Getting Started in Web Development: FAQ For the Absolute Newbie

Not too long ago I decided I wanted to learn to code, and was trying to figure out where to start. I still have a lot to learn, but I’m far enough along to offer some advice to the people who are just beginning their journey.

Here are a few common questions I hear from people wanting to get started in web development, along with my answers.

1. How Do I Get Started?

Start by taking Codecademy’s HTML & CSS course. Then take their Ruby course. This will help you figure out what type of programming you are interested in.

2. How Do I Choose A Focus?

–> What did you enjoy more: moving elements around on the page and seeing the result with HTML & CSS, or working with programming concepts like loops, hashes, and arrays in Ruby?

–> Do you prefer visual things like drawing or design, or do you prefer abstract things like logic problems, puzzles and math?

If you are visual or preferred the HTML & CSS course, you may be interested in Front End Development. This means being the person who develops the part of a website that a user sees.

If you are an abstract thinker or preferred the Ruby course, you might be interested in Back End Development. This means working on the hidden logic that makes complex web applications work. This can be done in many programming languages, such as Ruby or Python.

3. What’s The Next Step?

Codecademy courses give you a good overview of the language, but they don’t give you exposure to some of the tools you will need to know, such as text editors, the command line, and coding documentation. The next step is to do a tutorial that will let you make real, functioning code using the tools that professional developers use.

Front End (HTML & CSS): HTML Dog has some excellent tutorials. Use those as a reference, and build a few websites on your own. Once you feel comfortable with HTML and CSS, try learning Javascript.

Back End (Ruby): Learn Ruby The Hard Way will introduce you to the tools you need, and teach you how to use documentation to solve coding problems. Once you feel comfortable in Ruby, try Hartl’s Rails Tutorial, which will teach you the basics of the Ruby on Rails framework. Ruby on Rails lets you use your Ruby skills to build complex websites.

4. Should I go to a Coding Bootcamp?

That depends: Can you invest the time and money to do so?

If the answer is yes, then a good coding bootcamp is worth the investment. It will keep you on track and give you the opportunity to be surrounded by mentors and other students that can be a great resource for you.

If the answer is no, don’t let that discourage you. It is 100% possible to teach yourself everything you would learn in a bootcamp. You will, however, need to find a mentor (or, preferably, several) who can help you get past roadblocks and figure out where to focus your attention.

5. How can I Find Help From Real, Live Humans?

The Best Places to Get Help:

  • CodeNewbie Weekly twitter chat, podcasts and discussion board (FREE!)
  • CodeMentor Paid individual mentoring.
  • Local Meetups: You may have to try several before you find one that welcomes and encourages newbies. Read the descriptions on http://www.meetup.com, and see how the attendees describe themselves. Look for meetups with a good mix of experience levels.
  • Exercism Work on practice problems and get feedback on your code from other developers. (FREE!)

Have more questions that I haven’t answered? Leave a comment and I’ll do my best to answer.