24 Websites to Keep Your Finger on the Pulse in Web Development

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Image via Flickr/dav

On your journey to becoming a front-end web developer, you don’t have to go it alone.

Resources abound online for everything from keeping up to speed on industry news and finding high-quality jobs to interacting with other developers, learning new key skills, and keeping those skills sharpened. Bonus: many of said resources are totally free.

If you’re in it to win it, bookmark this toolkit of 24 online tools for front-end web developers.

NEWS: Keep up with industry trends and developments

  • DailyJS: This site offers daily JavaScript news and tutorials in a simple, highly readable format.
  • HTML5Weekly: Those in the know sign up for this free weekly Wednesday newsletter, a curated selection of news about HTML5 and other web platform technology. Fun fact: each issue also contains job listings.
  • Hacker News: Y Combinator’s reddit-style web technology forum is replete with need-to-know news on all things development. Create a free account if you want to participate by upvoting interesting stories and partaking in discussions.
  • Slashdot: Slashdot offers the latest news stories on technology in general and coding in particular. Sort by “popular” if you’ve got only a few minutes to scan some headlines.
  • reddit: Scroll through the front-end development subreddit for the hottest in developer intel, and feel free to join the conversation whenever you’re so inclined.
  • A List Apart: This publication, which has been around since 1998, probes the design, development, and deeper meaning of the Internet in a sometimes mind-bending way, geared specifically towards people who “make websites.” It’s a refreshing destination when you’re in search of richly informative, thought-provoking content.

 

JOBS: Find high-quality front-end dev gigs

  • Hired: Hired is an online marketplace created specifically for engineers, data scientists, designers, and product managers. Its goal is to streamline the recruiting process by making it transparent to employers and job seekers. Create a free profile (you’ll then have to be approved to join), review any offers that come in, schedule interviews through the Hired interface, and accept your best match—plus a $2,000 hiring bonus from Hired.
  • LinkedIn: No list of job sites is complete without LinkedIn. 332 million people use the site in 200 countries and territories. A few tips to get the most out of LinkedIn: keep your profile current, complete with a succinct, catchy summary of your background, join and participate in relevant groups, advocate for yourself by tactfully requesting recommendations from former colleagues or clients, and respond to invitations and messages promptly.
  • Guru: The Web, Software & IT section on Guru is a goldmine of freelance job opportunities. The public ratings offered by people who have experience freelancing with each company are a helpful gauge for whether or not you should consider pursuing a posted opportunity.

NETWORKING: Interact with other developers

  • GitHub: The world’s largest open-source community is arguably the most invaluable resource on this list. Share code with friends, coworkers, classmates, and strangers, rubbing virtual elbows with other developers from whom you can learn. Browse interesting projects on a multitude of topics, check out trending repositories, and follow the content your connections on the site are into. Working on your own project? Share it, get feedback, and make changes.
  • Coderwall: Coderwall is a collaborative online platform for developers to improve their programming knowledge and showcase it to their peers and recruiters. You can share code snippets, tutorials, or even thought pieces, and learn from the experts about the latest languages, tools, and technologies. Log in with Twitter, LinkedIn, or GitHub, and earn badges to display on your Coderwall profile based on your career achievements.
  • Stack Overflow: Stack Overflow is like Quora for developers. Browse through interesting questions, pose your own, and chime in when you’ve got an answer to offer. It’s a great opportunity to take a seat at the virtual table and establish some relationships with others in the industry.
  • Geeklist: This social network for developers lets you display your portfolio of work; upvote, comment on, and share links and resources; and communicate with like-minded peers in any of 2,000+ subcommunities on the site.
  • CodePen: On this site you can show off your latest coding creations and get feedback, and further inspiration, from your peers. Browse through others’ “pens” and offer your own two cents.
  • CSS Community: The CSS Community group on Google+ is an active forum for anyone that works with CSS. Pick up techniques, tips, and tricks, answer questions, and check out the content other developers share.

 

TUTORIALS: Get instruction on key skills

  • HTML5Rocks: Google’s developer resource is a playground for curious developers, teeming with free tutorials on everything from synchronized cross-device mobile testing to CSS Shapes. You can also browse slides, presentations, and videos from other developers.
  • CSS-Tricks: Brush up on your CSS skills with this all-CSS, all-the-time site. Browse screencasts, pick up code snippets, and dive into forums on topics like creating dropdown menus and troubleshooting responsive images.
  • Smashing Magazine: Handbooks and how-to’s and workshops, oh my! Turn to this site for the latest and greatest in web development, delivered in an easily digestible format. Drill down into familiar topics like CSS, HTML, and JavaScript and expand your horizons into mobile development, UX design, and all things WordPress.
  • Tuts+: Check out this site for tutorials, courses, and ebooks on coding. Sort by paid or free, and filter by specific skill (for example, JavaScript, Ruby, or PHP).
  • Geeks for Geeks: This online portal offers easy-to-understand lessons written by computer science geeks, for computer science geeks. Be sure to check out the “GeekQuiz” section, which tests you on dozens of developer skills.

24 Websites to Keep Your Finger on the Pulse in Web Development

GAMES/CHALLENGES: Keep your skill set sharpened

  • CodeCombat.com: Whet your coding skills by playing this free online multiplayer game. Create an account, choose your arena, then start playing to complete challenges using your coding know-how. You’ll have so much fun you won’t even realize how much you’ve learned.
  • Codewars: Some have called Codewars better than college. Solve coding challenges using JavaScript, CoffeeScript, Ruby, Python, Clojure, or Haskell, progressing through the ranks as you improve, getting matched with tougher and tougher challenges. Compare your solutions with others after each challenge, and discuss best practices and innovative techniques with the community.
  • HackerRank: Log in with Facebook, Google+, or GitHub to compete in codesprints and see how you rank against fellow programmers. Unlock rewards and badges based on your performance in five domains: Artificial Intelligence, Algorithms, Functional Programming, Code, and Machine Learning. Psst: you could even get a job offer. Companies (including Amazon, Yahoo, Microsoft, Skype, and Square) use the site as a technical recruitment platform through sponsored coding challenges and a real-time whiteboard with built-in code editor to conduct technical phone interviews.
  • HackerEarth: The calendar of coding challenges on HackerEarth is jam-packed with opportunities to showcase your skills to your peers and hiring managers. Flex your muscles (er, fingers) with practice problems aplenty, then give it all you’ve got by registering for real-time challenges.

Want even more?

Check out Udacity’s Front-End Newsletter for insight-rich tips and tools on your path to becoming a front-end web developer. Good luck!

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Web Developer Hiring Trends, and What They Mean For You

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Image via Pixabay/niekverlaan

Soaring demand, strong salaries, and geographical flexibility make web development an incredibly appealing career path right now. Want in?

Whether you’re just starting your professional life or embarking on a new chapter, it’s helpful to take stock of the current, and expected, hiring trends in web development in order to best situate yourself for success.

Some questions you might have: What kinds of companies are hiring? How do they each approach web development differently? What does that mean for the trajectory of your learning path?

Web Development Hiring Trends

To begin with, you can think of the companies that a web developer might work at as one of two major types: a tech leader, or a legacy tech company.

Tech Leaders

At a company considered a tech leader, web developers work on building and maintaining cutting-edge applications that are heavy on the client side, meaning developers write code using languages like JavaScript that can be executed by the user’s browser rather than calling to the server. The benefits of client-side programming are that it loads pages instantaneously (increasingly the expectation of users) and that it can serve up much more interactive content.

Developers at tech leaders work on apps that run dynamically with no need to refresh (think: Google Maps, Gmail, Twitter, Facebook, and Udacity’s classroom environment). That said, it’s useful to develop strong foundational skills in server-side programming as well, as most all modern web applications utilize both client-side and server-side rendering in some way, and some even do almost all rendering on the server side.

Legacy Tech

In computing terms, the word “legacy” is used to describe outdated tools or technology that is still being used by an individual or organization. Despite being out of date, the legacy software may be in good working order, so businesses are sometimes reluctant to upgrade or replace it.

What does that mean for web developers? Working at a legacy tech company means more back-end work for developers, since the applications they’ll be charged with operating do most of the logic heavy-lifting on the server side rather than the client side. In addition, the web applications at these companies are both more static and less interactive (think: WordPress blogs, redditt, Amazon, and other online destinations that feel, from a user’s standpoint, more like traditional websites than robust web applications).

Hiring Landscape: What’s Now, What’s Next

Because of the difference in operations at tech leader and legacy tech companies, the hiring landscape differs as well. Happily, across all types of companies, demand for web developers is expected to increase by 2022 across the U.S. by a whopping average of 20%.


Graph via CareerOneStop

What’s Now

Right now, entry-level front-end and full-stack developers are in high demand at both tech innovator and legacy tech companies. On the senior level, front-end and back-end developers are also desirable to tech leaders. Legacy tech companies are typically not hiring back-end developers, but rather recruiting for those skills as a package deal in full-stack devs.

Charlie Keinath, Head of Tech Recruiting at BuzzFeed, finds that specific needs depend on the size of the organization, but regardless of company bandwidth, developers of all specialities are in hot demand. “Larger companies can be a little more picky in [terms of] front-end and back-end hiring, whereas smaller startups are looking for more of the full-stack engineer,” he said.

According to data from Indeed.com, interest in full-stack developers is soaring across the board in comparison to front-end and back-end developers.

Graphs via Indeed

What’s Next

Looking towards the tech recruitment future, all signs point to front-end and back-end developers being equally sought after for both entry-level and senior-level positions at tech leaders. Meanwhile, “full-stack developer” as a specific job title could potentially become less prevalent as these companies require deeper and deeper specialization on either the front end or the back end.

“Front-end developers often need to learn those additional back-end skills.”

That said, the major appeal of a full-stack developer is his or her deep familiarity with the full stack of technology, encompassing both front and back end. As the tech that powers websites and web applications grows increasingly complex, the best front-end devs will need to understand exactly what the back-end developers are doing, and why, and be able to work closely with them so that, for example, their applications don’t generate requests that drive the database bonkers. At the same time, strong back-end devs who can speak the language of designers as well as coders will be best equipped to build beautiful, and smoothly functioning, web apps.

Meantime, legacy tech companies will likely be scooping up full-stack developers at the senior level, leaning on them to lead a much-needed update of their technology. Front-end and back-end devs will be needed in both the entry level and upper echelons as these companies update their tech.

Your Move

Armed with this knowledge of the current, and future, hiring landscape for web developers, your best bet in the short term is to familiarize yourself deeply with front-end development, then work on expanding your skill set to back-end development so that you can market yourself as a full-stack developer and be desirable to the full range of tech companies.

As Greg Matranga, Director of Product Marketing at Apptrix, said, “Front-end developers often need to learn those additional back-end skills, especially in the current economy where marketing is thinly resourced.”

Indeed, at a TechRepublic round table earlier this year, Benefitfocus Director of Product and Marketplaces Shan Fowler said, “Developers with superior skills in big data, Hadoop, Java, and NoSQL (MongoDB), as well as HTML5 and CSS3, will have a leg up on the competition.”

Looking towards the future, if you land a job at an innovative tech company, or your legacy tech employer makes a move to overhaul their technology, know that you could eventually need to specialize in either front- or back-end development. In other words, it’s smart to learn about development from both ends right now, but eventually you’ll need to dig into one or the other at a deeper level.

Consider Keinath’s advice: “For someone starting out in the tech industry, I would advise them not to spread themselves an inch deep and a mile wide,” he said. “Do not try to learn every language there is. Find a set of languages that you can use in harmony with one another and perfect that skill set. If I was just starting out, I would learn Python/JavaScript and familiarize myself with some NoSQL databases. Take advantage of things like GitHub and StackOverflow and join in on some open projects to gain experience working with other developers in tandem.”

Ready to get started? Take a gander at Udacity’s online course catalog to start leveling up your skills for whatever you’d like your next step to be. The future is now.

3 Web Dev Careers Decoded: Front-End vs Back-End vs Full Stack

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You open a new browser tab, type in a URL, and press enter. The site loads instantly. It nearly takes your breath away with its ultra-clean layout, well-constructed pages, and impressive visuals.

The people responsible for every part of that experience? Web developers.

As of July 2017, the Internet contains more than four billion pages. And counting. Talk about some serious job security for web developers, the people responsible for coding, building, analyzing, and maintaining all those websites.

Websites are now a critical component for any business to stay competitive. And as web development trends and best practices change practically with the season, there’s no shortage of work for developers.

Web Development: Front-End, Back-End, and Full Stack Developers via Udacity.com

But how do you know exactly what kind of web development work to seek out and train for? If you’ve poked around on job listing sites or browsed through online courses, you’ve probably gathered that web development tends to break down into three main concentrations: front-end, back-end, and full stack.

If you’ve dabbled in HTML, JavaScript, or maybe a little Python, but you’re not quite sure which path to venture out on, this handy breakdown is for you.

Front-End Developer

The front end of a website is the part that users interact with. Everything that you see when you’re navigating around the Internet, from fonts and colors to dropdown menus and sliders, is a combo of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript being controlled by your computer’s browser.

SKILLS AND TOOLS

Front-end developers are responsible for a website’s user-facing code and the architecture of its immersive user experiences. In order to execute those objectives, front-end devs must be adept at three main languages: HTML, CSS, and Javascript programming. In addition to fluency in these languages, front-end devs need to be familiar with frameworks like Bootstrap, Foundation, Backbone, AngularJS, and EmberJS, which ensure great-looking content no matter the device, and libraries like jQuery and LESS, which package code into a more useful, time-saving form. A lot of front-end developer job listings also call for experience with Ajax, a widely used technique for using Javascript that lets pages dynamically load by downloading server data in the background.

A front-end dev is responsible for the interior design of a house that’s been built by a back-end dev.

Using these tools, front-end developers work closely with designers or user experience analysts to bring mockups, or wireframes, from development to delivery. Strong front-end developers can also accurately identify specific issues in user experience and provide recommendations and codified solutions to influence the design. It’s also important to be able to fluidly partner with other teams across the business to understand specific goals, needs, and opportunities, and then execute on those directives.

It’s a lot of responsibility, but it can be very rewarding. “I’m a technical person, but still a visual person, and being able to manipulate what we see and interact with on digital platforms through markup and code came naturally,” said Mikey Ilagan, a front-end developer with eight years of experience. “To that point, I love being able to make an impact on the user interface, the aspects of an app or website that the user interacts with and sees.”

In all, a front-end dev is responsible for the interior design of a house that’s been built by a back-end dev. The taste and style of the decor is dictated by the homeowner. As Greg Matranga, Director of Product Marketing at Apptix, said of the team of both front-end and back-end developers he oversees, “The developers that work on the front end are sometimes more excited about what they do because they’re really able to leverage their creativity.”

HOW IT TRANSLATES

Everything you’re seeing on this website right now was made possible by a front-end developer. A designer crafted the logo and graphics, a photographer took the pictures, and a copywriter wrote the text. But a front-end dev assembled all of those pieces, translated them into web-speak, and built the experience you have with each page. To take one specific example, scroll up and down on the Udacity homepage. Notice how the “U” disappears and reappears? That’s the handiwork of a front-end developer.

Back-End Developer

So what makes the front end of a website possible? Where is all that data stored? This is where the back end comes in. The back end of a website consists of a server, an application, and a database. A back-end developer builds and maintains the technology that powers those components which, together, enable the user-facing side of the website to even exist in the first place.

SKILLS AND TOOLS

In order to make the server, application, and database communicate with each other, back-end devs use server-side languages like PHP, Ruby, Python, Java, and .Net to build an application, and tools like MySQL, Oracle, and SQL Server to find, save, or change data and serve it back to the user in front-end code. Job openings for back-end developers often also call for experience with PHP frameworks like Zend, Symfony, and CakePHP; experience with version control software like SVN, CVS, or Git; and experience with Linux as a development and deployment system.

Back-end devs use these tools to create or contribute to web applications with clean, portable, well-documented code. But before writing that code, they need to collaborate with business stakeholders to understand their particular needs, then translate those into technical requirements and come up with the most effective and efficient solution for architecting the technology.

“I’ve always preferred back-end development because I love manipulating data,” said long-time back-end developer JP Toto, who’s currently a software developer for Wildbit. “Recently public and private APIs have become an essential part of trading data between mobile devices, websites, and other connected systems. Creating APIs that the public finds useful is a very satisfying part of my job.”

HOW IT TRANSLATES

When you navigated to this website, the Udacity servers sent information to your computer or mobile device, which turned into the page you’re seeing right now. That process is the result of a back-end developer’s work. In addition, if you enroll in a Udacity course or nanodegree, the storage of your personal information—and the fact that each time you return to the site and log in, your data is called up—is attributable to a back-end developer.

Full Stack Developer

There’s often not a black-and-white distinction between front-end and back-end development. “Front-end developers often need to learn those additional back-end skills, and vice versa, especially in the current economy where marketing is thinly resourced,” said Matranga. “Developers need some of that cross-discipline. Oftentimes, you have to be a generalist.”

Full stack developers are jacks-of-all-trades.

Enter: the full stack developer. The role was popularized seven years ago by Facebook’s engineering department. The idea is that a full stack developer can work cross-functionally on the full “stack” of technology, i.e. both the front end and back end. Full stack developers offer the full package.

“Working on both the server side and client side professionally opens more opportunities,” said Federico Ulfo, Full Stack Developer at Grovo. But, of course, full stack development isn’t without its challenges. “To make an analogy with food, you can be good at cooking or good at baking, but mastering both takes time and experience. And I’m not talking about following a recipe, anyone can do that. I’m talking about having the ingredients to prepare something truly good.”

SKILLS AND TOOLS

Full stack developers work, like back-end devs, on the server side of web programming, but they can also fluently speak the front-end languages that control how content looks on a site’s user-facing side. They’re jacks-of-all-trades.

To illustrate the increasing complexity of full stack development, here’s an example of what a full stack might have looked like in recent years, compared to the current moment:

Image via TechCrunch

Image via TechCrunch

Regardless of the specific tools, dependent on the project or client at hand, full stack developers should be knowledgeable in every level of how the web works: setting up and configuring Linux servers, writing server-side APIs, diving into the client-side JavaScript powering an application, and turning a “design eye” to the CSS.

Using these tools, full stack developers need to be able to immediately identify the client- and server-side responsibilities of a solution and articulate the pros and cons of various solutions.

HOW IT TRANSLATES

A full stack developer would be responsible for the entire flow of your experience with this blog post, from its load time and layout to its interactiveness and structural underpinnings.

The Bottom Line

Web development has many faces. But no matter the type of development you’re thinking of pursuing, soft skills like attention to detail, ability to learn quickly, ability to solve problems efficiently, and strong communication will stand you in good stead on top of the hard skills outlined above.

Happily, there’s never been a better time to pursue a career in web development. Employment of web developers is projected to grow 27 percent over the 10-year span from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for all occupations.

Check out Udacity’s web development courses to take your first step forward on the path you’d like to take. Good luck!

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5 New Web Development Courses Open!

We’ve been working hard to build the Front-End Web Developer Nanodegree, and are proud to open five courses for you to build your front-end developer skills!

Front-end developers create the interactive experiences that users love on the web; and fix the ones they don’t. As the bar for creating great user experiences rises, front-end development skills are increasingly in demand. If you’re interested in web development as a career, check out these resources.

Intro to HTML and CSS

Intro to HTML and CSS – New!

Learn HTML and CSS, the markup languages that are the building blocks of the web, and build your own responsive portfolio site.

JavaScript Basics

JavaScript Basics – New!

Learn JavaScript, the programming language of the web that will allow you to create interactive content. You’ll practice what you learn by building your own interactive resume.

object oriented JavaScript

Object-Oriented JavaScript – New!

Take your JavaScript skills to the next level with object-oriented programming, and write reusable and maintainable code libraries that will make your life easier.

How to use Git and GitHub

How to Use Git and GitHub – New!

Learn version control, a crucial skill for developers, in this course on Git and GitHub. You’ll get set up in GitHub, publish a repository and submit a pull request to a collaborative Create-Your-Own-Adventure story.

Website Performance Optimization

Website Performance Optimization – Upgraded!

Optimize your site for speed in this course by Google, where you’ll learn the details of how mobile and desktop browsers render pages.

See you in class!