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Learning JavaScript from Scratch

May 30, 2023
June 7, 2023
Episode Number:

Learning JavaScript from scratch can be a real challenge, but once you're through it, your newfound programming knowledge will pay dividends for years into your career. JavaScript is one of the foundational technologies on which the web is built, alongside HTML and CSS. Knowing it gives you insight into how to "think like a computer" and offers a running start when you're ready to learn a JavaScript framework like React, Vue, or Svelte. This week, Matt and Mike discussed how to get started learning JavaScript as an absolute beginner looking to work their way through junior developer and beyond.


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Show Notes

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Stop! If you're brand new to web development, we recommend you go back and listen to episode 248 "Become a Junior Developer, Learn Web Development from Scratch" where we discuss how to get started learning HTML and CSS - what we consider the first two web technologies that you should learn. If you're not sure which learning pathway is right for you (ie self-taught, traditional school, bootcamps etc.) we also discussed this at length in episode 248, only touching on it briefly in this JavaScript episode (episode 251).

Why do you need JavaScript?

  • In terms of UI:
    - HTML provides the structure (skeleton)
    - CSS provides the styles
    - JavaScript provides the functionality and interactivity (frontend and backend)
  • In this episode we'll focus on what JavaScript was created for, the frontend
  • Examples of interactivity that JavaScript can provide:
    - Toggle switch for light and dark modes
    - Dynamically displaying weather as it changes in real-time
    - Realtime chat using web sockets
    - Complex animations w/ a JS animation API, or in cooperation with CSS animations
    - Audio/video playback (getUserMedia API)

How do you learn JavaScript from scratch?

  • Start with courses to get fundamentals and a good foundation/path
    - Learn JavaScript from Scrimba (free)
    - Beginner JavaScript from Wes Bos (paid)
  • These courses get you to build projects
    - With project-building experience under your belt you will soon start to figure out ways you'd like to improve, build upon, and modify your projects
  • Taking course projects and altering them in some way is a great way to test the boundaries of your knowledge and start the process of learning how to google
  • Once you can do that try to start a project from scratch that you’re interested in and build it
    - Use additional courses and resources to fill in knowledge gaps
    - Don’t be afraid to use AI (ChatGPT) and open-source projects to add functionality
    - Make sure you understand at least at a high level the code you are copy pasting
    - Learn to debug, if something goes wrong don’t give up, keep trying until you find a solution

JavaScript core concepts you need to know

  1. Syntax and Basic Constructs: Understanding how JavaScript is written and structured, including variables, data types, operators, and control flow structures like loops and conditional statements.
  2. Functions: The ability to define and call functions, understand scope, and use different types of functions like arrow functions.
  3. Objects and Arrays: Understanding how to create and use objects and arrays, including their methods and properties.
  4. JavaScript DOM Manipulation: Learning how to interact with the Document Object Model (DOM), which allows JavaScript to change the content and appearance of a webpage.
  5. Event Handling: Understanding how to create and respond to events, such as user interactions.
  6. Asynchronous JavaScript: This includes concepts like callbacks, promises, and async/await, which are used for handling operations that take some time to complete, like fetching data from a server.
  7. ES6+ Features: Familiarity with newer features of JavaScript introduced in ES6 and beyond, such as `let` and `const`, template literals, destructuring, default parameters, spread and rest operators and modules.
  8. Error Handling: Understanding how to catch and handle errors using `try...catch` statements.
  9. Testing and Debugging: Learning how to write tests for your code, use console methods for debugging, and use browser developer tools.
  10. Functional Programming Concepts: Understanding functional programming principles can be useful, such as immutability, pure functions, and higher-order functions.