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The only 4 steps you need to take to learn web development

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According to Google, as a mobile web page’s load time reaches 10 seconds, the probability of its visitors bouncing (i.e., leaving the site) increases by 123%. It turns out,  it’s usually not their WiFi connection’s fault. 

That’s the domain of a web developer. A good one can write code, develop and test new apps and websites, iterate on features, monitor site traffic, ensure the website isn’t bogged down with elements, and, above all else, solve problems people don’t even know they had.

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of web developers in the U.S. is expected to increase by 16% by 2032, much faster than the national average of 3% across all professions. This indicates a high demand for skilled web developers in the coming years. 

Sounds complex, right? Agoric CEO Dean Dribble thinks it’s actually pretty clear cut: “At the end of the day, computers and websites are designed to be predictable. They only do things that we tell them to do.” 

For him, the biggest part of becoming a web developer and getting paid the big bucks—somewhere between $73,000 and $119,000 per year on average, according to Glassdoor—is learning to tell the computer what to do.

How to learn web development in 4 steps

This roadmap outlines each step in becoming a web developer, from knowing nothing to having projects you can show future employers and clients. 

1. Research which aspect of web development interests you the most

A web developer’s curiosity is the fuel that keeps them motivated. Your initial spark should be exploring and researching websites you like, in order to understand what makes them tick.  

Dribble advises that you should learn how the internet, computers, data structures, and algorithms all work together. Then, decide which piece of the internet interests you the most. There are three web development specializations. 

  • Front-end developer: This role involves positioning images, designing the navigation, and determining the site’s overall presentation. The focus is on ensuring that the site or application is easy to navigate, making it a good fit for those with a creative eye and a passion for user experience.
  • Back-end developer: Responsible for building and maintaining the mechanisms that process data and perform actions on websites. The focus is on data storage, security, and server-side functions, making it a good fit for people who love computers and problem-solving. 
  • Full-stack developer: Responsible for building a website’s front-end and back-end. This role is for people who love it all, including function and feng shui.

“It’s fine to begin with learning just one aspect of web development,” says Front-End and Web Practice Lead at Coherent Solutions, Vladimir Yurkevich.

2. Learn the three main web development programming languages

No matter which side of development you’re looking to learn, you’ll typically need to know three languages: HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. These are the foundational languages of web development. 

Think of it like you’re building a house. HTML is the framework, CSS adds visual appeal, and JavaScript furnishes it with functionality. But, there are different frameworks for JavaScript, like React, Angular, and Nodejs. Both experts agree it’s best to find resources to help you master the primary language rather than its derivatives.

On the other hand, in the same way, Latin languages like Italian and Spanish sound similar to each other, after you’ve learned the big three programming languages, these other ones might come a little easier: 

  • Python: It offers various frameworks like Django, Flask, and web2py for building web applications.
  • TypeScript: Enhances JavaScript with static typing, improving code reliability.
  • Ruby: Also known as Ruby on Rails, this language is an open-source framework for web development.
  • Java: It is robust, reliable, and portable, commonly used for web applications and APIs.
  • SQL: Essential for managing relational databases in web applications.
  • Go: It is a high-level programming language designed by Google and is similar to C. 
  • Kotlin: This language is gaining popularity for Android app development and server-side applications.

Free web development resources

Before swiping your card on a course or bootcamp, the sites below teach the art of web development and programming at a base-expert level for free.

  • freeCodeCamp: This 501(c)(3) public charity offers free courses that teach full-stack web development and all of the languages needed to be successful.
  • Interneting Is Hard: This is a set of beginner-friendly web development tutorials.
  • CSS Cheat Sheet: This interactive site helps you learn CSS by doing—it has buttons, code generators, scrubbers, and tutorials.
  • Roadmap: This site shows you the roadmap to becoming hirable and allows you to check off items as you learn them.

If you’re interested in enrolling in something with more structure, certifications, and a set amount of study hours, Fortune made a list of part- and full-time bootcamps.

3. Start building small projects, then increase the complexity

Now that you have a solid foundational knowledge of the programming skills needed to grow as a developer, it’s time to start building actual projects. 

The learning curve in web development is less of a one-time hurdle and more of a constant stream of lulls and highs. Yurkevich refers to this as a learning ‘spiral,’ where you revisit and deepen your understanding of concepts as you progress, leading to a continuous upward trajectory in your learning journey.

“Web development is oscillation and iteration. It’s about going back and forth with learning and doing,” he says. For example, a web developer spends most of their time coding their ideas to reality, going back, reading documentation, watching YouTube videos, or speaking with an expert, “Then go back to your idea.” 

But that’s not the stopping point, he advises, “After all that, try to increase the complexity of the problem. The joy of solving the problem will forever be engraved into your brain.” 

The web development process

These are the five main stages of how you should approach not only your first few projects but all of them:

  1. Define your project and what you aim to achieve.
  2. Write the plan for your website or app.
  3. Design your website with UI in mind using Figma.
  4. Develop, test, and iterate your project.
  5. Maintain your project and make sure there are no bugs.

Web development projects for beginners

Remember, while these jumping-off points might sound simple, but as you spiral upward, you can expand on them, adding utility and innovation as you learn more. 

  • Clone a website you like.
  • Build a weather app.
  • Create a landing page.
  • Build a multiplayer game.
  • Create a URL-shortening tool.
  • Organize your day by coding a to-do list app.
  • Make a quiz app.

4. Build a web development portfolio that showcases your skills

Your portfolio is a game of show, not tell. Like in most industries, hiring managers and potential clients would rather have proof that you can do the job over a paper degree. 

That said, our experts encourage people to earn certifications and attend school, but you can 100% build a professional portfolio without spending all that money. There are some things to consider when putting your portfolio together.

  • Highlight reel: Be selective about how you treat your portfolio. Avoid throwing all your projects into it, from simple calculators to small building blocks.
  • Tailor it: Depending on your specialization, you want your portfolio to showcase the correct skills for your desired job.
  • Communication is key: One of the most important skills you can have as a web developer is the ability to communicate. Make sure to show your process of iterating and building your work examples. 

Still on the fence?

If you can’t picture yourself as an early-years Bill Gates or as a still-in-Harvard Mark Zuckerberg, don’t worry. The spiral is about taking small steps and having a learner’s mindset. 

“The biggest thing that the most successful people in this field have in common is that they built their careers doing something they love to do,” says Yurkevich. 

If you don’t love web development and programming right now, that’s okay, too. He advises, “Love for [this field] is not built instantly. You have to build projects repeatedly. As a web developer, you’ll get by on getting those small wins here and there.”

If you’re still unsure where a career in web development can take you, Fortune sought the ten most in-demand jobs in the field. 

Frequently asked questions

Is 3 months enough to learn web development?

Yes, you can become a qualified web developer in three months. Still, industry veterans say they learn new languages, solve new problems, and keep up with new technology even in the late stages of their careers. 

Can I learn web development on my own?

Yes, you can learn web development on your own. This guide outlines the 4 steps you need to take to become a web developer.



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