It can seem overwhelming and at times confusing, trying to decide what language or software to learn first and in which order to begin. Do you start with HTML5 / CSS3? Or PHP and MySQL? And that’s without mentioning JavaScript and jQuery. Then there’s Gulp, Grunt SASS and Git.  It can all seem overwhelming and will likely consist of late nights and lots of coffee. It’s all worth it though, when you land your dream job.

University taught me how to learn code and the best order to learn everything in. Working in the industry has taught me how to be a good and efficient web developer and for those of you considering in following in my footsteps, here are 5 handy tips I wish I’d known:

1. Always plan your projects.

When you’re first given a new project it’s very easy to jump straight in and immediately open your text editor, after all that’s what you do, but what about when you are a couple of weeks into the project and you didn’t plan all the functionality properly? Now you have to restructure the code to add features, which now means you might miss the deadline.

I find planning a project and finding solutions to all the required functionality takes a pen, paper and a little research to get started.

 

2. Invest in yourself and never stop learning.

The web industry is fast-paced and the minute you stop learning you’re in danger of being left behind. Being a web developer, you have committed yourself to a lifetime of learning to stay current. I find an online subscription to a video learning site is a great way for me to continue to learn and I tend to switch between a handful of sites such as Lynda.com, Tuts+ and Laracasts.

Although learning new languages and tools is great, and that new “next best thing” looks amazing, it might be replaced with another new, better “next best thing” in six months’ time. I personally find it a good rule to learn what is relevant to my strengths and things that I can apply to be a better developer. If you are a PHP developer, instead of learning Python, maybe learn an MVC framework such as Laravel or Symfony.

 

3. Keep It Simple, Stupid.

It’s easy to get carried away writing code that is clever, and forgetting to stick to good formatting and commenting. These rules should be stuck to even when you’re coding alone – you’ll thank yourself later.

Whilst you’re writing code you’ll be very familiar with the way it all works, but in 6 months you will have likely forgotten, making it 10 times more difficult to work with. If you make your code easy for future-you to read and follow, when you come back to it you hopefully won’t be cursing too much!

I like to ask myself as I’m coding, “if I come back to this in 6 months would I be able understand it?” If the answer is no then I try to change it so that I can answer the question with a yes.

 

4. Find ways to streamline your workflow.

You’re an amazing developer and can make amazing websites that look beautiful and polished, but it’s taken you 6 months to develop it and you missed the deadline. This isn’t going to make your clients happy. If you find yourself repeating things over and over again from scratch it’s always a good idea to find a way to make it quicker. If you work on WordPress sites and use the same plugins on most sites, write a wp-cli script that installs and activates those plugins in one go, instead of opening the WP Admin area and installing each plugin separately.

Streamlining the smallest, simplest things can make the biggest difference.

Another good tip I followed was to find a text editor I was comfortable with (such as Sublime Text) and learn its common keyboard shortcuts, how to create snippets etc and become really productive using that editor. I have recently made the switch to Visual Studio code, so am going through this process again and finding it’s really good.

 

5. Find a good code / life balance.

It’s very easy to get burnt out, working to tight deadlines and then going home and learning that “next best thing” but I find it’s just as productive to turn that computer off and take it easy at least twice a week. I personally mountain bike and find that going for a long ride with no technology and fresh air really helps me focus more when I am in front of a computer. I also have a 22 month old girl and am always happier after I have spent time with her, being a big kid and being silly, although I can take or leave Peppa Pig.

 

A career in technology means the learning path is never-ending, and these are just 5 things I’ve found crucial to developing my career in code.

Whether you’re an aspiring coder or further into your career, I hope you’ve found these tips useful!

 

 

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