So you want to learn web development without going to school? Luckily, you're not alone.
The best way to teach yourself web development without school is by experience.
But for many, I guess that’s easier said than done. There are in fact multiple learning styles which most people can be categorized into, based on the VARK model.
- Visual learners
- Auditory learners
- Reading/writing learners
- Kinaesthetic learners
You’ll probably find it helpful to determine your own personal learning style — not just to learn web development, but for anything in life. Knowing which learning style fits you best means that you can target your education in the right way, instead of forcing yourself to learn ‘against the grain’, if you will. Some people naturally pick up new skills by reading or watching somebody else in action, while others need to actually try it themselves in order for the new-found information to sink in.
There probably isn’t a ‘best’ learning style for web development, but you’ll definitely pick up knowledge faster if you absorb the information in a way that suits your brain best.
One thing that’s vital to note is that practice is definitely the best way to hone your skills when it comes to web development. Once you’ve learned the basics, embarking on tasks and projects that will help further your experience in-the-field, so to speak, is the way to solidifying your knowledge in web development.
For new and aspiring web developers, securing a job without prior experience or education could prove quite challenging. Even if you are able to secure a job without having worked in the field before, you may not be doing yourself or your client/employer justice if you don’t know what you’re doing. This means you’ll need to start by learning solo. Now let that sink in.
You’ll need to start by learning solo.
The most comfortable way to learn solo is to immerse yourself in the language or discipline you’re trying to learn. This way, it won’t feel like so much of a chore.
Start building a personal project that actually excites you — this is by far the easiest way to dedicate yourself to a medium or long term project for which you’ll be working on alone. Practicing for the sake of practice might indeed be one way to learn, but nothing quite beats immersing yourself into something that you have a genuine passion about.
For instance, you could spend a few months creating a website that allows you to share a personal passion of yours with the world. Or, develop a blog without using site building or hosted blogging tools, to teach you the intricate workings of the code behind the end-result.
Incorporate responsive design techniques, and use innovative front-end technology to flex your creative muscles. Develop a backend to the website that operates and functions in the most efficient way it can.
You could create a mockup website for a well-known brand... or an entirely fictional one.
Whatever you choose to do, remember that the more passionate you are about it, the more likely you’ll remain invested in the project. That’s the key to dedicating yourself to something so overwhelming, which web development can definitely feel at the best of times.
These small ‘hobby’ projects are one of the best ways to learn web development over the medium term.
It will force you outside of your comfort zone, pushing you to scour the web to learn more about what it is you’re aiming for.
The beauty of the web development community lies in the sheer number of resources that are available for aspiring talent. If you become stuck, there are endless places to learn online, in many places that you’d least expect.
You’ll be able to further your knowledge from wherever you’re comfortable — a coffee shop, a public library, or at home.
Once you are starting to become proficient in certain areas, and feel that your code has some strength behind it, you can begin to look for small jobs online that will allow you to put your new-found skills into practice.
As a freelancer, the more jobs you initially take on, the more proficient you’ll become. Quite simply, this is because the differences of every job will push you to explore and absorb more information than you knew before. Working with two sets of code is never quite the same. Different server environments, varying methods and functionalities, and a broad range of markup, scripting and programming languages will teach you the endless number of ways that a single line of code can even be written. Quickly, you’ll become privy to the most efficient ways to code, and will be able to identify less intuitive methods which have been used by developers who have previously come and gone.
Congratulations on choosing web development. The world is your oyster. While there is not necessarily a direct substitute for formal education, when it comes to web development, past experience, and your capabilities are almost always key.