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Book Summary: "The Art of Possibility" by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander

The Best Free Web Development Learning Site: Code Academy

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Think about how often you use the internet. Now think about how much you really understand about websites. Unless you are a web designer/developer or studied Computer Science, the answer is probably “not very much”. Isn’t that quite a big thing to know nothing about?

But hey, I’d be lying if I said my main motivation for learning more about how web pages are built comes from wanting to shun ignorance just for the sake of it. There are numerous other benefits: The ability to build and tweak your own websites for entrepreneurial reasons or for fun, the know-how necessary to edit other people’s sites, and a skillset which allows you to go freelance or take on a new role in certain jobs (particularly if you work in a small firm). So how do you get started?

Enter codecademy [sic], a site which teaches you web design and development basics for free. One professional designer described the site like this:

“It’s fucking fantastic, frankly, it boggles my mind that shit like this is even a real thing. I love it.”

The site is comprised of interactive exercises which get progressively harder. Learning code this way is much more effective than passively reading a book. At the time of writing they offer: HTML, CSS, Javascript, jQuery, Python, Ruby, API and PHP tutorials.

I’ve written before about how I’ve been teaching myself web design/development. Next week I am moving into the web development team of the corporation I work for full time. Before November 2012 I hadn’t written a single line of code. Now, I admit that my situation is a little unusual in that I have the type of “managed talent” role which gives me flexibility and (to some extent) suction. But that’s why I took the job in the first place! However, I still had to go through a technical interview to get the job, and I don’t think I would have made it through without Code Academy, despite having read at least 10 books on web development and design.

Sure the site has its limitations: Some of the exercises can be a little clunky or frustrating because they want you do things in a certain way, and you can see an alternative way of writing the code. Also, things are massively simplified…but I think you need that at the start – I did anyway. Once you have got the basics down, then you can go and build your own site and ramp up the difficulty. But immediately starting to build from scratch is tricky. Code Academy serves as a bridge to that stage.

Even if you have no interest in ever having an active role in building a website, learning some fundamentals will allow you detect when the guy you’re hiring to do it for you is bullshitting you. I’d strongly recommend checking out the “Web Fundamentals” learning course on codecademy, so that you can begin to see The Matrix…