How to Become a Web Developer in 10 Weeks
I understand this may sound silly, but it’s most certainly doable with the right mindset. In this post, I’m going to share my personal experience of developing this highly commoditized skill in such a short period of time.
Before we jump in, let’s be clear that by no stretch of the imagination am I some guru web developer. I’ve made four websites (including this one), and now hold the requisite skill set to dabble in freelance web development. So, if you’re like me and want to try something new, and building websites is something that intrigues you, then I think you’ll find great value in this post.
In fact, my goal is to help you learn how to become a web developer in LESS THAN 10 WEEKS — doing so by providing one aggregate source to guide you along the way.
Here’s our plan:
I’ve identified the items below as the five core pillars of learning how to become a web developer. A basic understanding of each concept is all you need to begin creating awesome websites.
- Content Management System
- Web Hosting
- Search Engine Optimization
Please note: as we go through, you’ll find a link placed at the bottom of each section. Each link is the source I found most helpful to understand that particular item (i.e., CMS, web hosting, etc.). Please feel free to skip to those if you prefer — it won’t offend me, I promise!
Once we’ve covered all five sections, I’ll share two important questions to consider, along with my closing thoughts on navigating through the process and getting the most out of it.
Without further ado, let’s learn how to become a web developer in 10 weeks!
1. Content Management System (CMS)
A CMS is exactly what it sounds like — it’s a system used to manage our content (i.e., written, photo, video, audio). Think of it as installing an application to build and maintain your website on, because that’s exactly what we’re doing by installing a CMS.
Perhaps you’ve heard of website builders like Wix, SquareSpace, Weebly, or Jimdo, which offer nice tools to meet the basic needs of building a website. However, none of these are open-source CMSs, so each has its’ limitations. Long story short, it’s not a commoditized skill to operate on a CMS that’s not open-source since we cannot customize core files.
The most popular open-source CMSs are WordPress Joomla, and Drupal.
Drupal is the most advanced, WordPress has the lowest learning curve, and Joomla is essentially a hybrid of Drupal and WordPress. Personally, WordPress was an easy decision. And even though it’s technically not as advanced as Joomla and Drupal, that doesn’t mean it’s for scrubs. There are plenty of big name brands that use WordPress, like the Wall Street Journal, Playstation, and Forbes, to name a few.
Most helpful source (CMS): How to Choose the Right CMS for My Websites
2. Web Hosting
Think of the Internet as a physical location, like your local strip mall, for example. And let’s say a flip-flop store on that strip mall just went out of business, and we really want to open our sock store there. In order to do that, we need to pay rent to occupy that location. In short, each web host is like a strip mall owner – we need to pay rent to occupy a space they’ve reserved for us on the Internet.
There are four different types of web hosting (i.e., shared, virtual private server, dedicated server, and cloud). For starters, shared hosting meets all of our needs, and I personally wouldn’t recommend spending more money for higher tier options at this time. For those interested in the fundamental description of each type of web hosting solution, check out this Web Hosting Beginner Guide.
When choosing a company to purchase web hosting, I personally focused on price, support, and loading speed as three main factors to consider. After weighing pros and cons, high quality reviews across the industry for both loading speed and support led me to SiteGround. Their competitive pricing was simply a bonus.
Most helpful source (web hosting): 10 Best WordPress Hosting Companies Tested and Ranked
A WordPress theme is a collection of files working together to display the design framework of your website. It’s like a tracing template with oodles of shapes and sizes for us to choose from. It’s our job to position those shapes in a manner that makes our website simple to navigate. And last but not least, we add visual appeal via color scheme and typography.
So how does it all work?
Before we get carried away, let’s address pricing. To sum it up, there are two types of themes (free and premium); the underlying difference? Free themes are free, and premium themes cost money. And yes, there’s more nuance to it, but like most things in life – we get what we pay for. Free themes tend to offer far less features and functionality, whereas premium themes have a diverse range of options to customize a unique-looking website.
However, the top benefit of going premium has nothing to do with the theme itself. Rather, it’s the access you now have to premium support forums on the site we purchased it from. Access to these forums is the first reason why we don’t need coding skills to create an amazing website. We’re able to search for quick answers, or post a ticket if we have a descriptive request. If needed, a developer provides a piece of code, along with instructions on where to paste it.
Super awesome, right?
Drag and drop page builders are another awesome reason why coding skills aren’t necessary to learn how to become a web developer. These tools enable us to literally drag and drop modules as we build pages, so we can view our work in real time. Some premium themes have this feature built in. Otherwise, we need to install a page builder plugin (more on plugins in the next section).
Where do we get themes?
For those brave enough to give it a go without premium support, the WordPress installation comes with a massive selection of free themes. All you need to do is open the admin dashboard, go to appearance, select themes, click add new theme, filter your search, then select a theme (as shown below).
Also note, by purchasing a premium theme, we’re actually purchasing a zip file, along with a license to use its’ contents on our website(s).
So how do we use the premium theme once it’s purchased?
Follow the exact same steps as we covered for free themes, except on our final step, we select UPLOAD THEME — opposed to browsing through the selection of free themes (shown below). Then we locate our zip file and double click to upload — it’s that simple!
Most helpful source (themes): Selecting the Best WordPress Theme — 9 Things You Should Consider
Behold, WordPress plugins! These wonderful bits of software are the main reason why we don’t need coding skills to learn how to become a web developer. Plugins generally work the same way apps work on our smartphones. Think of installing a plugin as going to the app store and downloading an app, because that’s exactly how it works. And for the nerds who need a technical description, each plugin is a piece of code that integrates with your website to extend or provide a particular function or feature.
Now let’s cover a few examples of WordPress plugins.
As mentioned in our themes discussion, drag and drop page builders are one example of a plugin. However, we only need to install such a plugin if our theme doesn’t already have this functionality built in. Most page builders are paid plugins — ranging from about $49 to $99. Don’t let that discourage you, though. A majority of the plugins we need are free, yet many free plugins offer premium features — just like smartphone apps.
That’s an example of a plugin used for front end development, but many plugins are installed as back end development solutions. For example, every website should use a plugin for caching, backups, SEO, and security. Also, think about installing plugins for things like a comments section of a blog, an e-commerce extension, a mailing list opt-in, a contact form, etc.
The best way to grasp the power of WordPress plugins is to start developing a website. Take it head on — knowing that plugins are there for every dilemma we arrive at, and knowing that YouTube tutorials are there to help us properly set up those plugins. It may sound crazy, but it’s the truth.
(Please note: the source below does not EXPLAIN plugins, since the concept is straightforward. Rather, the source provides 10 plugin recommendations to help get you started.)
Most helpful source (plugins): 10 Essential WordPress Plugins Every Website Needs
5. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO is a massive competition. Each time we search Google for, say, how to become a web developer — a back end development blood bath takes place for the grand prize — a front page ranking.
How does it work?
Let’s be clear, SEO is the most complex item on our list. It’s imperative to understand that learning SEO is an elongated process of consuming info nuggets whenever possible. And to be frank, it would be insulting to SEO professionals for me to pretend like I’m a wiz kid with all the answers. However, I do understand the fundamental underpinnings of how SEO works. It’s something all web developers should understand, but I’m learning more about SEO every day. Can you guess the keyword or key phrase this piece of content is targeting?
(Pssst, here’s a hint: it’s a key phrase.)
Ding-ding-ding! We have a winner! How to become a web developer is our key phrase.
So why am I not on the front page of Google? Simple, I’m a little guy with a blog I started this week. And thus, my article [currently] lacks popularity, which is one of two PRIMARY factors that determine where a piece of content ranks. The second PRIMARY factor is relevance (note: I’m capitalizing PRIMARY because hundreds of factors affect search engine ranking).
At the moment, my only prayer of this post being discovered via organic search is to assure the content is relevant to its’ keyphrase, “how to become a web developer.” However, this is unlikely, since search engine algorithms will weed out my content when it’s given a poor popularity score.
How do we get popular?
The PRIMARY factors of content popularity are shares, links, and audience behavior (i.e., how much time people spend interacting with a particular post). So in hindsight, I have a handful of micro prayers to be discovered via organic search. Think of it like a points system, like the one below:
- Shares to social networks = bonus points!
- Outside sources linking to this post = bonus points!
- More time spent consuming this post = bonus points!
Not so fast, buddy — can you spot the flaw?
Not all links are good links, SO BEWARE! Like anything we do in life, the masterminds behind search engine algorithms continue to produce better solutions. Search engines can sniff out a spammy link from miles aways, literally. So don’t trust the guy across the world trying to sell you 1,000 links for $300. Google recognizes such behavior as link scheming, which negatively impacts your search ranking.
This brings us back to focusing heavily on creating relevant content that provides value.
But how do we create relevant content?
As mentioned, the algorithms we’re trying to master are highly complex. There are plugins to help GUIDE us through the relevance part of SEO (Yoast SEO is the most popular one). However, it’s important to understand these plugins are merely GUIDES.
Due to the sophistication of SEO, It’s best to bring our discussion to a halt before it becomes overwhelming. My advice is to install the Yoast SEO plugin to WordPress, and learn as you go. Additionally, I highly recommend listening to the Best SEO Podcast by EWebResults (it really is the best). The hosts, Chris Burres and Charles Lewis, do an amazing job of breaking down SEO into bite-size, easy-to-digest info nuggets, which also taste good — thanks to their ability to mix in good humor.
So please, consider checking out their SEO podcast, in addition to our most helpful SEO source listed below.
Most helpful source (SEO): Beginner’s Guide to SEO
Do we feel like we know how to become a web developer in 10 weeks?
Let’s take a moment to reflect on our discussion, shall we? I understand it may be overwhelming at first, but I promise you learning how to become a web developer in [less than] 10 weeks is doable. And for those still interested in giving it a try, I’ve identified two important questions to ask yourself first.
Q1: Why do I want to learn how to become a web developer?
If money is your superior motive, then it’s not worth your time. The best way to generate more income is to focus on your passion, whatever that may be. If you’re currently in search of locating your passion, then trying something practical like web development is a wonderful place to search.
(Please, be sure to read through our closing thoughts if you’re searching for passion.)
Q2: What are my goals?
If your goal is to freelance, then you must be willing to work for free. Think about it from a client’s point of view. Would anyone want to hire a web developer that’s unable to provide example(s) of his/her work? The obvious answer is NO, so start thinking about people within your network who may need a website. For example, I developed two websites for a buddy of mine who does music production, audio engineering, and publishing, in addition to recording his own music. This helped him out, while also helping me begin building a portfolio.
Did you notice any ongoing themes while reading? Why was the most helpful source included at the bottom of each section?
Yes, those sources were included to provide further guidance as you navigate each topic in the wild. Also, consider how much this emphasizes the significance of being resourceful. We don’t have all the answers, but they’re out there.
Let’s focus on two resources in particular.
First, understand that YouTube will be your best friend as you’re getting started, especially when you’re unsure how to configure a plugin. Develop the habit of asking YouTube how to do something if/when you feel lost. You’ll be surprised by the amount of tutorials that are readily available at your disposal.
Next, utilize the power of Facebook Groups. There’s an organized list of groups with people who all share the same interest — take advantage! Search web development, web design, etc. Join a handful of groups, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Try to develop an online relationship with at least two people who are willing to help. Trust me, there’s plenty of them out there; all you need to do is ask! And most importantly, be sure to express your gratitude to those kind people.
Here’s one final note to consider as you continue learning how to become a web developer: Trust your intuition — find your zen.
I know, finding your zen may seem like an odd strategy. That’s fair, but hear me out before you nullify everything we just discussed. Those of you still reading are clearly interested in freelance web development, which is wonderful. Think about why it’s so wonderful. We get to try so many new things during this process, which all relate to freelance web development — business development, sales, internet marketing, SEO, design, writing, and more!
My friends, take the time to try this one new thing, and it just might steer you toward a passion you were unaware of. I’ll be honest with you, web development will just be a hobby for me, personally. However, from this experience, I was able to identify business development, marketing, and SEO as potential passions of mine.
I hope my advice will steer you a bit closer to your passion as well.
Thanks for reading my friend.