Newvick Lee
04 Sep 2016

How I learned web design and development while helping create BETM Projects - Part 1

I've become a master web developer now after a couple of weeks working on this project with Anthony.

If someone tells you this, the person's a liar or a genius.

I'm not a genius and I try not to lie that often. So I did not become a master web developer. But I learned enough to put up a decent looking website on a server. This skill is useful for anyone looking to build up an online presence.

I had no technical background before this, so if I can learn this, anyone with a computer can.

This is going to be split up into multiple parts.

Part 1 - The non technical bit

Execution is everything! The idea is key! Take an online course and learn everything you need! Tinker around and learn through a project! Who's right and who's wrong?

There's so much BS that floats around learning web development. It's not surprising, given the amount of money to be made in online courses and bootcamps.

The way I'm learning is working for me (I'm still improving it), and I think it may work for many other people too.

Often it's balancing two extremes that seems to work out. This started off as a project to help promote our Toastmaster club, BETM. I started working with a friend (Anthony, the other blogger here) who already knew quite a bit about web development. We wanted to build something that could reach out to more people, even outside the Toastmaster community. Somehow public speaking is a #1 fear, so we wanted to let people in BETM share their experiences in learning how to overcome this fear.

We also had a product we wanted to promote (see the products page). We believed it was better than the existing product on the market and people would benefit from it.

Already you can see there are two key aspects for making a project work:

1. Work on an idea that can help people you know
2. Find a friend to work with

So how did I start learning the technical side? It's organic. There's no perfect formula that I could find.

But there are a few things I learned during the process, and from friends. Here are a few things I wish I knew when I first started:

- When starting a big project, map it out. Really, grab a piece of paper and draw out what you imagine the project would look like. Don't make something that looks perfect. Just think about what the minimum viable product will look like. That's what will keep you motivated

- Use both googling and online courses. Start off with trying to get a specific part to work (eg. a button). Google around and you will usually find a good answer to these basic questions. But use an online course or book to brush up on the higher level concepts so you have a better understanding of why something works

- Test stuff. Fool around with the code to see what will happen.

- Copy other people. Amazing web designs are already out there. We suck at designing, so we copied other people's designs. It was a great way to learn.

These are the principles that helped me learn. I'll talk about their uses in later posts.



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