Jake Pruitt

This is where I write.

← Home


My body jumped when I first saw the words “Hello World” appear on an empty page in my browser. All I did was write a five-line text file, and type the command node server.js into the command line and there it was, “Hello World”, the first words of the first server I ever created. It was a rush, I could feel my heart racing as I continued reading The Node Beginner Book, examining every word and trying to understand every line of the elegant Node.js http server.

And I said hello to the world.

The ever-growing universe

There is nothing more exhiliarating to me than learning web development. It feels like Christmas morning, only the internet is my Christmas tree and the tools and features of programming are my presents.

The community of web developers fosters personal growth like no other community I have ever seen. Everyone knows how difficult it is to begin, and everyone wants to help give back in some way. The internet is bursting with resources to help you learn as much programming as you can possibly handle. Professional advice and best practices are within reach, and free for anyone to read.

And the best part is, there is no end. Instead of there being some forseeable edge of what I can learn, or some final unwrapped gift that sits by itself in the back corner of the room, each discovery makes me realize just how little I know, and just how much I still have to learn. It’s like travelling deep into space, hoping to find the edge, and the distance just getting further and further away, as you keep passing galaxies that could not be seen from where you started. Each tool leads to a new library, which leads to a new framework or an entirely new programming language.

Baby steps

When I started learning, there were a few things I did that worked well for me. I was lucky enough to find Chris Coyier’s website csstricks.com, which made everything click for me. Specifically, I found his Beginner Articles, geared just for my level, and saw the whole picture once I watched his screen cast HTML & CSS – The VERY Basics. I cannot speak highly enough about Chris Coyier, if you want to be introduced to web development, let him be the one to welcome you in.

From Chris’s advertisements, I found treehouse, a paid service that walked me through every single bit of HTML and CSS knowledge I have today. I was ready to make the commitment to pay for the service, and it has been well worth it for me.

Once I finally came to JavaScript, I had a very hard time finding the right place to start. I spent a few weeks reading the W3C DOM Specification, which is a sure-fired way to get someone unexcited about JavaScript. Trust me, one day you will need to read the docs, but that should not be the first thing you learn.

I realized I had graduated from walkthrough level resources, but documentation was too dense and technical for me. That is when I found two great resources that brought me to where I am now, JSbooks - a list of free JavaScript learning resources, and Superhero.js - a collated list that can get you from understanding scope all the way through building single-page-apps.

For the curious and the brave

That has been my track so far, and you can follow that track if you wish. Personally, if I could start over, I would want someone to give me this guide, which can tantilize your tastes and give you the building blocks to becoming a pretty good web developer:

  1. Get excited
  2. Test the water
    • Watch Chris Coyier’s screencast HTML & CSS – The VERY Basics, which gives you the fundamentals I wish I knew from the beginning.
    • Sign up for codecademy.com, a wonderful free interactive coding guide that gets you hands-on web exposure.
    • Sign up for Anselm Hannemann’s free Web Development Reading List, by far the best reading list for finding more out about the community and the newest learning resources.
    • Try working through the beginning of The Node Beginner Book as an introduction to server-side JavaScript. Very helpful, and very exciting.
  3. Take deep breath and jump
    • Try out and maybe sign up for a paid service like treehouse or code school, both of which are really great at teaching you exactly what you need to learn.
    • Pick up a free JavaScript book at JSBooks. I highly recommend Eloquent JavaScript, the best overall programming book I have ever read.
    • Hone your skills at codewars.com, if you enjoy learning by challenges.
    • Start working towards becoming a superhero by reading everything on Superhero.js. I am still working through this myself.
    • Marvel at all of the free programming books on reSRC’s List of Free Programming Books.

I will be running with you

I hope that I was able to get you excited about learning web development, and partially on the way to learning the great things programming has to offer. This journey has been one of the most enriching experiences of my life, and it will continue to be as I learn more in the future. Thank you for reading, and let me know if you have any other ideas on Twitter @thejakepruitt or by email at jake@jakepruitt.com.

Update: 2019

After many years of this growing stale, I wanted to add an additional link to the student’s choice awards for best overall courses in JavaScript, which outlines the best resources for different skillsets and focus areas.