starting down a new path is normal. Nothing is laid out for you, you have to make decisions for youself----it's scary.

Case #1: You're brand new. Try freeCodeCamp.

freeCodeCamp is an open-source educational website dedicated to helping learners write code for the web, along with offering developers the opportunity to help other nonprofit organizations. It's quite popular; check out this Reddit post on the platform.

What you'll find almost instantly is a welcoming community of learners, ranging from novice developers who hadn't written code in their lives to experts trying to give back to the community. What you'll also find is an enormous collection of modules for helping you learn, starting from the basics of HTML to interview prep and algorithm challenges in JavaScript.

My progress with freeCodeCamp. I am indeed a pleb.

My progress with freeCodeCamp. I am indeed a pleb.

What freeCodeCamp and many other learning projects like Chingu and Codeacademy do is provide you with resources----a structured curriculum, an end goal, some projects to practice with, and most importantly, a community of like-minded people who you're sharing a learning experience with.

If you were worried that you were in this alone, and that it'd be hard to make much progress yourself... that's good news, isn't it? As a web developer, you'll never have to worry about learning by yourself, because there's always a community out there willing to help.

Case #2: You've done all that. Where do you go now?

Great! You've gotten your hands dirty. You're looking for more. Have you tried looking into a framework yet? You've got plenty of options...

A picture of a billion JavaScript frameworks

Too many options, maybe? cr. Jose Aguinaga via HackerNoon.

Chances are, you've heard some of those words, and the fact that you don't know which one to pick is giving you some anxiety. That happened to me too. The best advice I can give you right now is to not worry about any of that and stay your course of learning. Maybe pick one framework to learn, but just one (for now). Why?

Learning too many frameworks or libraries at once will only bog you down.

If you pick up five frameworks now, what happens when you have to code without one?

What's most important for you right now, and pretty much forever, is keeping up with your fundamentals. Scott Tolinski, who runs Level Up Tutorials, explains why during his great talk at ZEIT Day 2018.

(To Framework, or Not To Framework? is actually quite a hot topic in web development right now, and it probably deserves its own post at the time of writing. I digress.)

As a beginner-intermediate developer, what's more important to you right now rather than looking for the best framework is figuring out how to self-direct your learning.

This is the point where I redirect you back to the beginning of the blog post, where I mentioned a bunch of things and resources that should help you get excited about coding, because that is actually the most important part here.

Find things you want to put to code!

Fortunately, finding things you're interested in is something you get to do yourself!

Reach out. Go to meetups. Drill into the minds of other developers. Get active on Twitter and join the conversation (I'm @radotreyes btw, mash that follow button). In doing all this you get to explore the possibilities that web development has been giving you all along, and you'll realize that "dang it, Reuben was right with that cheesy blog post"!

But honestly, at this point you might still be looking for guidance. It's likely you're looking for ideas for your next project, or just something fresh to go at?

  • JavaScript 30 by Wes Bos is a fantastic free course which has you build mini-apps using Just JavaScript™️, and will help you really understand what's going on behind the browser.
  • Just Build Websites by Melanie Richards is an enormous list of ideas for you to take on for your next project! I've actually been using this as a resource, and I can't recommend it enough.
  • Meetup.com is the biggest meetup-focused social network out there right now, and thousands of developer meetups are hosted through it. I can't stress how important it is to go to your local meetup group and absorb everything!
  • Look into open-source projects on GitHub; maybe even start one! You get to put yourself in a decision-making position where you've got a team dependent on you----a huge stepping stone for many developers.

Are you having fun yet?

This post is here to share my perspective on web development, and why I think you'll love it. If you were lost and looking for help: well, I hope I could help you find some direction. I'd like to stress one last thing one more time: Focus on what makes you excited. Don't write code just so you fit in somebody else's puzzle piece. Write the code that you want to write!

But yeah, seriously, try web development. It's pretty fun.