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Learn how to become a web developer

How to Become A Web Developer: A Field Guide is a book that introduces you to the field of web development. We explain what it takes to get a job as a web developer - and what you can do to become one.

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Aaron Gardner

TechOps at Stripe

A wonderful introduction to the basics of front end development. I could have really used this book when I was starting to transition into technology and coding websites on my own without a technical background.

While reading "How to Become a Web Developer", every time I came to something that I mentally flagged as being confusing to a novice, Angel, without fail, answered or defined it within a paragraph or two.

This book seems to anticipate your confusion and explains technical topics with just the right amount of details. This book should be your first read if you are considering web development as a new career.

Have you heard yourself saying...

I've been trying to learn programming, but I have no idea how to start

I'm interested in a career in computer programming. How much of an uphill battle do I face?

How do you know you're ready to start applying for jobs? And how does one get a job in this field without a CS degree?

The more I try to find information about different frameworks and the pros and cons of different languages, the more lost I get.

I keep watching YouTube videos about programming without making much real progress.

What if I'm learning the wrong language first?

With How to Become A Web Developer: A Field Guide, we will show you a clear path to becoming a programmer - no matter your age, no matter your background.

👋 Hey! I'm Angel, the author of this book.

Not until I was in my early thirties did I seriously consider becoming a web developer. In all honesty, I wasn’t even sure what it meant to work as a web developer. All I knew was that I wanted to work on computers (and I was attracted to the job opportunities).

I started by reading articles and seeking advice from friends. I continued with more articles, books, and online courses, but I often found that blog posts made too many assumptions about what I knew and they didn't start at the very beginning.

Without knowing what to study (or how to study it) my path was convoluted, stressful, and inefficient. But it did not have to be.

I wrote this book for the “me,” five years ago; for the person who is starting to think about what it might take to become a programmer or web developer.

In this book, I will cover the fundamentals. But more importantly, I will talk about why they are the fundamentals.

My goal is not to teach you a specific skill like HTML. Instead, I show you how to navigate what’s ahead of you. I get you set up for your next steps, whether that’s a path of self-learning or attending a bootcamp.

By the end of this book, you will be able to make an educated decision about your future and understand the steps and commitment it will take to get there.

Matt Vander Vliet

Cloud Solution Architect at Oracle

“Where would I even begin?” is a question I hear often, and is brilliantly answered here by Angel. Every developer has a unique story about how they got started, their early challenges, and all the changes along the way.

This book breaks down those daunting barriers and helps turn interest into action. Even for the seasoned professional, these early concepts are never too distant and always relevant in the ever-changing world of web development.

Imagine:

  • Not feeling intimidated when you need to write JavaScript code
  • Being able to know for yourself which programming language you should learn
  • Understanding what skills are required to get a job as a programmer
  • Having a clear, straightforward learning path to becoming a programmer
  • Getting your first job offer to work as a web developer

Today, I want to be your guide and show you the shortest path to becoming a web developer.

I'll teach you:

  • What a web page is made out of
  • How CSS and JavaScript work together to create "apps"
  • The difference between "front-end" and "back-end" development
  • The every-day skills that real web developers use in their jobs

A Field Guide to a New Career

How to Become a Web Developer: A Field Guide is a 9-lesson course that introduces you to the fundamental tools in web developer's day-to-day work.

This book will show you how to get started in web development - and how to avoid wandering down dead-ends.

iconPractical Exercises

Every chapter includes easy-to-follow exercises. We use a lot of screenshots, so that you can focus on learning instead of troubleshooting.

iconTransparent Language

We explain each term in detail and don't assume you have a lot of prior technical knowledge

Joji Davey

Student at Indiana University Purdue

As a graduate student, I really have to make the most of my time. I was so glad (grateful, relieved, take your pick) to discover this book.

Angel has a way of breaking down concepts that make them easy to understand. I found her writing style is very engaging, unlike much of the other beginner programmer literature I’ve encountered.

I was intimidated at first since my knowledge base in this area was limited, but this book speaks to the lay-person and has helped me enter this area of my career with new-found enthusiasm and confidence. I highly recommend this book to anyone wanting a solid start in the world of programming.

What's Inside

Chapter 0: How to Get the Most Out of This Book

In this chapter, we set your expectations: how much time reading the book and working through the exercises will take. We discuss the type of reader you might be, from the aspiring web developer to the person just looking to understand the topics better, this book is written for the beginner.

We talk about how to read this book and what the Exercises will require of you. We have worked hard to make the Exercises easy to follow. We use a lot of screenshots so you focus on learning instead of figuring out how to follow along.

We also talk about the outline of each chapter. Each chapter ends with a “Considerations for Further Study” section where we suggest follow up topics and resources to explore.

Additionally, we discuss how to reach out for help if you have a question.

Chapter 1: Setup and Tooling

This chapter prepares us with the necessary tools used in the Exercises throughout the book.

We first walk you through how to use the Chrome DevTools. Next, we have you download a free text-editor and do some short exercises to get you familiar with its basic layout.

Lastly, we talk briefly about Operating Systems, specifically Windows vs. macOS. Both Windows and macOS users will be able to participate in all the Exercises in the book.

Chapter 2: What is a Web Page?

This chapter is an introduction to HTML, the foundational language of the web. We will learn what HTML is used for, and do Exercises in both the DevTools and text-editor to get more comfortable with the HTML syntax.

The Exercises start by working through what a Markup language is, and then slowly progress through the HTML syntax. We use both the DevTools and text-editor to get comfortable changing and writing HTML.

The focus, as with all Chapters in this book, stays on teaching the concepts - the why and how - rather than having you memorize HTML elements or various definitions. The goal is to show the reader how the browser and HTML language work together to display a web page.

Chapter 3: Using CSS to Add Style

The previous chapter was all about HTML, the structure of a web page. In this chapter, we’ll be focusing on CSS, the style.

CSS is another markup language that works with HTML and the browser to give the HTML style, such as colors, different fonts, and positioning. We explore these concepts through Exercises, again using the DevTools and text-editor.

We also learn about the DevTools’ Styles pane and learn some of its more handy features. We use the Styles pane to learn more about Selector Specificity. Selector Specificity is an important concept that even experienced web developers struggle with because they haven’t taken the time to understand it; we will.

The last Exercise in this chapter, we explore how you add CSS to a web page, and show why you might choose one method over another.

Chapter 4: JavaScript

In this chapter, we move away from Markup languages and cover our first Programming Language: JavaScript.

As you come to learn, JavaScript is everywhere. We will take a closer look at why JavaScript is everywhere, and what the web feels like without it. Hint: it’s not that great.

We then explore the JavaScript syntax using the DevTools’ Console panel. We use our text-editor to explore what “interactivity” looks like and how we can use JavaScript to make a web page interactive.

We cover JavaScript Element Selectors, Event Listeners, Variables, Arrays, and Objects. All key concepts in learning JavaScript, but more importantly, key concepts that are foundational to all major programming languages.

Chapter 5: Programming Languages

The last three chapters - HTML, CSS, and JavaScript - were dense. I fire-hosed 🚒 you a little, and I apologize if you feel a bit wobbly on your feet.

This chapter is less Exercise heavy and should be a more casual read. HTML, CSS, and JavaScript are the core-language trio of web development. The language(s) you choose to study after mastering this trio will depend a lot on where in web development you want to go. The Programming Languages chapter focuses on this discussion; introducing you to the top ten Programming Languages.

We end the chapter by reviewing resources to help you search for web development jobs. And more importantly, how to read through these job postings, deciphering the skills that are really being asked for in the position.

In all honesty, this chapter is my favorite. But, I am also a touch of a motorhead. Which, as you’ll come to see why, may have influenced my fondness for this chapter.

Chapter 6: Terminal

The terminal is one of the most important tools you will learn to use as a future web developer. But before we begin to use it, we need to learn how it works, and what makes it special. In this discussion, we talk about Shells, GUIs, and CLIs. These are concepts that are often skirted over but are crucial if you want to understand how the terminal works. Spending time on these details will also bring a lot of concepts together, resulting in an “ah ... now I get it! 💡” moment.

In this chapter, you learn how to open and run popular commands inside of the terminal. We generate our own “note-taking” file where, from here out, we start recording notes about the commands we’ll learn about.

We also cover a very important but often overlooked discussion on file paths. Similar to grammar’s “effect” vs. “affect,” people don’t really know the difference between the different types of file paths, they guess and hope for the best 🤞. We take the guessing out of the equation, clearly explaining the difference and setting you up to be a master terminal user.

Chapter 7: Git and Version Control

With our new-found skills in the terminal, we are now ready to use one of developers’ most beloved tools: Git. Git is a version control tool, helping developers keep all their files and changes organized. Sounds boring? I promise it’s not; it is actually very impressive.

Git is a tool that web developers use daily. Git eventually becomes such second nature it’s easy to take it for granted. We spend a little bit of time looking at Git’s history, and competitive edge, helping us appreciate its power and what it does for us.

From there, we work through Git’s general workflow using the terminal. Once we have the workflow down, we spend a bit more time understanding exactly what a Git commit is. Hint: it’s the key to what makes Git so powerful.

We then move on to look at the power of branching, Git’s ability to never forget, and Git in the cloud.
During this chapter’s exercises, you will have created a GitHub profile. Git and GitHub are different tools you often find paired together. We finish the chapter by creating a Pull Request that will be reviewed and accepted by the author. This will be your first step towards creating a GitHub presence.

Chapter 8: Frontend and Backend Web Development

This is the last chapter to introduce new concepts and Exercises. We have covered the main subjects of web development, and are now at a fork in the road. This fork, the separation between Backend and Frontend, is what we discuss in this chapter.

We look at why this split occurred, how the separation did not always exist, and what this means for you and your future job searching. We breakdown the different components between the Frontend and Backend, making it very clear what constitutes the Backend vs. the Frontend.

We introduce you to APIs and use various Exercises to explore how APIs aid in the communication between the Backend and Frontend. We end this chapter by creating our own APIs using Node.js for the Backend and JavaScript, HTML and CSS for the Frontend.

Chapter 9: Field Guide

This last chapter takes all the topics we’ve learned and puts them into a Field Guide that visually represents the next steps.

You will have access to an 11 X 17 pdf Field Guide. On the Field Guide, there are time estimates for additional studying and time spent on projects. Additionally, I break down each of these “trail posts” to discuss the following:

  • Skill level
  • Project Suggestions
  • Estimated hours spent
  • Frontend vs. Backend.

Interviews with Developers Who Made It Advanced

The advanced package includes four interviews with software developers who give their advice on how to break into the industry.

 
Click the play button above to watch the 90-second highlight-reel from the interviews

Jeff Malnick

Engineering Manager at HashiCorp

🎥 Interview 1Advanced

The Power of Curiosity

Runtime: 26:19

Jeff’s progress as a programmer is impressive. His career path proves that curiosity, paired with a strong work ethic, can speed up your career path.

My favorite story from Jeff is how a late-night Twitter post about a Ruby script got him recruited by the CEO of his next job.

Jeff did not study Computer Science in school. Instead, he let his interests and passion guide his personal studies, allowing him to quickly learn about complicated programming topics focusing primarily on DevOps and Systems Admin. Jeff’s story is motivating, as he shows us what’s possible through self-teaching and hard work.

Sophia Shoemaker

Software Engineer at Box

🎥 Interview 2Advanced

Breaking Back into Tech

Runtime: 22:07

I think the thing I like most about Sophia’s career path is how dynamic it is and how she used the ebbs and flows to her advantage.

Having started as a PHP developer, Sophia, via various roles at small companies and as a consultant, learned new languages and frameworks that helped her advanced as a developer. Adding to her story is that she did all of this while managing the demands of being a mother of two. She has worked Full time at companies, and part-time. She’s work for companies and also as a consultant.

Most recently, she’s back full-time at a larger tech company. She’s a great example of how to make your situation work for you and continue to be marketable in a rapidly changing field. Sophia is also, to date, my favorite tech writer 🙂; her newsletters are how I got hooked on newline.

Fermin Carranza

Software Developer at Formstack

🎥 Interview 3Advanced

Making it Happen

Runtime: 16:20

Fermin’s story is the kind you hear and can’t help but smile about. He had an interest in programming. Then invited his programming friends over for dinner to absorb their advice.

He then signed up for a bootcamp, and promised both himself and the instructor that he would work super hard and end up with a job at the end of it. And he did 🍾!

I honestly wish I had the foresight to be this diligent in my own career path. Fermin’s story helps you to believe that, yes it is possible. His advice is both motivating and encouraging.

Carlos Perez

Founder of Bike Monkey, Inc.

🎥 Interview 4Advanced

You Don’t Have to Work in Tech to be Programmer

Runtime: 21:35

Carlos is a celebrated community member in Sonoma County, California. Through his company Bike Monkey, he has raised over $2 million for at Risk Youth, and $1.1 million for those affected by wildfires in Sonoma County.

Carlos’ story of being a computer-inclined 5 year old to a Founder/CEO exemplifies the power of self-learning and passion. Carlos had a non-traditional education. He was homeschooled, and by the age of 19-20 was skilled enough to land his first programming job. He worked in the corporate-tech world for 10 years, but left in hopes of pursuing more passionate and personal ambitions.

Today he uses his tech background and passion to make real impacts in his community. He is a business owner, founder, leader and motivating force in Sonoma county. In this interview, you can hear his 💙for programming come through and learn what it has allowed him to do.

Study Guide & Dashboard Advanced

The advanced package also includes a Study Guide and Dashboard that will give you a clear path -- and concrete goals -- to advance your learning.

This Study Guide is the guide I would have wanted when I started learning Web Development.

 
Click the play button above to watch me introduce the Study Guide Dashboard and how it can help you get your first web development job.

When I was getting started