10 Things Beginner Developers Should Know

Posted in Tips, Web Design3 years ago • Written by 14 Comments

If you are a novice developer, it might be confusing about where you should start, because the field is broad and provides many options for you. There are so many questions you might ask yourself, such as “What programming language should I learn?” or “Should I also know front-end, or only back-end?” And I am sure there are much more than that. Well, in order for you to be able to start with an advantage against the others, I’ve decided to help you start your career as a developer with the following list of tips.

1. Decide upon the skills you want


When starting out as a developer, you really need to focus on something and avoid being too much of a generalist. There is nothing wrong with knowing more programming languages, but it is always an advantage if you are outstanding in one of them. There is nothing wrong with being outstanding in all of them either, but you can’t really do this in the beginning, therefore focus all your efforts on learning a skill and market yourself as an expert in that field. It can be PHP, Ruby on Rails, ASP.net or C#, but be good at it…really good! After you master one of them, you can obviously move on, but don’t do this until you have strong knowledge in that field.

Image by: zerolein

This tip is also good for front-end designers, who always start with HTML and CSS, then move on to JavaScript, jQuery, AJAX or whatever it is they are interested in. Sure, you might be able to learn HTML and CSS at the same time, but this is because they kind of work together. You can’t really master PHP and ASP.net in the same time – unless you spend 20 hours a day on it, which I do not recommend – therefore you have to learn them one by one.

Now because you are a beginner and do not know anything about hardcore programming languages, it might also be a difficult choice for you, but there is a solution. Think of what you want to develop – if it’s WordPress themes, then dig into PHP; is it custom management systems, then try ASP.net; is it iPhone games, then learn C# and so on. Just do a bit of research about what each language can do and start learning.

2. Learn it right


Another tip for you beginners out there is, regardless of what language you choose, to learn it correctly. If you learn HTML by coding with tables, it is just not right and experts will for sure agree with me. Coding using the latest web standards seems useless to some, but it is really important and I advise you to do it. It will not only improve the loading speed of your product, it will also be easier and it will make more sense.

3. Google is your best friend


It doesn’t really matter what kind of problem you have, I am sure Google can solve it. I am also a very big fan of Coding Forums and I strongly recommend you use it if you encounter problems – and you will, believe me. But before posting a question on the forum, try to search for a solution on Google, because most of the time you will find an answer to your question, or at least an answer that will guide you to solving the issue.

Image by: ahmetbroge

4. Copy code


This goes mostly for designers, but sometimes developers have knowledge of front-end design and make their own layouts before starting to code them. I encourage you to look through other pages and how they are coded. If you like the style of a container, look at its source and analyze it. Firebug works just great in this case. Let’s face it, this is the way most people learn how to code. What I don’t advise you to do is to steal the design. This matter is unforgivable and shows a lack of respect, but I don’t see any problem in borrowing snippets of code from here and there. If a design can be copyrighted as someone’s, code can’t, so you are not doing anything illegal either. I might stir some controversy with this one, but I will stand by what I said: copy code from here and there, this is the way to learn how to do it properly – but don’t ever steal a design.

5. Get a network


Another important thing is to have a network within your field of knowledge. It never hurts to know fellow developers and designers – worst case scenario, you have to go back and search Google for the answers you need, best case scenario you have some interesting discussions and can get help if you need it. You may even collaborate with your fellow developers on bigger projects, which will probably be good for both of you.

My design teacher always told me to have a network and recommend each other. Are you close to landing a project but you are not sure if you can handle the type of work that’s involved? Recommend your friend! He will probably do it better than you (if he is an expert in that specific area) and you might get clients or work from him too at some point in time. Get a network and keep it close, there is always need for a fellow developer around.

6. Understand designers


I advise you to understand designers in case you have no idea how they work. I am talking about both graphic designers and front-end designers. It is always good to learn how they work and why they might deliver static pages that can’t really be coded according to the latest web standards. Learn how to talk to them and explain what was wrong and nicely ask them to fix their mistakes. This way your working relationship will be closer and your results better.

7. Use professional tools


Although HTML and CSS can be used with notepad, I don’t recommend it. And if I don’t think that you can code properly in HTML and CSS using notepad, then I definitely don’t think you can use this default tool for PHP, ASP.net or Ruby. Get yourself a professional tool, which can be Dreamweaver, Coda or anything else, but use what professionals use, otherwise you are not one of them. They check errors, help you with auto complete and give you suggestions. There is a reason why Dreamweaver and Coda are the two most used IDE’s (integrated development environment) in the World – they get the job done in style. So go right now and get you the right tools if you don’t have them.

8. Keep the cool stuff for last


Each programming language has its own “cool version”. For example, HTML has HTML5, CSS has CSS3, JavaScript has jQuery and AJAX and so on – I think it’s way better if you learn the basic language and then work your way up to the cool stuff. This is also because the cool stuff works with the basic elements so you won’t be able to develop a jQuery slider if you don’t comprehend basic JavaScript.

9. Get informed


It is always good to stay informed about what is happening in the field. You can do this either by reading news feeds, online blogs or even books and video tutorials. Stay updated and make sure you are one of the first to go out there and offer products developed with the latest technology. In the beginning it might not work that much (people might want to keep the “old” technologies until the new ones show their worth), but I am sure there are also people who want to own a brand-new product developed with the latest technologies – this will give you an advantage and will make you known in the field.

10. Go on with the learning process


After you become a master in the field you started with, work your way up with other languages. There are so many of them and knowing more than one will always be beneficial in your career. Keep an eye on the most important languages and learn the one you think is more interesting. When you master two, go on with the third and so on. Continue this until there is not much else to learn – although this is quite impossible. This is the way to success.

Conclusion


It is quite common that beginner developers have a rough time starting in this deep field, but I hope these tips help you find your way around. It does not even matter that much where you start from, all that matters is that you actually start. I think this usually takes the most time, so don’t waste these precious days and head off and find your first developer book right away!

69 Written ArticlesWebsite

Christian Vasile is an enthuziastic Romanian web designer currently living in Denmark. He is passionate for the industry and writes about design, usability, coding and freelancing and is a regular publisher here at 1WD. You can follow him on Twitter at @christianvasile or visit his web portfolio by clicking on the link above.

14 Comments Best Comments First
  • Atis Gailis

    Wednesday, December 28th, 2011 18:01

    5

    Just a quick note to say that from legal perspective this sentence “[i]f a design can be copyrighted as someone’s, code can’t [..]” is wrong. Copyright applies to code the same way it applies to design. That means that you can’t copy code as you can’t copy desugn. Though – you can copy snippets (as long as it can’t be cosidered essential part of) both from code and from design. And – copyright doesn’t apply to ideas (inspire not copy) and functionality (last being true for Europe but not US where patents to software functionality may apply).

    +1
  • Victor

    Thursday, December 29th, 2011 11:04

    8

    “is it iPhone games, then learn C#”, are you sure? Shouldn’t it be Objective-C?

    0
    • Diego

      Thursday, January 12th, 2012 16:12

      12

      It’s Objective-C, C# is part of Microsoft .NET framework.

      0
  • Mark Taylor

    Tuesday, December 27th, 2011 18:43

    4

    Fantastic informative post. Thanks for sharing, I will bookmark this!

    0
  • Praveena Sarathchandra

    Tuesday, December 27th, 2011 17:06

    3

    My addition to Point #3:
    I think stackexchange sites like Stackoverflow, Superuser & Programmers are really useful when it comes to Q&A. I found these sites very helpful and using daily whenever I come across a bug or need more clarification on anything related to IT/Software Engineering.

    Thanks for the article. Cheers!

    0
  • Tran Kim

    Tuesday, December 27th, 2011 15:03

    2

    Thanks. This is exactly what I should know ! I’m learning about html5.

    0
  • Izhar

    Thursday, December 29th, 2011 09:53

    7

    I think these were the deep thoughts in my mind which I couldn’t get clarified. I think I am better now.
    Keep it up!

    0
  • Ali

    Thursday, January 5th, 2012 16:24

    11

    thnx!!!!

    0
  • samuel

    Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012 18:34

    13

    “use what professionals use, otherwise you are not one of them.”

    This is an incredibly bad thing to say to a beginner. I am an android developer and I started developing with eclipse (an advanced IDE) which was a poor decision. It is important for a beginner to be able to write good code in a bare bones environemed which could be notepad. If a beginner starts with an advanced IDE they can easily become overwhelmed. Also beginners learn to rely on tools provided by the IDE and don’t learn how to code properly. An example of this would be drag and drop interfaces. I know that dreamweaver is capable of doing this and I would strongly advise not to start with a program such as this. Once a developer can code everything that the IDE will provide for then then and only then should they use an advanced IDE.

    A great beginner IDE is Notepad ++ it supports the following languages ActionScript, Ada, asp, Assembly, autoIt
    Batch
    C, C++, C#, Caml, Cmake, COBOL, CSSD, DiffFlash ActionScript, FortranGui4CLIHaskell, HTMLini file, InnoSetupJava, Javascript, JSPKiXtartLISP, LuaMakefile, Matlab, MS-DOSNSISObjective-CPascal, Perl, PHP, Postscript, PowerShell, Properties file, PythonR, Resource file, RubyShell, Scheme, Smalltalk, SQLTCL, TeX
    Visual Basic, VHDL, VerilogXMLYAML

    so basically anything that you can think of.

    Home page: http://notepad-plus-plus.org/

    0
  • jatinder

    Saturday, April 7th, 2012 01:58

    14

    hi i m beginner in this fied and i enjoyed to read your blog and will go with the points given with it and aso there is no limit of learning

    0
  • Tim

    Wednesday, December 28th, 2011 21:42

    6

    “use what professionals use, otherwise you are not one of them.”
    This might be the single stupidest quote I’ve ever read. If the job is completed successfully and professionally, then it doesn’t matter what the tools to create it were. Some beautiful illustrations are created with software other than Photoshop and Illustrator. Have you seen any of the art that people are making using an iPad?
    Any text editor can be used to code. In fact, I would say that an individual that can do this (of which I am not one) should be considered exemplary compared to someone that uses Dreamweaver. The programmers where I work only use Eclipse for coding. Any, in fact, that is one of the most popular because of all the plugins it has to create Android apps, etc. Dreamweaver and Coda are not the only apps that developers use.

    Also, Atis is correct, code CAN be copyrighted. Unless the developer specifically makes it open source, you’d better be sure you credit him in a comment in YOUR code and even ask permission first.

    -1
    • Christian Vasile

      Friday, December 30th, 2011 15:58

      10

      When I said that code can’t be copyrighted I was right, and let me explain you why. I do not talk about taking a whole JavaScript and using it as your own. But a CSS line that says #content {float: left; white-space: nowrap;} can’t be copyrighted. It happened to me many times that I wanted to create a layout and it did look very different than the one I wanted to make – so I found examples of it on the internet and looked into its code – then used snippets of it in my own code to make it work. Nobody can sue me for this and I am fully entitled to do it without any consequences.

      0
  • syed nayab

    Tuesday, December 27th, 2011 12:39

    1

    i was about to give up on Designing..i thought i should know everything and got messed up in everything….

    -1
  • guido

    Thursday, December 29th, 2011 14:08

    9

    hi, i.m not a developer and theorically…. this isn’t my place. but i think that you really want to take profit on IT you just need to deal with technical issues. so, i.m gonna considering to learn this stuff. and your blog is probably one of the best ispirational and valuable guide from the beginner to the expert. thanks a lot for your contribute to the spreading of the knowledge

    -2
  • jatinder

    Saturday, April 7th, 2012 01:58

    14

    hi i m beginner in this fied and i enjoyed to read your blog and will go with the points given with it and aso there is no limit of learning

    0
  • samuel

    Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012 18:34

    13

    “use what professionals use, otherwise you are not one of them.”

    This is an incredibly bad thing to say to a beginner. I am an android developer and I started developing with eclipse (an advanced IDE) which was a poor decision. It is important for a beginner to be able to write good code in a bare bones environemed which could be notepad. If a beginner starts with an advanced IDE they can easily become overwhelmed. Also beginners learn to rely on tools provided by the IDE and don’t learn how to code properly. An example of this would be drag and drop interfaces. I know that dreamweaver is capable of doing this and I would strongly advise not to start with a program such as this. Once a developer can code everything that the IDE will provide for then then and only then should they use an advanced IDE.

    A great beginner IDE is Notepad ++ it supports the following languages ActionScript, Ada, asp, Assembly, autoIt
    Batch
    C, C++, C#, Caml, Cmake, COBOL, CSSD, DiffFlash ActionScript, FortranGui4CLIHaskell, HTMLini file, InnoSetupJava, Javascript, JSPKiXtartLISP, LuaMakefile, Matlab, MS-DOSNSISObjective-CPascal, Perl, PHP, Postscript, PowerShell, Properties file, PythonR, Resource file, RubyShell, Scheme, Smalltalk, SQLTCL, TeX
    Visual Basic, VHDL, VerilogXMLYAML

    so basically anything that you can think of.

    Home page: http://notepad-plus-plus.org/

    0
  • Ali

    Thursday, January 5th, 2012 16:24

    11

    thnx!!!!

    0
  • guido

    Thursday, December 29th, 2011 14:08

    9

    hi, i.m not a developer and theorically…. this isn’t my place. but i think that you really want to take profit on IT you just need to deal with technical issues. so, i.m gonna considering to learn this stuff. and your blog is probably one of the best ispirational and valuable guide from the beginner to the expert. thanks a lot for your contribute to the spreading of the knowledge

    -2
  • Victor

    Thursday, December 29th, 2011 11:04

    8

    “is it iPhone games, then learn C#”, are you sure? Shouldn’t it be Objective-C?

    0
    • Diego

      Thursday, January 12th, 2012 16:12

      12

      It’s Objective-C, C# is part of Microsoft .NET framework.

      0
  • Izhar

    Thursday, December 29th, 2011 09:53

    7

    I think these were the deep thoughts in my mind which I couldn’t get clarified. I think I am better now.
    Keep it up!

    0
  • Tim

    Wednesday, December 28th, 2011 21:42

    6

    “use what professionals use, otherwise you are not one of them.”
    This might be the single stupidest quote I’ve ever read. If the job is completed successfully and professionally, then it doesn’t matter what the tools to create it were. Some beautiful illustrations are created with software other than Photoshop and Illustrator. Have you seen any of the art that people are making using an iPad?
    Any text editor can be used to code. In fact, I would say that an individual that can do this (of which I am not one) should be considered exemplary compared to someone that uses Dreamweaver. The programmers where I work only use Eclipse for coding. Any, in fact, that is one of the most popular because of all the plugins it has to create Android apps, etc. Dreamweaver and Coda are not the only apps that developers use.

    Also, Atis is correct, code CAN be copyrighted. Unless the developer specifically makes it open source, you’d better be sure you credit him in a comment in YOUR code and even ask permission first.

    -1
    • Christian Vasile

      Friday, December 30th, 2011 15:58

      10

      When I said that code can’t be copyrighted I was right, and let me explain you why. I do not talk about taking a whole JavaScript and using it as your own. But a CSS line that says #content {float: left; white-space: nowrap;} can’t be copyrighted. It happened to me many times that I wanted to create a layout and it did look very different than the one I wanted to make – so I found examples of it on the internet and looked into its code – then used snippets of it in my own code to make it work. Nobody can sue me for this and I am fully entitled to do it without any consequences.

      0
  • Atis Gailis

    Wednesday, December 28th, 2011 18:01

    5

    Just a quick note to say that from legal perspective this sentence “[i]f a design can be copyrighted as someone’s, code can’t [..]” is wrong. Copyright applies to code the same way it applies to design. That means that you can’t copy code as you can’t copy desugn. Though – you can copy snippets (as long as it can’t be cosidered essential part of) both from code and from design. And – copyright doesn’t apply to ideas (inspire not copy) and functionality (last being true for Europe but not US where patents to software functionality may apply).

    +1
  • Mark Taylor

    Tuesday, December 27th, 2011 18:43

    4

    Fantastic informative post. Thanks for sharing, I will bookmark this!

    0
  • Praveena Sarathchandra

    Tuesday, December 27th, 2011 17:06

    3

    My addition to Point #3:
    I think stackexchange sites like Stackoverflow, Superuser & Programmers are really useful when it comes to Q&A. I found these sites very helpful and using daily whenever I come across a bug or need more clarification on anything related to IT/Software Engineering.

    Thanks for the article. Cheers!

    0
  • Tran Kim

    Tuesday, December 27th, 2011 15:03

    2

    Thanks. This is exactly what I should know ! I’m learning about html5.

    0
  • syed nayab

    Tuesday, December 27th, 2011 12:39

    1

    i was about to give up on Designing..i thought i should know everything and got messed up in everything….

    -1

Comments are closed.

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