Website Development For Beginners

My Treehouse profile page

I have been writing HTML and building websites since I was in high school, but I learned most of what I know through trial and error and ad-hoc research. Earlier this year I decided to buckle down and learn web development the right way, starting from the basics and working my way up to some more advanced skills. In this post, I review what training resources I utilized and my thoughts and opinions of each.

W3 Schools

W3schools homepage screenshot

W3Schools homepage

I first started by using a resource I was already familiar with, W3Schools, an online web tutorial website that provides tutorials and reference articles on different markup and program languages and explains briefly how to get started using them. The articles are mostly text, and often times they don’t explain all of the quirks and use cases for different functions and elements. Although this site is free and teaches all of the basics I needed to know, it just wasn’t presenting the material in a way that made me confident that I was receiving comprehensive training.

Pros:

    • Easy to navigate and find specific elements.
    • Chapters are organised in a very logical order.
    • HTML, CSS, PHP, SQL, JQuery, Javascript, and more covered.
    • Great for ad-hoc research.

Cons:

    • No videos.
    • A lot of advertising.
    • No continuity between examples.
    • Does not appear to cover cross browser considerations.

 

YouTube

Example YouTube Channel page - PHPAcademy

Example YouTube Channel page – PHPAcademy

After giving up on W3Schools, I went looking on YouTube for any channels that would meet my needs. Unfortunately, I didn’t find anything at the time that was as comprehensive as what I was looking for regarding HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. I did however find the PHPAcademy channel, which I do like a lot, and really helped me improve my PHP acumen.

Pros:

    • Nearly unlimited videos.
    • Ability to favorite videos.
    • I can comment on videos to ask questions.

Cons:

    • A lot of advertising.
    • Tutorial series are not always organised well.
    • Lack of channels with the level of content I desired.

 

Treehouse

My Treehouse profile page

My Treehouse profile page

While combing through YouTube, I saw an advertisement for TeamTreehouse.com. I followed the ad to their website and became really interested in what I saw. Besides being  really well designed site (you would hope so), their site seemed to be very in depth, and even had training on areas above and beyond web development, including web design, building apps, and running and marketing an online business.

The only barrier that kept-ed me from joining right away was the cost. The minimum monthly fee for the site was $25 a month. Without seeing the how much content they provided, I felt like this was a little expensive for a web subscription. I did some benchmarking of the price, and it was obvious that this was pretty average compared to other sites like Lynda.com and others.  Everything that I had seen looked promising enough that I decided to join anyway and worst case scenario I could cancel after the first month.

After joining I started with HTML, to which I started and completed the “Build a simple Website” project. Projects are compromised of separate achievements, with each achievement containing multiple training steps. The steps can be videos covering one or more topics, multiple choice or fill in the blank quizzes, or programming challenges that ask you to program in a screen based editor that validates that you are comprehending the lessons. The “Build a simple Website” project was very easy to follow, and used the same sample website throughout the entire lesson, making it much easier to imagine to process for my own projects.

After completing achievements, you are awarded progress points,  and as you earn points, you also unlock mini videos for a serial movie about an evil web design  company trying to take over the world, and a rag tag group of rebel web designers from different backgrounds organizing a revolution. The movie is kind of stupid, but also kind of entertaining. The further you get into the story, the more you want to unlock the next video.

Pros:

    • A lot of videos.
    • Lesson completion tracking.
    • Points system gauges overall training completed.
    • Forum for questions and support.
    • Ability to download project files.
    • Strong continuity between examples, in most cases your being taught how to build a specific product.
    • There are constantly new lessons launching.
    • Mobile app.

Cons:

    • Not free.
    • Some times your points do not save. They have rolled out several updates to fix this issue and appears to be fixed, but we will see.

 

Summary

This is hardly a large collection of reviews, but I was lucky to find a solution that works for me and would be hard pressed to be persuaded to move to another platform unless it could provide the same level of quality for free. If you are looking for a learning solution for web development or web design, Its obvious that I recommend Treehouse, which has worked great for me since I joined 6 months ago. If you are on this same journey, I challenge you to experiment, find what works best for you, then start learning and start doing.

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