With all the fluff out there, it's unclear how to start learning web development. And if you don't know what you're looking for, you can get stuck in endless traps set by snake oil salesmen.

But luckily, you've come to the right place. Instead of blowing smoke and sending you on endless loops of information-searching, we give it to you straight.

You can start learning web development today with these 5 concrete steps:

  1. Decide between frontend, backend and full stack
  2. Choose your learning method
  3. Build a portfolio
  4. Join a community
  5. Don't give up!

Sure, it's not as easy as it looks, but it's a solid starting point.

This post is brought to you by RealToughCandy.io. Learn the ins and outs of starting a career in web development with RTC's course How to Get a Job in Web Development.


Oprah says everyone can learn web development

So let's take a closer look and see how you can benefit with this process.

1. Pick Your Protein: Frontend, Backend or Full Stack

Choosing between frontend, backend and full stack is like picking your meat at Chipotle: They're all good choices, but it really comes down to your preference.

When deciding how to start learning web development, you first need to know what you want to develop.

Do you want to create an awesome user experience by developing the frontend? Or maybe working with the server and database on the backend is more your thing.

And maybe, just maybe, you're that fabled unicorn that is rarely seen but surely exists: the fullstack developer. 🦄

Frontend Developer

Everything you're looking at on this page (and every other page on the web for that matter) is a result of frontend development: website layouts, fonts, colors, buttons, menus and more.

As a frontend developer, you'll have 3 new best friends:

  • HTML - Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML) is used to compose and interpret text
  • CSS - Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) includes colors, layouts and fonts
  • JavaScript - adds interactivity to otherwise static websites

And your job is to make sure your websites deliver the best user experience possible.

HostGator explanation of HTML, CSS and JavaScript to start learning web development

Photo courtesy of HostGator

Backend Developer

Backend developers are responsible for all things server-side from web application logic to maintaining the database. Basically backend developers enable the frontend to work smoothly.

This is where things start to get interesting. As a backend developer, you have more programming languages to choose from compared to the frontend. Some of the most popular include PHP, Python, Ruby, Java and Rust.

Full Stack Developer

So you want to to stake the claim of full stack developer. The full package. A Jack of all trades. The specialized web developer unicorn. You want to do it all.

Dabbing fullstack unicorn - start learning web development

Well, we're not going to stop you! A full stack web developer role is only for the most ambitious of programmers. And while it's a tough task, it can be done!

2. Pick Your Media: Videos, Books, Courses

It's up to you to decide how to start learning web development, and there are no shortage of options out there.

You can:

✅ watch videos ✅ read books ✅ take online courses

The beauty of online courses is that they cater to all learning styles: text-based, video-based and interactive coding environments. So whatever learning style works best for you, it's out there.

Pro tip: There are literally thousands of resources out there to learn web development. Instead of jumping around, try to stick to one course. Using other resources to clarify a concept is okay, but don't be a Platform Jumper. It's a time sink and the concepts won't stick.

3. If You Build It, They Will Come: Build A Portfolio

Your most important asset as a junior developer is your portfolio. Because you're just starting out in a new career field, you don't have your job history to rely on.

Your potential is going to be considered based on your portfolio. So you need things like:

✅ customized projects ✅ live code examples ✅ web presence

And more.

A well-crafted portfolio can mean the difference between starting your first web developer job and submitting endless job applications.

4. Seek and Ye Shall Find: Community

Find a community that complements your web developer lifestyle.

Communities are an awesome support network when learning web development. They can be found online or in person:

Meetups - These are great for people that want to get out and socialize with other devs. Usually there are featured speakers or special presentations. Plus, Meetups usually have food. 😋 🍔 🥤

Discord - This is a fantastic online resource for chatting with other developers, sharing your projects, getting advice and more. You can check out the RealToughCandy Discord here.

RealToughCandy Discord

Other online meetings - Due to Covid-19, many in-person gatherings have migrated to online meetings. For example, Women Who Code chapters frequently host free presentations with guest speakers, live demos and Q&A sessions.

5. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

In the words of Aaliyah, "if at first you don't succeed, dust yourself off and try again."

Learning a new skill isn't always easy. Maybe you started off reading a few books or took a course you thought you'd like, but you're still not as far along as you should be.

That's okay, and many of us have been there.

Dust yourself off and try again. And again and again if you have to.

Try a new approach.

Do a chapter a day instead of spending 8 hours coding.

Find a mentor.

Get out of your comfort zone.

But most importantly: Don't give up.

I wanted to quit my coding journey. In fact, I did quit. The difference was, I didn't stay quit. Something told me to keep pushing forward, keep building projects to put in my portfolio and on GitHub, keep reaching out and trying to find clients who needed websites. I kept pushing until I got a job as a fullstack web developer at a data company.
- RTC in her book, How to Get A Job in Web Development


How to Start Learning Web Development: Conclusion

Today we showed you how to start learning web development with 5 steps:

  • Decide between frontend, backend and full stack
  • Choose your learning method - videos, books, courses
  • Build a portfolio - leave an impression with quality content
  • Join a community - Discord, Meetup, etc.
  • Don't give up! - keep trying again and again

With a strong foundation, you'll steadily progress towards your web developer career.

Want to learn more about starting a career in web development?

How to Get A Job in Web Development course on RealToughCandy.io

In How to Get a Job in Web Development you'll learn all about ways to improve your chances of getting hired as a web developer:

✅ craft your "Holy Clover" of application materials: resume, cover letter, GitHub account, and portfolio

✅ increase your callbacks, interviews and job offers

✅ strategically apply to jobs

✅ prepare for various interview types (phone, video, in-person)

✅ prepare for your first week of work

And much more. You can check out the course here.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I start learning web development?

You can start learning web development with these 5 concrete steps: 1. Decide between frontend, backend and full stack. Once you know what you want to develop, then you'll be able to start learning how to develop it. 2. Choose your learning method. There are plenty of ways to learn: videos, books, courses, etc. Keep trying them out until you find what works for you. 3. Build a portfolio. Because you don't have a job history to rely on, your portfolio will be your best friend. A solid portfolio will better your chances of getting hired. 4. Join a community. Join a Discord, find a mentor, and go to Meetups. Find what works for you and surround yourself with people that will be helpful and encouraging. 5. Don't give up. You're going to have hard days, weeks, or months. But stick with it and keep trying.

Do you want to know how to become a web developer?

We can show you how to become a web developer with 5 steps. They will take time and hard work, but your efforts may pay off with a rewarding career. Start with these 5 basic steps: 1. Choose your stack - Decide if you want to be a frontend, backend or full stack developer. 2. Choose your learning method. Teach yourself with books and videos, or learn from instructors with courses and bootcamps. 3. Build a portfolio. As you level up, build up your portfolio and keep your projects up-to-date. 4. Join a community. Whether it's online with Discord/message boards or in person with Meetups, stay in touch with other devs for help, inspiration, and socials. 5. Keep on trying. There are trying times when you'll want to give up, but don't stop. Keep trying.