What Makes a good web developer – 5 (not so) secret tips for success

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0. – or Starting from zero, five ways to learn to be a great developer

This week, I was really lucky to be present at a talk from Jeff Sheridan of Matrix Internet, a full service web agency based in Dublin (who has the most impressive “about us” page I have come across in a long time. During his presentation, he imparted some really amazing advice as to how to best enter the world or web design/development and talked about range of roles from UX to digital marketing, to back end development, but how all these pieces work together to form part of a well-oiled agile machine. In preparation for the talk, I had a discussion with some friends, colleagues, and others I know less well about what they thought made a good developer. I also read a few articles on the internet, and decided to look and amalgamate what has been said into five starter tips to get you on the road from nothing to coding something.

1. Start with something simple, work from there

You have to begin somewhere. You may hear words like Rails, php, c#(C-sharp), Haml, Jade, node, git, supercalafragalisticexpealadocious – or something else that may seem daunting, confusing, confounding, or altogether completely crazy. Everest was not scaled in one day – and indeed, learning to code, and to write code takes time. It is best to start with a markup language like HTML or a universal code language like JavaScript (in fact now has never been a better time to learn JavaScript – it is everywhere).

Stressed Girl
It doesn’t have to be hard. Start with small steps.

HTML is relatively easy enough to begin with. It is a simple markup language (it powers the content of the web). It teaches you about key coding principles and etiquette, without being overly arduous:

  • Syntax Structure
  • Nesting
  • Forming to rules
  • DOM and page structures

You may like to start off coding just in Notepad (windows) or TextEdit (on OSX) of Gedit (Linux). This way you have to try to properly form the syntax yourself. As you get better at writing markup, you may want to progress onto a better, more robust editor, such as my personal favourite SublimeText, TextWrangler, Notepad++, which are all GUI text editors. There are also Command line editors such as Nano, Vim, Pico etc… but these are a bit more complex, and you can read of their nuances in this nice little Linux Article. HTML is nice, but on its own, it looks a little bland. CSS is what styles the web, and makes User Experiences rich and exciting. CSS is arguably a lot trickier than HTML, however it allows you to put your stamp on a page/site/application. Once you get basic CSS, you can advance to more powerful versions such as Sass (powered by Ruby) or LESS (powered by JavaScript), which add coding functionality to the language to make it work better for you.

Learning to code
Coding is fun!

JavaScript will monitor the DOM (which is what the browser renders when a web page loads) and execute functions based on user interactions – such as telling you if you filled a form in incorrectly, or creating a pop up call-t0-action alert to inform you of a process that can take place. JavaScript is reactive, and event driven.

There are a number of great tutorials online to walk you through the basics of these amazing languages:

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