Getting Started With JavaScript

These days, everyone seems to be talking about JavaScript. Not only is it the standard for client-side web programming, it is increasingly used natively, with frameworks like Node.js. Many desktop and mobile apps are built with Javascript, using clever containers to use browser flexibility with native horsepower. Even Unity, a game engine typically used for high-end simulations, supports JavaScript syntax. In many ways, JavaScript has become a gateway into the programming world, more so than traditional languages like C#. It‘s highly sought-after, easy to learn, and offers learning paths into nearly any industry.

But What Is JavaScript?

JavaScript originally, and still primarily is, the language run by browsers to handle logic on your computer. Before JavaScript, servers served what are called “static” sites, aka sites that don’t change. (Aside from basic HTML features like links and forms.) JS allows websites to handle logic on the “client-side”, meaning everything is done on your local machine.

On top of “vanilla” JS, there are many frameworks where JavaScript may be used “natively”, like the previously mentioned Node.js and UnityScript. Native programs run directly on your computer, not the browser. They have the benefit of less overhead, and can take advantage of hardware more easily.

Is It Really So Easy To Learn?

Some of those things might seem complicated. Don’t worry if you don’t completely understand everything I said. There are many places JS can be applied and it solves complicated problems, but anyone is capable of learning it. As languages go, it is one of the most forgiving and simple to learn. Even if you don’t go on to be a JavaScript developer, learning it will give you a strong foundation in programming principles, which means picking up other languages will be a breeze.

Where Can I Learn JavaScript?

Don’t think you need to wait for college to teach you JavaScript. It is the language of the web, so unsurprisingly, there are many great online resources for learning it! I’ll walk you through the path I took to learn JavaScript and start making money within two years:

If you are totally new to programming and want to start with JavaScript, I would highly recommend khan academy’s Computer Programming courses. They are clear and understandable, and the instructors are enthusiastic, which can really help when learning to code. (Coding will teach you patience.) There are also plenty of challenges to help you take the concepts to heart. If you are interested, they use a JavaScript library called p5.js. Here are some fun projects I built after completing their web development courses:

My Fish Tank

Escape the Blocks Game

Once I finished the khan academy courses, I tried making my own website. It was at this point that I realized the code I had been writing in Khan Academy was part of a library. A library is some extra code added to your project to give you more tools to work with. This meant I would need to learn some new syntax if I didn’t want to rely on the p5.js library. But since I already learned the concepts, learning new syntax was easy. For example,

random() // Gives a random number between 0 and 1

became

Math.random() // Same result, but in base javascript, with no library help

If you’d like some help setting up your own work environment and working with p5.js specifically, check out Daniel Shiffman’s channel! He’s a genius but always manages to explain things clearly.

At this point, you will also learn how to use library documentation, a very important skill. The p5.js docs have great step-by-step instructions for setting up your own work environment.

You’ll also get to decide on your favorite code editor! It’s mostly up to personal preference, but I like VS Code (it’s free) for JS development.

Lastly, at this point in your journey, you’re bound to get stuck sometimes. That’s okay. If you have a specific question to ask, stack overflow is a credible online forum for programmers, and you’ll usually get an answer within 24 hours. This website is full of experts dying to answer your questions, as they gain reputation that helps with potential employers for every question answered. Once you get more experience, it’s a good idea to try this out, too. And if you’re really stuck, you can always request an online tutor! I work for frogtutoring and chegg tutors. Search my name and schedule an appointment, I’d be happy to help!

Once you have conquered the basic web development skills, it’s time to decide on a focus. Maybe you want to become a Front or Back-End developer, or a Full Stack Developer. Maybe you want to build apps or games. JavaScript allows for all of this, but finding the resources to learn them can be harder at the higher level. Not to mention getting a job using these skills can be difficult if all you learn comes from YouTube. (Not that YouTube is in any way a bad place to learn, but employers are less likely to recognize it.) At this point, I would recommend subscribing to a learning platform. I use Lynda.com and can vouch for it, but there are other options like Skillshare and Udemy.

The benefit of these courses is that they are taught by industry professionals, and completing them often comes with some kind of certificate you can put on your resume. It’s a little investment that will be well worth it in the long run.

Conclusion

I hope this post has given you a clear path on which to get started with JavaScript. There are many other paths to start with, so don’t take my word as law. But it worked for me, and I know it can be hard to decide what to do when just beginning. College and high school are also great places to learn programming, but even then it’s important to stay up to date with online resources, as the web changes much faster than most other industries. Take care, and happy coding!

Web developer and world traveler!

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