Faced with any sort of technology, very few people take the time to read instructions. Instead, we forge ahead and muddle through, making up our own vaguely plausible stories about what we’re doing and why it works.
Steve Krug – Don’t make me think

This is a story of forging ahead, muddling through and the sort of brain malaise you’ve retched upon yourself by spending hours looking at the computer screen for one piece of outlaw code. Those green matrix binary numbers falling like tears when you suddenly realise the antagonistic error messages the computer is spitting at you are the result of an errant comma. “How could I have missed that,” you say! “Stupid fool,” you call yourself, cursing and carrying on.

If you’re reading this perhaps you’ve chosen to become a web developer/designer, well congratulations you’ve now entered the kind of job incomprehensibility shared with “revenue cycle managers,” and try explaining what it is you actually do, in any kind of detail, those wonderful specifics of day-today life, and behold!; it results in the same glazed over look people get when the accountant at the party (there’s always one) starts jawboning about massed product ratios. You’re alone now, what you spent hours creating in a verbose abstract language – independently hooking up your new MVC pattern to a misbehaving server – you high-five the hallucinatory figures of a latent coffee binge, yet, no one else can know. Take a look at my hard work you say, cheerfully your “significant close one” bumbles over to gaze upon the glory, yet they pall over with that glazed look, apprehension clouds over, they’ve stared into a Nietzschen void until smiling meekly and shuffling away. Take 2: You’ve just spent 5 minutes googling, copying and pasting a small piece of jQuery that makes the title of your website spin and explode. Easy. “Close one” returns to see this and it suddenly dawns on them, “So this is what you do!”. And you can see it in their eyes, “Why don’t you make more spinning exploding things?”. That’s you now, the person who makes things spin and explode on a tiny screen.

I started in February 2014, I can’t remember what my exact motivation for wanting to become a web developer was. I just felt compelled to learn, at the time I was taking a break from the teaching profession (for reasons I shan’t elaborate on here), this left me with some precious time to spend. Only a few months later did I consider changing career, all thoughts that I might get “bored” or even “stuck” were finally put aside. I was from that moment onward committed. When I started, I knew no-one, knew little and was drawing on a lot of conflicting advice about how to progress. Perhaps my continuing experience might help you along if you too are considering taking this path. A few things to note:

  1. I encourage freedom in the process of learning, you have to make a lot of decisions about what you want to learn, this isn’t a curriculum, more an informal guide.
  2. This post was one of the nudges I needed to encourage me to write this blog, I realised I had been missing some humanity in my learning process. I decided that others might benefit from my experience. Everybody’s learning process and requirements are different, but through relating what we liked or didn’t, what worked and what did not, I think we can help one another.
  3. You can put as much time each week as you like, but I would be cautious about putting studying or practice off as you might stop altogether and your brain’s own recycle bin likes to trash things you aren’t using. With such a breadth and variety of information to digest it’s tough, give yourself goals/projects/rewards, take breaks, whatever works. It’s gonna take time and a whole bucket load of patience, but one thing I’ve learned as a teacher is that anyone can learn anything, given time and effort. I’m uncomfortable with the idea (an idea that’s catching some momentum) that nature determines whether we’re suited or indeed “smart” enough to study in a particular field.