The best web developers in the world have pretty cool jobs. When they’re not building awesome things for the web they’re giving talks at cutting edge tech conferences, leading experimental open source projects, and enjoying their six figure salaries however they see fit. It’s definitely not an easy road to the top. But it can be done. Stay motivated, always seek to improve, have the right skills in your arsenal and you’ll go a long way. Taking the following into consideration also helps too;
The Language Debate
Back End or Front End?
Front End web developers deal with the look, feel and interactive aspects of a website – i.e the ‘front’ part that the user sees. That often means both designing how it looks and coding up that design. Back End web developers work with the technology that makes the websites function on a technical level. Most people focus on one or the other; if you’re more creative and design-oriented Front End is a good choice. If you like data and problem solving, Back End may be for you. But remember, just because you choose one path to go down initially, it doesn’t mean you can’t ever change course. In fact, it’s a great idea to get a feel for both sides of the coin. Which leads us nicely to another point…
Understand the Journey
Whether you choose Back End development, Front End development or both, you’ll need to know a thing or two about design. You can know all the theory and have all the skills, but if you can’t produce a workable end result – i.e. something that the average Joe can use and navigate without having to think – it’s all null and void. Learn why and how people use the web apps and sites that they do, and what problems they face when they use it. Then, think about how you can solve those problems. Only by taking both of those steps can you begin to design that solution.
Be a Copycat
When it comes to writing better code and fine tuning your programming skills, there is one very easy method; copy other people’s code! This is expected and perfectly acceptable throughout the industry – as long as you don’t take credit for someone else’s work, obviously – and is a fantastic way to learn. Start a GitHub account and see what’s out there; it’s a huge community so no matter what you’re building, someone will have done something similar before. We don’t mean for you to just copy and nothing else however; build on the code of others to create something new and better.
When you’re confident of your coding ability and know your chosen languages inside out, Vim will become a life saver. Vim is a text editor, but it’s not quite like all the others in the world. It is a keyboard only editor (i.e. no more mouse) and it saves custom shortcuts unique to you so you can spend less time editing existing code and more time writing new code. And you can set it up exactly how you like it. Oh, and it works on any platform. Many advanced web developers use it, but there’s a good reason for that; it has a steep learning curve, but nothing a 30-minute tutorial can’t tackle. It will improve your productivity enormously; trust us.
Code for Humans, not Machines
You’ll know when you become a master coder because you’ll worry less about just making stuff work properly, and start focusing on how to make your code readable, efficient and, well, a work of art. In short, you’ll be coding for humans rather than machines. We won’t lie; it will take lots of hard work, testing, re-testing, headaches and eureka moments to get to that point, but it will happen if you stay determined and hungry. If you make this your aim with all of your projects, it won’t be long before you’re chasing that six figure salary.
Grow and Expand
We don’t mean you should start taking growth hormones or gaining lots of weight. But you should seek out opportunities to learn something knew and pick up new skills – i.e. grow your knowledge and expand your metaphorical tool kit. All good web developers know that it’s not just your skills, it’s your work ethic and your attitude too. Furthermore, this is an ever changing industry and there’s always something new to learn – so if you stop making the effort, you’ll quickly fall down the career ladder rather than climbing up it.