Perhaps one of the most exciting prospects about entering a field like web development is the ability to simply get into it right away. Unlike many professions that require months or even years of training, with web development you can easily get started today if you feel the fire of learning and discovery smoldering under your feet!
The best place to begin getting a feel for how development works are the numerous free, self-guided online web development courses that cover everything from basic programming introductions to development best practices. Below we’ll take a look at the cream of the crop web development courses and highlight what they can each offer you and a selection of the best links or tools to check out.
1. Codecademy (visit)
Codecademy provides a series of self-guided tutorials for beginners to learn the basics of web development programming. An in-browser, self-contained development environment is created where you can learn the basic structures of front-end code like HTML and CSS, before moving on to back-end languages such as Ruby on Rails and Python.
Don’t miss… The Make a Website and HTML & CSS programs are great beginning points if you need to learn the basics of web structure and design. For heavier coding, try the Ruby language tutorial followed by the Learn Ruby on Rails guide for making a basic, functional website.
2. Khan Academy (visit)
An extremely useful learning site that covers all manner of subject, and the computer programming section of Khan Academy in particular cannot be overlooked. It features a variety of self-guided tutorials, generally with experts providing audio and/or video guidance on the topic while interactive on-screen windows show the code and output the results during narration.
3. MIT OpenCourseware (visit)
An abundance of self-guided courses from none other than one of the best technical schools in the United States, MIT. The MIT OpenCourseware program offers an incredible breadth of topics to learn about, including hundreds of courses relating to programming, development, mathematics, and computer engineering.
Don’t miss… Introduction to Computer Science and Programming which is a full, independent study course including all resources and course materials to get you excited about and interested in programming. A Gentle Introduction to Programming Using Python is also a great resource to get insight into that popular and well-designed back-end language.
4. Coursera (visit)
Similar to MIT OpenCourseware, Coursera offers a plethora of online courses from a variety of universities around the world for free. Each course varies slightly in format and timeline, but numerous courses are available for programming, development, and computer science to get a taste.
Don’t miss… A great beginners guide to programming can be found in the Programming for Everyone course from University of Michigan. While the language used throughout the course is specific to Python, the course itself is focused on the concepts of general programming that can be applied to virtually all languages you’ll encounter for years to come.
5. Mozilla Developer Network (visit)
Mozilla, the team behind the popular Firefox web browser, have created an incredible resource for developers of all skills levels and expertise through the Mozilla Developer Network. These resources, articles, and tutorials are perfect for those who absorb information and learn best using the tried-and-true method of reading words and seeing examples right there on the page. The range of topics is wide, from basic web introductions and front-end languages to common vocabulary and optimization & performance.
6. HTML5 Rocks (visit)
While the interface is a bit lackluster and finding relevant articles can be somewhat challenging, the HTML5 Rocks site — that was created by Google — provides a wide assortment of articles and tutorials on all manner of web development topics, with intended audiences ranging from beginners to advanced developers.
Don’t miss… Getting Started with CSS Shapes provides a great introduction into advanced CSS techniques that many beginners may not even realize can be accomplished purely with CSS.
7. A List Apart (visit)
One of the most professional and up-to-date online magazines directly aimed at web developers and designers, A List Apart is home to a multitude of exceptional articles dealing with everything from coding and techniques to design and user experience. If you want to do some light reading and learn from the experience and advice of other experts in the field, browsing through the articles here is a great resource.
Don’t miss… Building Nonlinear Narratives for the Web offers great insight into the notion that the scattered, modular nature of modern websites requires that narratives about our content are allowed to be free-flowing and not follow the traditional “beginning, middle, end” structure of storytelling. Also check out Reframing Accessibility for the Web, which attacks some of our own inherent prejudices about web users with disabilities and how developers can move forward designing for accessibility, regardless of the user at the other end.
8. Coding Dojo Algorithm Prep (visit)
For new developers, it’s so incredibly important to get familiar with programming algorithms as early as possible – so much so, that they become second nature.
Don’t miss… Coding Dojo created a free Algorithm Training Platform that will help build your coding muscles and nail coding fundamentals before diving into learning how to code! The Algorithm Training Platform takes you through a series of problems that become more challenging as levels progress. After each challenge, there’s a video with a Coding Dojo instructor who walks through how he or she would personally solve the algorithm.
Bonus Tip & Resources: Get up to speed on back-end programming languages
After you’ve gotten your feet wet in the basics of web development, you’ll likely start transitioning towards more back-end programming. At this point, you’ll need to choose a language to start with, and trust us, there’s a lot to choose from. However before settling on one, make sure to do your research to find the right fit — not all languages are alike. They vary in difficulty, usage in the industry, easy of access, market demand, and many other factors.