How to become a web developer

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Web development is one of the most requested careers by companies of all sizes, and I’m not talking only of some simple web page, but from landing pages to entire SAAS plattforms. The web developer, is a profile that must understand and master some skills that goes beyond programming knowledge. A sort of polymath that is not afraid to delve into subjects such as marketing, programming, server administrations and so others. But, as all other careers, sometimes we simply don’t know where to start. So in this post, I’m gonna tell you some tips that helped me and many other web developers, in their path of how to become a web developer. These tips usually are not told by courses or manual books of programming languages, but they’re acquired by years of expertise and most of all, by mistakes that some of us have made, on which we have learned.

define what you want to learn and create

I wrote a post in which I try to help students to decide where to start in their careers, and to choose their first programming language to start learning. One of the tips is to have in mind your goal, your aspiration, and on that base, start learning. It’s true that as a web developer, you MUST know something about HTMl, CSS, Javascript (fron-end) and some other stuff, but, from there, there’s an ocean of choises that will lead you to different specializations. It’s not the same path if you want to create web sites for marketing purposes that if you want to write back-end APIs for mobile applications. Try to visualize your future career and where and what you want to be creating in a couple of years. Is it in a startup? Maybe on a digital agency. From that point, it will be easier for you to learn and practice in order to fulfill your goal.

LEARN TO CODE AND THINK

This might sound obvious. But let me tell you a tip. As I mentioned, there’s a difference between learn the basic front-end web development and in learning Javascript or Python for back-end purposes. But, whatever is your choise, there’s a simple rule that you always follow: web development = software development.  You need to learn to think as a programmer. You must develop logic, abstraction, and other skills that will help you to write more efficient code. Learn two or three languages, compare their syntaxis and benefits. This will make all the difference in your technical abilities. You will be surprised by the number of “web developers” that took a Dreamweaver course and have no idea how to write code and solve problems. So, don’t be one more sheep, and become a wolf.

google it, then ask

Back in my day, there was a gold rule for forums: Google it, if you can’t find it, then ask. Nowadays, if you go to a Facebook group, you will find a lot of people asking for very basic questions and problems, that a simple Google search would bring them the solution.

If you play by the golden rule of Internet, then you will learn every time you have an error. Being autodidact in this business, is a must. If you have an error and you have no idea how to solve it, then copy the error message or try to search for keywords related to your problem and I guarantee, that in the first three results you will find the answer.

As an alternative, try to use Stackoverflow straight ahead. It’s the largest software development community, the are thousands of questions with a more thousand solutions. If you have a problem, it’s almost for sure that somebody already asked the same thing at Stackoverflow.

COPY IT, AND UNDERSTAND IT

We all copy. We do. Even the professionals. So don’t be ashamed of copy some code, bug fix or cool parallax effect that you find. It’s part of the learning. But the key is to copy and then read the code until you understand what it is doing. If you just copy and paste and deliver, then you will have no idea of what you’re doing, and if it needs to be customized or there’s a bug, then you will have another thing coming. Remeber, you need to think as a programmer, so copy and then understand the code.

don’t try to be a designer

Yes, in the long term, you need to be a polymath to make the difference. But at the beginning, it’s better if you focus on your skills as a developer. One of the things you’re gonna need, is the design of the web pages you’re creating. But please, pretty please, with sugar on top: DON’T TRY TO BE A DESIGNER.

Unless you have plenty experience on graphic design or web design and you’re expanding your knowledge on web development, please, don’t try to design your own web sites. Believe me, generally, the engineers or developers have zero skills and taste as designers. If you can’t have a web designer that make the look & feel of the web site or app for you, then try to use HTML 5 templates, there’s nothing wrong on using them, if somebody tells you that that’s for people who don’t know how to program, then probably she or he doesn’t know how to program.

Vanilla code is good, but frameworks are great

This might sound crazy for self called “gurus” of the web development. But believe me, if somebody tells you that using a framework is using garbage or useless, then she or he has no idea of this business.

Frameworks are libraries of code that helps you to create better code in less time. Frameworks have everything you need out of the box: database connections, snippets, application architectures, etc. In resume, all the base to create an application. There’s frameworks for front-end (Bootstrap, Boilerplate, etc) and back-end frameworks on almost every programming language. Normally, using a framework will force you to use the best practices in development, such a MVC architecture, object oriented programming, etc. And the best part is usually, you will be able to do things in much more less time.

Never stop learning

As everything in life, web development is about to never stop learning. There will be always a newer version of the framework, a new language, a new way to do things. So the key in this business is to reinforce your skills in every oportunity. Remeber, be an autodidact. Read books and tutorials, pay for an online course, ask for advice, but never stop learning. And, as I mentioned at the beginning of the post, when you feel confident with your technical knowledge, then it’s time to learn the basis of digital marketing, server administration and other subjects that will make you a really really great candidate in the laboral market.

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