When it comes to web development, just knowing how to code in JavaScript or PHP, although important, isn’t everything. You also need to have a firm grasp of its underlying concepts, like server-side vs client-side rendering or how cookies and browsers work.

Photo by Dmitry Ratushny on Unsplash

This is where you won’t get away without learning some theory. But fear not: it doesn’t have to be as boring as it used to be in school. It also doesn’t have to be as inefficient.

With the following 7 approaches, you won’t just be able to recite the theory – you’ll actually understand and use it in practice. And these tips work for everyone: computer science students, bootcamp trainees, and self-learners.

What’s the Best Time to Start Learning Web Development?

All in all, there’s no such thing when it comes to your abilities. You can’t be “too young” or “too old” to take your first step towards becoming a web developer. All you need is commitment and time – and if it is your cup of tea, you’ll succeed.

That said, students are more flexible than adults in their 30s or 40s. That’s because students don’t have as many commitments in life: no loans to pay off, no children to raise. You get the idea. 

What’s more, students can easily decrease their workload to free up enough time for the whole endeavor. Stuck with too much boring homework? You can turn to a reliable coursework writing service like EssayPro and offload some of it. Have too many extracurriculars? You can drop out of one or several of them, with no penalty.

1 – Take Your Time

Learning shouldn’t be rushed. Otherwise, it’ll be plain inefficient. Think about the last time you crammed for an exam: you probably forgot everything you’d learned a week after the test.

If you’re serious about web development, that approach won’t fly. You need that theory to be good at it. So, first, you may need to make some sacrifices in order to:

  • Stick to a consistent study schedule;
  • Break down the whole process into small chunks of work;
  • Space them out in time – 20-minute study sessions every day are more efficient than two-hour ones every week.

2 – Pick Up a Book

Books have a somewhat bad reputation among developers, but it’s not well-deserved. There are good books on the intricacies of all the most popular web development languages – and “good” means both interesting and up-to-date here.

As for the books themselves, these four are a great place to kick off your search:

  • Front-End Web Development: The Big Nerd Ranch Guide;
  • Responsive Web Design with HTML5 and CSS3;
  • Secrets of the JavaScript Ninja;
  • Learning PHP, MySQL & JavaScript.

3 – Use Free Online Resources

It’s true, the internet is full of garbage. But the global web developer community has been working hard on these four 100% free-of-charge projects to help people like you get started with both theory and practice:

  • MDN Web Docs (also known as Mozilla Developer Network);
  • Codecademy;
  • W3Schools;
  • FreeCodeCamp.

So, go ahead and give them a try if you haven’t yet. Plus, some of them have tests to check your knowledge retention, while others gamify the whole learning process to make it more fun.

4 – Learn with Great Visuals

Most humans are visual learners – and you probably know it already. Think about it: what’s been more helpful for you – reading a chapter in a textbook or watching a YouTube video on the same topic?

Most likely, it’s the latter. But not all videos are created equal – some of them show just the screen with the code editor while the narrator talks. For theory, that approach won’t work that great. Instead, look for animation and infographic-type videos that visualize concepts to make them simple.

Here are 6 YouTube channels on web development that you should check out:

  • Traversy Media;
  • Clever Programmer;
  • London App Brewery;
  • Stefan Mischook;
  • Academind;
  • The Net Ninja.

5 – Take Notes

Whether you consume the material by reading or watching YouTube videos, taking notes will boost your long-term knowledge retention. So open that notebook next time you dive into the theory – and keep these three good practices in mind:

  • Write by hand. A 2014 study by Urry et. al. found that students who type their notes score worse during exams – even though their notes are longer. The thing is, when you write by hand, you have to mull over and reorganize the information you receive to make it shorter.
  • Be concise. If you start taking notes verbatim, you won’t be processing the information – and you’ll run into the same hiccup as the laptop-note-taking crowd.
  • Doodle and sketch. First, as Srini Pillay, MD points out in his Harvard Health Blog post, doodling helps you improve focus. Second, drawing flowcharts and mind maps allows you to squeeze a lot of information into a limited space – and later review how all of it fits together with just a glance.

6 – Put Your Knowledge to Work

Web development is still a highly practical field. So, the theory you learn should easily find its way into your practice – especially if you take time to conceptualize and use your imagination.

Here’s an example. Let’s say you read a chapter or an article on how cookies work. To put this theory to practice, go ahead and write a piece of code in HTML or JavaScript to implement cookies. Then, tinker with different cookie types and attributes – until you exhaust your options for tinkering altogether.

7 – Revise What You’ve Learned

These revisions don’t have to boil down to those boring multiple-choice tests (although they can be useful from time to time). Here are three other ways you can make your revision more fun:

  • Choose one of the topics you’ve learned so far. Now, write, draw mind maps, or say out loud everything you can remember related to that topic;
  • Explain something you’ve learned to a friend or family member – it’ll help you have a firmer grasp on key concepts;
  • Complete web development challenges or projects related to the topic (you can find them on freeCodeCamp and other learning platforms).

In Conclusion: Find What Works for You

When it comes to learning, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Some people prefer watching video explainers, some find that reading and taking notes work better for them.

So, here’s a final piece of advice for mastering web development theory – experiment with your learning arrangements. Keep experimenting until you feel like you’re at the top of your game. Good luck!

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