Category: CommunityAn Opinionated Guide To Learning Web Development In 2016

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Guide To Web DevelopmentLike many of us, you’re probably itching to start the New Year by learning something new. You might be thinking of learning French, learning how to bake cupcakes, or learning how to build model airplanes out of matchsticks. These are fine hobbies, but I want to suggest that you hit the ground running in 2016 by learning a skill that’s in great demand — web development.

Even if you never intend to switch careers and make money from web development, it’s a fascinating subject that will give you the skills you need to build websites and web applications. And if you are interested in beginning a new career or extending your value in a current career, web development is a great way to go.

I’m not going to pretend that web development is easy to learn. It’ll be hard work, especially if you have no coding experience, but who wants to take the easy option? You won’t be launching a WordPress competitor by March, but it’s entirely possible that within a few weeks you’ll be able to build and deploy bespoke websites, simple WordPress themes, and web applications. From there, you can take it as far as you want.

If that sounds good to you, take a look at these excellent free resources. I’ve selected resources that I think will help non-developers get a decent grounding in the core technologies of web development. They won’t turn you into a superstar developer, but they’ll give you a solid foundation to build on.


First, you’ll need the basics: to build a simple web page you need to understand two fundamental technologies: HTML for structure and content, and CSS for presentation.

Codecademy offer a great introductory track to learn HTML and CSS. They’ll take you from the very basics through to quite advanced CSS techniques, after which you’ll have no trouble at all building even fairly complex static sites. If the Codecademy approach doesn’t suit your learning style, both Dash and Khan Academy offer excellent introductory courses.


The other major ingredient you’ll need to cook up a website is JavaScript. JavaScript is a full-fledged (and rather quirky) programming language that runs in the browser. It’s more challenging to learn than HTML and CSS, but with it you’ll be able to do far more than is possible with HTML alone. Once again, I’m going to point you in the direction of Codecademy for the basics, but you should also take a look at JavaScript For Cats to get a taster of JavaScript. Once you have the basics I strongly recommend taking a look at both Douglas Crockford’s excellent video series and Marijn Haverbeke’s hugely popular Eloquent JavaScript book.

Until a couple of years ago, JavaScript was almost exclusively used in the browser (front-end development), but since the advent of Node.js, it’s becoming increasingly popular for developing on the server too (back-end development).  An advantage of learning Node.js — a server-side implementation of JavaScript — is that you’ll be able to develop both sides of a web application in one language. To get a taster of Node.js, I recommend NodeSchool’s Workshoppers.


We’ve discussed HTML, CSS, and JavaScript for building the front-end of your site or web application. Next you’ll need a server-side language, of which the most popular is PHP. Server-side languages carry out the bulk of processing for complex web applications, including interacting with a database. PHP is the language underlying a significant majority of web applications you interact with on a daily basis, including WordPress, InterWorx, and Magento. It’s not the only option, or even the best, but it is the most popular (although Node.js may give it a run for its money in the future).

This will come as no surprise — Codecademy has an excellent PHP track. Once you get beyond the basics, take a look at PHP The Right Way and DesignPatternsPHP to learn how web developers solve common development tasks with PHP.

Web development is a satisfying hobby that can become a lucrative and intellectually satisfying career. With a little perseverance and imagination, these resources offer a great foundation for aspiring developers in 2016.

Image: Flickr/Dmitry

CSSHTMLJavascriptPHPWeb Development
Dec 8, 2015, 12:46 pmBy: Corey Northcutt (0) Comments

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