About two years ago, I dreamt up a web project that I wanted to realize. Unfortunately I didn’t have the required $$$ to hire developers. My cousin (who is a web professional) encouraged me that I might be able to learn it myself saying he knew of other musicians who had become web developers.
With the help of a QC govt granting program, Jeunes Volontaires, I was able to devote time and a little money to learning to code.
My cousin had recommended that I check out Treehouse as a good place to start, so I signed up and started watching the first videos. Here’s an example of what the first lessons are like and the teaching style.
What I appreciated about Treehouse videos was that they didn’t assume that I had any knowledge at all. The courses were fairly short and the tests were quite easy so they reinforced the feeling that I was having success. I also found that tutorial videos suited my learning style. But that isn’t the same for everyone. Treehouse is a paid service, and it isn’t cheap ($25/month), but at the time I was able to devote some grant money to learning, so I was willing to pay. I wholeheartedly recommend the service, but I understand the price is a hard pill to swallow.
Treehouse has grown substantially since I started with it, they offer a lot more content now, and as a result the course tracks are more difficult to navigate. Also, they used to use a private FB page to operate their “forum”, I understand why they switched to hosting their own forum, but the FB community was really active and a good place to get advice and learn from other users
A short while later, it became apparent that video tutorials and multiple choice quizes were great, but that I needed to get some practical experience in order to learn to code. I heard many other devs say “the only way to learn to code, is to code.” So that’s where Codeacademy came in. Codeacademy is a free service that offers practical coding tutorials with in-browser texteditors and code renderring. At that time I found their lessons a bit challenging and hard to follow, but combining them with the lessons from treehouse, I was able to sort through them. They helped me make the jump from watching others type code to typing some myself.
During this time I was also devouring a few books. I knew that I needed at least a passing knowledge of PHP to operate WP. The O’Reilly Head First is a beginner friendly series that came recommended to me, so I would read those while at orchestra rehearsals or on the Metro.
Another useful book was Digging Into WordPress which was co-authored by Chris Coyier (http://css-tricks.com/) and Jeff Starr. At the time, Treehouse didn’t have any WordPress specific videos, so this book gave me a good overview of how I could manipulate WordPress to do the things that I was looking to do to complete my project
It was nearly time to start working on my project, some deadlines were coming up and I needed to have something to show for the work that I had been doing so I set up a local WP development environment and started to work. Setting up WP with localhost should be your first step when you’re working on a new site. It gives you the space and freedom to try things withought worrying about live servers.
I built StageBanter using the Genesis Framwork from StudioPress because the demos seemed to make sense to me at the time. Genesis is a good framework which offers pretty good SEO out of the box. I haven’t used it on any of my recent projects so when I come back to it I’m a little foggy on the way things work, as customizing a theme is slightly different that standard WP methods. Bill Erickson’s blog has a bunch of great articles on how to do some standard WP tasks like migrating servers or backing up sites and how to customize Genesis websites.
- Use a project as motivation for learning. It could be developing your own blog or a bigger project
- Set deadlines. Since I had to demonstrate progress to the people at Jeunes Volontaires, I knew I needed to do consistent work
- Be descerning about your sources. Only learn from the best developers who make a point of writing clean, clear and expandable code
In the end…
A couple of months after launching StageBanter I was approched by a designer colleague who I had met at WordCamp Montreal to help her finish a project for a client and that was my first gig as web developer. More recently I’ve been hired to do regular work customizing sites built on the BigCommerce platform. I still have a lot of room for improvement as a developer but I have found that I enjoy the work, and can continue to use the resources above to get better.
If you want sign up for treehouse, you can do me a favour and sign up through my referrals and I will be eternally grateful and you and I will save some dough :).