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You’re Learning Web Development the Wrong Way

December 7, 2023
December 13, 2023
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There are a lot of courses and guides out there to help you start learning web development. Despite this abundance, it's unfortunately very easy to fall into a common learning pitfall, such as following a tutorial that's out-of-date, or taking a course that glosses over important parts of the process. In this episode, Matt and Mike discussed commonly learning pitfalls and how to avoid them. They also discussed how to go beyond courses to ensure you're learning as much as you can before landing a job.


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Show Notes

Common pitfalls of courses

  • Start from random points in the development process
    - After an idea is already created and all requirements have been gathered
    - No planning phases
    - Development infrastructure and environment have already been setup
    - All the decisions have already been made on how to get from point A to point B
  • Cover only basic implementations 
    - Ex. adding auth to a project, they’ll only cover something like local auth with username and password and store that information in a basic sqllite database
    - Talk about twitter clone example
  • Critical thinking/problem solving
    - Courses will give you step-by-step guides on how to do things the instructor has already done dozens if not hundreds of times
    - They will intentionally avoid showing you slipups and mistakes
    - The unfortunate reality is that mistakes, bad decisions, broken libraries, etc. are what will be the biggest challenge when trying to complete a project on your own from scratch
  • Don’t discuss integrations with 3rd parties
    - A lot of your projects will need potentially many integrations with different service providers
    - SSO, Newsletters, Analytics, Error handling, Uptime monitoring
  • Don’t cover or gloss over debugging
    - Issues are bound to arise in any project and tech stack
    - Courses sometimes do have a section on debugging but it’s impossible to go deep enough it into this so you will be left with a shallow understanding of what to do when things go wrong
  • No team dynamics discussed
    - How to work on a project with a small-large development team
    - Git workflows
    - CL/CI

How to go beyond courses

  • Start by focusing on courses that have course projects
    - Once you finish a course project, take it and modify it in some way
    -- For example, if it’s a todo list, add some categorization to the todos
    -- For a weather app add some basic animations that are different depending on the weather
    -- Deploy the project and try to use it, find things that aren’t working the way you want and fix them
  • Find a project to work on with a partner
    - Having even one extra person on a project will teach you a ton about collaboration and workflows
    - How do you make sure you’re not overwriting each others work?
    - How do you break up tasks so that you can work on multiple things simultaneously? 
    - How do you collaboratively come up with a list of requirements for a project?
  • Hackathons
    - Find local or online hackathons and participate
    - You won’t learn how to build production applications usually but the nature of them will teach you how to deliver on tight deadlines
    - If there is a team then ++ for collaborative workflows
    - You will touch every aspect of the development process, idea to deployment and demonstration
  • Ask for critiques, code reviews and criticism of your code
    - If you have a group of coding friends, send them your code with the expectation that they will tear it apart
    - Be willing to be wrong in how you do things and appreciate the people that tell you when you are
    - Offer up to reciprocate and do code reviews for other people
    - Open source your code whenever you can and send it to appropriate communities (discords, Twitter, some subreddits)
  • Continuous learning
    - Join discord groups, listen to podcasts, follow web dev influencers to stay on top of the tech that is becoming popular
  • If you can’t find a job or freelance gig, make your own production project
    - Brainstorm ideas
    - Gather requirements 
    -- From yourself and from potential users of what you’re building
    - Create a simple UI/UX for an MVP
    - Choose a tech stack
    - Plan out your development process
    - Build
    - Deploy
    - Get feedback 
    -- Add analytics
    -- Add error handling
    - Prioritize the feedback and act on it
    - Get more feedback
    - Going through this process you’ll hit roadblock after roadblock. The skills you gain from getting through them will be 10x more valuable than what a course will give you if you just follow it step by step.