You’ve long wanted to become a web developer and particularly a very successful one…
You might be just fresh out of high school, want to switch careers, or you lacked time to learn web development before because you’ve been heavily focused on work and family.
But you now have all the time in the world. Despite this, you haven’t learned anything because you didn’t know how to start and had no actual guidance.
How exactly does one become a relevant web developer in 2020?
How do you to start?
What should you to learn first?
Which are the development areas to focus on?
How can you put your skills into use after learning web development?
I get it; maybe you’re overwhelmed by the materials and information on the web on how to go about everything, for sure there are mountains of things to consider. You want a simple, clear path. Yes;
Who wouldn’t like such time-saving information?
We got you. Relax!
This article features a complete step by step guide on how to become not just a developer, but adapt and become relevant for the foreseeable future.
Are you skeptical about web development?
Here is some fact: Web development is here to stay, websites won’t just vanish into thin air. This means web developers will forever remain in-demand specialists as long as there are companies, small businesses, and individuals looking to show and market their products and services. So why not learn web development?
To help you hit the ground running, we’ve covered all the basics of web development in detail. But that’s not all; you also get information on how to get a job as a web developer. Isn’t it great?
No more watching people get better at new things while you’re stuck,
That ends now; I am letting you steal all the tricks from me…
That’s right, top tips from my work experience as a developer to make your learning curve less steep
Without further ado, Let’s dig in.
Table of Contents
Web development involves creating, building, and deploying websites (also web apps) on the internet.
To get a better understanding, let’s differentiate between Web Development and Web Design.
Web design involves coming up with a usable site design by sketching, wireframing, and mocking up a website. The main aim is to create user interfaces (UIs) that are intuitive, sleek, and modern-looking with the ultimate goal of creating excellent User Experience (UX) for the website’s visitors.
Have you ever visited a clunky, dated and messy website that immediately forced you to leave? A web designer helps to save you from such an experience.
To put it in another way – more directly – it is a prototyping stage where the web designer takes care of the visual aesthetics (color scheme/palette, fonts), information flow, and usability of a site. The leading apps used for web design include Adobe XD, Sketch, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Muse.
On the other hand;
More Developer Roles
Apart from being the engineer that creates and deploys a website:’ The developer debugs it, creates updates, maintains it, performs basic Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and also optimizes site loading speeds (performance).
As you’ve just seen above, a web developer is quite different from a designer. There are three types of web developers:
- Back–End Developer – Also called a server-side developer, he/she integrates the website’s client-side (application) with the server-side.
How exactly do they do this? They utilize server-side languages like PHP, Java, Ruby, and Python to build the website back-end, then use MySQL, and MSSQL databases servers to store, edit and delete data inputted.
- Fully-Fledged Web Developer– Also known as a full-stack developer is a developer who is proficient and comfortable in both front end and back end roles.
A web developer job comes with lots of perks, especially if you take the extra effort to become a full-stack developer.
Truth be told, there’s is no secret of making you a pro overnight; you have to be interested in coding.
Below are the major benefits
- Developers are highly respected and also highly paid, especially full-stack and senior developers. The salary is around $90,000/year on average as a senior developer depending on the company and its location.
- There is no creative limitation. You can explore ideas, build unique websites, web apps, and more. It’s not a monotonous job; you could be building a lot of different things.
- You can build your website (online portfolio) without paying for it.
- You can work remotely, you don’t have to go to an office environment. Main upsides? More flexibility in your life, and more job positions are available. No missing out on a job positions because of your geographical location.
- You can work as an independent contractor (freelancer), which gives you more freedom to work on different projects.
- It is a broad industry where you can get into different fields. You won’t get stuck with the same roles the whole of your career.
- It is a career that is here to stay, websites, web apps and even emerging PWA (Progressive Web Apps) aren’t getting obsolete soon.
To begin your journey into web development, here are the recommended steps you should follow.
As mentioned above, web development is broad; you should first research which skills suit the type of web development you want to learn.
Research involves reading up on programming languages, and development tools you will be using mostly. After grasping what your preferred role requires, you can then choose a technology stack to learn.
Research is important because you also get to understand what not to learn saving you from investing time and effort in technologies and skills that won’t benefit you. It helps you achieve smart learning.
Before I tell you more;
What is a development technology stack?
Basically, it’s a combination of related programming languages, tools (frameworks and libraries), development software, and apps that all build on top of each other to help you create a functional website.
What should you learn?
Intricate knowledge of several programming languages is required to build a site, here a summary of which languages are needed for different roles.
- Backend development – Learn PHP, Java, Python, or Ruby. Notably, just one make sure you research the types of website you want to create and which language is suitable. In addition, you’ve got to learn how to use database languages based on SQL like MySQL and MSSQL.
The above languages are the foundation of every website , make sure you grasp them thoroughly and understand how to implement each to a website. After you’re done move to frameworks and libraries, both help ease and streamline your development workflow.
What are frameworks and libraries?
Both are sets of pre-written and prepackaged code which can get reused to expedite web development especially where developers encounter lots of repetitive tasks. Frameworks are much larger; they contain ready-made libraries, programs, plug-ins, tools, and other components to help you write code faster by implementing structure. Libraries are smaller collections of useful code that you can use used for specific cases in development.Libraries help you to write less code when implementing different behaviors and actions on your site.
Below we look at the different frameworks and libraries associated with web development.
We’ve bolded and italicized the most important ones in each category
- CSS frameworks – They help you to style a website and make it responsive, e.g., it can be visited on devices with different sizes of screens (laptops, tablets, and smartphones) .e.g. BootStrap, Foundation, Paper CSS and more.
- PHP frameworks– Lavarel (for object-oriented programming), Symfony, and Laminas. PHP is an excellent choice for freelancing projects. It is more beginner-friendly, flexible and compatible with different platforms and operating systems.
- Python frameworks – Django and Flask. Python is also much more comfortable for absolute beginners to learn. Django most popular implementation is in the creation of Instagram.
- Java Frameworks – Springboot, Hibernate, and Grails. Choose to learn and use Java if you prefer to work for a company mainly; it is popularly used in large organizations.
- Ruby on Rails (and Ruby) – it is heavily used because of its highly readable code and its perfect for website projects using rapid application development (RAD).
- C# – ASP.NET and MVC – Perfect choice to learn if you plan to develop websites to get hosted on Windows servers or prefer working and developing using windows.
- Relational Databases – MySQL, MS SQL, and PostgreSQL are the most popular and preferred.
- Node.js runtime environment- it is a very new popular technology. Learning it might give you an edge job in landing a web developer job.
Finally, you need to learn how to use the following developer tools:
- Git version control system. It will help you keep tabs on source code modifications you perform on projects and also collaborate with other developers.
- GitHub – this is a code repository that lets you manage Git with a better GUI (Graphical User Interface) and kind of a social media platform for developers (more info later in the article).
- Text Editors – Atom (free), VScode, and Sublime Text. These are text editors for writing your HTML, CSS, and PHP code. These are all good editors with excellent highlighting, code coloring and suggestions which make writing code easier.
- Browsers – Chrome, Safari, and Mozilla. You will use them to test your locally developed websites. Also, learn and understand how Browser Development Tools in browsers like Chrome work. You can inspect elements, edit CSS, and explore DOM.
Browser Developer Tool Uses Case Example
Instagram on such browsers doesn’t have an upload button, with these ChromeDev tools, you can make it have one and use it.
Command-Line – learning how to use this developer environment (Terminal for MacOS and Cmd for Windows) helps you understand how to navigate as well as manipulate website files. It can be helpful also in grasping how management of multiple WordPress sites via WP-CLI (WordPress Command Line Interface) works.
Below are various ways to learn to code.
Programmers who teach themselves how to code are preferred, especially if they have the experience and skills to back it up. The main reasons being they are seen as more hardworking, persistent, talented, and committed. Of course, to learn on your own, you must have at least a fundamental knowledge of how computers work and how to use them.
An excellent resource for learning to program on your own is programming books. They are more in-depth and have well-explained fundamentals. In fact, I consider books the best learning resource because of this thoroughness.
What’s more? You don’t have to read a physical book; you can buy and download digital versions. Books I recommend checking out include (go for the latest versions)
- John Duckett – HTML & CSS – Design & Build Websites
- Luke Welling & Laura Thompson – PHP and MySQL Web development
- David Powers – PHP Solutions
Learning via online platforms has its perks, too; there are algorithms to automatically check, test, and help you correct your code; excellent features for beginners. To add on, some are free.
Alternatively, you can sign up for a premium web development courses, which are much better. Great websites to start with include:
For a wide variety of paid programming courses with video tutorials on web development, check
Coding boot camps are intensive training courses where you get to learn coding and everything related to the web development course you choose. There are different programs for various experience levels from total beginners to the experienced developers looking to improve their skills further.
They are preferred because of their immersive learning, where you get to do lots of practice and they focus on preparing you with almost all the job-ready skills you need to start you career. Besides, you get valuable input and guidance from experienced developers running the boot camps
Length varies, but most are held during the summer (3 months), and others are part-time, which is convenient if you’re working
Lastly, you can go to college to study a Computer Science degree or IT. Mostly these courses cover web development where you can choose it to specialize in it later. College education comes with benefits like:
- You get a degree which is sometimes required in some job applications
- You can consult and learn in groups, which helps in a faster understanding of concepts
- You can form partnerships and come up with a web design & development company
College tuition fees have been rising; it’s the more expensive way to learn web development.
Despite CMSs being more straightforward ways of creating websites meant for novices, you should learn how to use them for building and publishing websites.
TheBest CMSs to learn include
The main reason to go this route is that
Sometimes clients may request you to use such tools, or the type of website you want to build may be better when created with WordPress. To add on, you may be required to create a website on a tight deadline – say overnight – this is the fastest way to go about it. Nothing wrong with acquiring more skill, right?
Most clients prefer such sites because they are easier to manage. They can easily add their content, edit details, SEO optimize, and market their website without touching any code .
Once you’ve picked up the above skills, it’s time to get your hands dirty to become better.
Practice will help you learn how to:
- Test and debug – This requires patience and keenness; you get better in spotting errors with time.
- Have work to showcase on social media platforms, e.g., Facebook and Instagram, and get feedback.
So: Practice! Practice!! Practice!!!
Get a Mentor
If you can find a developer who is willing to look at and review your work, it can be very beneficial. Such experienced people offer excellent advice and tips to improve your work . It could be a family member, pal, or someone you’ve met through networking.
Start with small projects, implement what you’ve learned first and check other websites for more ideas and inspirations, a good example is, awwwards.com.
After you’re comfortable with your small projects, go for a few full-fledged websites you can showcase.
Make use of GitHub to showcase your projects.
GitHub is a platform that allows you to:
- Fork A Repo – Forking a GitHub repository means coming up with a new project based on other projects created by other developers.
- Collaborate –You can work with other developers on the same project.
- Pull Requests – By doing this, the original authors of the project you forked will see your additions and contribution. A communication channel with them is opened where you can request to be recognized as a contributor.
- Network – GitHub will allow you to communicate and network with other developers which can help you secure a job or get recommended as a developer.
In addition, StackOverflow is a good resource when you’re stuck with errors.
Claiming to be a web developer and you don’t have a personal website to showcase what you can and can’t do will hurt your chances of securing a job. Most companies evaluate you using projects you’ve already created.
Avoid this mistake by building your freelancing website. It will help you market your experience, skills, and services the way you want as you have the ability to customize the website, by doing this, you will add learn more skills like basic website deployment.
- Domain Registration
- Website Hosting
- Search Engine Optimization Basics
- Use of Web Server Environments like NGINX, and Apache
- Use of hosting technologies and tools like Site Staging, website cloning, SSL Certificates, and cPanel
- Use of SSH, CLI and more
Alternatively, you can use web developer portfolio sites to sell yourself. Good examples include
Job-hunting should always start with you crafting your technical resume and practicing for interviews. However, on top of putting effort into passing the standard interview, practice for a coding one. Focus on algorithms and data structures as that’s what’s mostly tested. I recommend suing Leetcode for practice or reading Cracking the Coding Interview: 189 Programming Questions and Solutions by Gayle Laakmann McDowell
How do you go about this?
Check job boards for web developer Job Ads. If you meet 80%+ of the requirements , make sure you apply. Here are some employment job/gig boards you should check out to start:
Some are among the best for freelancing or remote jobs. As an alternative, you can also start your web development company or collaborate with other developers on paid projects.
Creating a LinkedIn account with your information is also great for networking. It is also a platform you can get to see more opportunities
Having shed light on what to do to become a web developer and navigate this industry, I bet you’re now more confident. Remember to stay current and be on the lookout for new technologies related to web development. One such area is the development of PWAs.
Before I forget, learn to work on web developer soft skills such as communication, collaboration, and problem-solving. They will help you interact with clients better and solve problems easily.
What’s more? Never stop, aim to become a senior web developer because the profile of a web developer is not dying anytime soon. There are endless possibilities. As long as there are companies, small businesses, and people looking to showcase their products, web development jobs will be available. All the best!