An 18-Year-Old’s Frontend Development Journey

Photo by Christopher Gower on Unsplash

I’ve been learning how to code since I was 13. So far, this five-year journey has allowed me to explore a plethora of programming languages that can be used in a variety of settings. A few years ago, however, I decided to stop spreading myself too thin and started focusing on a specific branch of Computer Science: frontend web development.

The journey began in 2017 when my brother introduced me to Codecademy. The first language I learned there was Java, followed by Python. Both languages were a decent starting point for general programming, but it wasn’t until 2018 when I began exploring the foundations of Web Development.

I completed Codecademy’s “Learn HTML” course that January, followed by their “Learn Responsive Design” and “Make a Website” courses in February and May, respectively. That summer, I took on the world’s “greatest” (and most headache-inducing) programming course of all: JavaScript. I started the course in June 2018, but then took a break once high school started.

In the summer of 2019, I took FreeCodeCamp’s course on Responsive Web Design, completing it and enhancing my knowledge of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. From there, I relearned JavaScript in the summer of 2020 after the aforementioned break. While taking the JS course, I independently created HTML & CSS projects to reinforce the concepts I learned and achieve what I set out to do in the first place: create cool websites.

Additionally, I also took part in Coursera’s “Visualization for Data Journalism” class, which was offered by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. It was not only essential to my Web Dev journey, but also advantageous as a journalist, using new technologies to enhance my storytelling.

After JavaScript, I was finally ready to learn what would become part of my main stack: ReactJS. Codecademy’s two-part course on the topic was excellent, and React was easy to learn because, as with everything in programming, it built off of what I already knew. Knowing that there was an easier way to combine HTML and JavaScript was incredible, and I completed the course last January, further solidifying that Web Development was for me. The latest certification I completed was for FreeCodeCamp’s “Frontend Development Libraries”, which involved Bootstrap CSS, jQuery, and React.

Aside from my main stack, I branched out into other parts of Frontend Development as well, learning intermediate CSS in the spring of 2021 and taking on React Native that same summer. I even took a Codecademy course on Angular, and quickly realized why many people preferred React over it.

Most recently, I took Codecademy’s new “Introduction to UI and UX Design” course, which taught me the fundamentals of designing interfaces as well as a basic introduction to Figma. I also learned about A-Frame, a virtual-reality framework built with HTML.

Another method I’ve used to learn Frontend Development is the endless supply of Twitter threads that pop up on my feed. I read into the ones that contain either project ideas, useful websites, or new skills. It’s always helpful to learn from others, even if you’re thousands of miles away and separated by screens.

Projects

Photo by Nathan da Silva on Unsplash

I began creating projects through CodePen and GitHub in 2020. Some of my best work (repos linked) includes embedding NBA reporters’ Twitter feeds onto one site, displaying the roster of my high school’s varsity basketball team and others in their league, learning how to create a news app with NextJS, and (until January 2022) creating and maintaining my personal portfolio site.

I started out by following tutorials for projects, but have recently begun creating my own while relying on documentation and useful UI kits. I have also used Frontend Mentor and DevProjects to keep my skills fresh and learn new concepts.

Photo by Clark Tibbs on Unsplash

My journey with programming has made me more knowledgeable of a highly useful and modern skillset. There’s a possibility of doing Web Development as a fallback to (or in addition to) journalism, and I’m excited to see how the overall industry will evolve in the future. Programming has become more popular among middle- and high-schoolers in recent years, and I hope that the trend continues and many of them at least consider CS as a career path going forward.

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