How to learn

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The field of web technology is constantly changing, so as a web developer a part of your skill set must be learning. Learning is great and gives you new skills and knowledge to help you get better at your job. But the longer you spend learning, the less money you are earning! This post will go through some other ideas of different ways of learning.

Learning

Reading

The most common way I find out about new things is by reading about them in blogs. They are a great way of giving you an overview of the purpose of it and how to get started. The issue with this is it only often skims the surface and doesn’t go into detail about installation or configuration.

I find it very rare that something works straight out of the box without customising the configuration for your needs. This then leads you to reading the documentation in detail. This may sound like a waste of time but it’s actually really useful in the long run as you often take in more than you think.

Many open source products are built on something else, so learning how the product extends what’s underneath gives you even more knowledge.

A site I would definitely recommend reading is A List Apart. This is a very high quality site with some great articles and columns about all aspects of web development, from CMS’s to Social Media to Web Design.

As an author I really enjoy reading but this is not everyone’s idea of fun. A more interactive option is videos.

Videos

If you want to learn anything then chances are there is a video about it on YouTube. People love to share their experiences and help others out. Videos are more interactive than reading and can increase your learning speed with real time examples.

It can sometimes be easier to follow videos, but the issue is that they move at their own speed, meaning that you might miss something important. Sometimes I find I have to pause and rewind video tutorials just to make sure I understood what it was saying.

As well as free videos, there are also some paid for video tutorials available online. One example of this is the excellent Laracasts, providing training for the Laravel php framework, as well as general training on programming best practice. Try asking for advice on social networks for which sites are worth subscribing to. Also check if they provide a month’s free trial so you can see what you are getting for your money.

Podcasts

If you don’t have much time for reading or watching videos then why not try downloading and listening to podcasts on your way to work on the bus or in the car. There are so many available, just do a quick web search for it.

For example, there is a list of 18 web design podcasts on the creative bloq website, although some of them are a bit out of date now. Try and find one that is regularly updated and talks about current trends.

You can even listen whilst working. I find that you take in more than you think without concentrating on it too much. Personally I proffer to listen to music whilst coding as I find it helps me concentrate, but some people can do many things at once.

Learning whilst you work

Sometimes you don’t have a choice and have to learn as you go. This is sometimes a good way of learning as you are forced into the situation where you can do nothing but try and see how it goes. This may be the case if you are updating an existing website built using a framework you have never used before. You have no choice but to learn how it works, without rewriting the rest of the site.

This has its downsides though as it can put you under unnecessary pressure. It’s often best to try out something new when you have time, rather than when the clock is ticking.

If you do need to learn as you go then make sure you leave yourself enough time to do some research before you start getting too stuck in.

Conferences

Another alternative is to go to a conference. A conference can be a costly day as it means that you are paying for the event and the travel as well as not working and getting paid. You can try and pick a conference local to you to lessen the travel time and expense, but also because there is the added benefit that you can do some networking and meet like minded developers.

I have been to a few conferences now and find them a great way of learning new things. There are often talks that you would not consider reading about online that can be surprisingly useful for a future project.

Some of the talks I have found useful are the talks that are not even technical, but are more about others sharing their experiences of being self employed or how they pushed themselves to progress their own career to the next level. You can often struggle to get as much inspiration from reading blogs and watching videos as seeing someone speak in person.

By the way, I would highly recommend going to Generate Conference (London) and re:develop (Bournemouth).

Tagged with development, learning

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