How did you feel when you created your first login form on a web page after so many trials and tested templates (don’t say that you created everything from scratch…)? … How did you feel when you give the layout to your first web application after multiple changes (Yes…you took the reference of some other websites or template as per requirement…)?… How did you feel when you successfully handled thousands of users’ sensitive information at the backend to build an application (It was scary…)?
Most of the web developers go through all the above phases and initially it might be frustrating for some of them, but the overall feeling is really exciting and amazing when they see their website is live and people are using it all over the world. A web developer is responsible for so many tasks from gathering requirements to designing a website, handling its backend part, and also making it live successfully for users. Every year new technology and tools are coming out in industries to boost developers’ productivity and to make the website better for users. It becomes challenging for them to stay on top of the web development game. Today we are going to discuss a complete map to become a web developer in 2021. This will be a practical guideline for all kinds of developers (front-end, backend, and full-stack).
Decide Your Goal or Path First
We will discuss a lot of technologies, trends, and tools, but we don’t want you to get overwhelmed, so you need to decide first what do you want to do to become a web developer because that will help you to choose the right tools and technology to learn. There are a lot of different reasons to become a web developer some options are given below…
You want to work for a company as a web developer which is the most popular and common reason.
You want to work as a freelance developer to start your own business or agency.
You can become a consultant for other companies.
You can create your own app to make money.
You want to use this skill to become a content creator.
Code as a hobby.
From the above area of interest or goal, you can pick up the right tools and technology that is applicable to your goal. If your goal is to become just a front-end developer you can choose the tools and technology of front-end development. The same goes for backend and full-stack development.
Basic Tools and Software for Web Development
Computer & OS: You can’t write code without a computer and OS running on it. To learn web development you don’t need any kind of fancy computer (If you have one it’s good…). You can use any kind of mid-range laptop or desktop. For the operating system, you can use MacOS, Windows (Latest version), or Linux whatever is comfortable for you.
Text Editor / IDE: No doubt VSCode is good for most cases and most languages. It has good performance, great extensions, a built-in terminal, and a ton of features as well. In the 2019 StackOverflow survey VSCode was developers’ first preference as well. You also have some other good options such as Sublime Text, Vim, or Atom. If we talk about IDEs so Visual Studio (ASP.net or C#), Eclipse, and Netbeans (Java). are good options.
Terminal: You will be working a lot with CLI using some system commands. You can use the default or third-party terminal for your web development project. Bash, Zsh, Powershell, Git Bash, iTerm, Hyper all are options available to use.
Design (Optional): Not everybody needs to learn this. In companies, there is a specific team to make images, logos, or sketches but if you are a front-end developer, or you’re working as a freelancer then you may have to learn Adobe XD, Photoshop, Sketch, or Figma.
HTML and CSS are the basic building blocks of web development. No matter how advanced your web app is or what frameworks and backend language you are using, you will have to build your frontend application using HTML and CSS. So this is the first thing to learn in web development.
HTML5 (Semantic tags, attributes, doctype, etc)
CSS Fundamentals Colors, fonts, positioning, box-model etc.
CSS Grid and Flexbox to align things or create columns.
CSS Custom Properties
Transitions and animations are pretty much important for frontend developers.
Your application should be viewable and usable on all kinds of devices such as smartphones, tablets, desktops, iPad, or any other screen-size device. So it’s important to learn about creating a responsive design or layout. Let’s see some important topics for that.
Learn how to set the viewport
Media queries for different screen sizes.
Custom Reusable CSS Components
Instead of relying on large CSS frameworks like Bootstrap, it’s good to create your own modular, reusable CSS components to use in your projects. You don’t need to import the complete library if you build your own custom design. You create the component that you only need for the particular UI.
A new trend Saas also has come out recently that helps in writing CSS code more efficiently. If you already know CSS then you don’t need to put so much effort into learning Saas. Saas is a CSS preprocessor that adds more functionality to standard CSS and makes it more efficient. You can use variables, nesting, conditionals to reduce the repetition of CSS and make it more efficient.
Saas offers things like variables, mixins, functions, nesting, etc. You can also create your separate Saas file for each reusable component. Saas really saves a lot of time, so you should definitely learn it in 2021.
Learning CSS frameworks is a bit less popular than last year but still very relevant or useful for developers who are not good with design. There are a lot of popular CSS frameworks available to use, some of them are given below.
Bootstrap Is the most popular CSS framework (Bootstrap 5 released) to learn. Learning bootstrap helps in learning other frameworks as well.
Tailwind CSS Is another framework that is gaining popularity, and it is a little different from the others. It is a set of utility classes so that you can create your own buttons and other stuff which really looks different from the others. They are also highly customizable.
Bulma: Modular and lightweight open-source CSS framework.
For frontend developers, it will be great if they enhance their skills in learning some UI design principles and practices. In companies maybe someone else will be doing this for you, but it’s good to have an eye on some basic UI design stuff.
Color and Contrast
Scaling (sizing relative to other elements)
Visual Hierarchy (Arrange in order of importance)
Typography (Text typefaces, sizing, etc)
DOM (Document object model)
Array Methods foreach, map, filter, reduce, etc.
HTTP Requests Fetch API- GET, POST, PUT, DELETE
Some Important Tools
There are some tools that you will be using in web development. These tools will help you in debugging, boosting your productivity, managing your code, collaborating with other developers, and a lot of stuff like that. Let’s discuss some of these tools.
Git (Version Control) & GitHub is the most popular tool that you should definitely learn in 2021. Git helps a lot in collaborating with other developers and managing your code. You also have some other options such as GitLab, Bitbucket, and some other ones as well.
Most of the IDEs or text editors have the ability to add extensions or plugins that is very helpful in boosting productivity and building web apps. For example, VSCode Extensions in Visual Studio Code helps in downloading the extension such as live-server or live-saas compiler to work with React.
You also may want to look at some helpful text editor extensions and helpers. Linting (to find errors), Prettier (to format the code), Live Server, Emmet (to write fast HTML and CSS code), snippets, etc.
Basic Frontend Deployment
At this point, once you know what tools or technology you should learn for frontend development, you need to know how to deploy your frontend website on the internet.
If you are building some tiny applications, landing pages, or personal sites for small businesses there is no need to learn AWS or DevOps just because it is shiny and trendy. You will be complicating things more instead of making them simple. There are different routes to take. Some of them are given below…
Domain Registration (Namecheap, Google Domains, etc.)
Managed Hosting (InMotion, Hostgator, Bluehost, etc)
Static Hosting (Netlify, GitHub Pages)
Email Hosting (Namecheap, Zoho Mail, CPanel)
SSL Certificate (Let’s Encrypt, Cloudflare, Namecheap)
FTP, SFTP (File Transfer Protocol) is good for smaller applications.
SSH (Secure Shell) for the advanced app.
CLI and Git.
Whatever tools, technologies trends, or steps we have discussed till now is a part of frontend development. You don’t know the framework yet, but you can build the website for individual & small businesses, or you can build a mobile-friendly layout.
Deploy your small application or project using the tools or technologies we have discussed so far. If you want to apply for the jobs then it would be great to learn some front-end frameworks such as Vue, or Angular, or libraries like React.
Front-End Framework and State Management
Frameworks allow you to do more advanced frontend development. It gives you a lot of advantages such as reusable components, more organized UI, or page interaction. So using a framework saves a lot of time.
Pick up a frontend framework to enhance your skill and try to choose one which most of the companies are using in the present scenario. Also, learn about state management. Each framework has different ways of doing this. For 2021 below are some popular frameworks and state managers.
React: React library is the most popular to learn for web development, and it’s fairly easy in comparison to other frameworks and libraries. There are a lot of jobs available for React developers as well. You can use Redux and Context API with Hooks for state management.
Vue: Vue is also gaining popularity and developers can prefer to learn Vue as well. Vue is the easiest to learn in comparison of React and Angular. VueX is the state manager built for view.
Angular: This framework is generally used in large organizations. It has a pretty step learning curve. You will have to learn TypeScript to work with Angular. It allows you to use optional static typing and support for the features of ES2015. NgRx and Services are good state managers to learn for this framework.
Svelte: Svelte is basically a compiler that has become very popular over the past one-two year. It has a pretty easy learning curve, but you may face some difficulty in working with some larger applications. Finding the job is also a bit tougher than the other framework. Svelte has a built-in context API to manage the state.
Optional to Learn:
Learn about server-side rendering. NextJS (React), NuxtJS (Vue), and Angular Universal (Angular) is the framework that allows you to run React, Vue, and Angular on the server. All of them have great features such as Better SEO, File System Routing, Automatic Code Splitting, Static Exporting, CSS in JS, and a lot of other features.
Static Site Generators: Gatsby (React), Gridsome (Vue), 11ty (JS alternatives to Jekyll), Jekyll (Ruby Based), Hugo (Go-based)
We have discussed the majority of front-end development tools and technology. Now let’s talk about the language and technology to become a backend developer or full-stack developer.
Server-Side Language (Choose One)
You should have knowledge of at least one server-side language. To choose a language in 2020 some options are given below…
NodeJS (Not a language but a runtime environment)
Python (Good for absolute beginners)
Java (Good for a large organization)
Php (Good for freelancing)
Ruby (Less popular in 2020)
Note: Whatever server-side language you prefer to learn, make sure that you learn about the data structures and algorithms using that language. Data Structures and Algorithms will help you to render your data for the user, and it will help you to optimize your code in a web application. We especially recommend you to focus on working with Array and String (Most important). You will be working a lot with both of these.
Learn about the Software design patterns as well. Design patterns provide General Reusable solutions to commonly occurring problems. Learning design patterns will help to make your code reusable, bug-free, and clean. It will speed up your development process.
Server-Side Framework (Choose One)
Once you learn one server-side language of your own choice, go with one of the frameworks for your language. You can choose one of the options given below…
Node.js– Express, Koa, Adonis, Feather.js, Nest.js, Loopback
Python: Django, Flask,
Java: Spring MVC, Grails
PHP: Laravel, Symfony, Codeignitor, Slim
Ruby: Ruby on Rails, Sinatra
Kotlin: Javalin, KTor
Database (Choose One)
Most web apps need a place to store data. In some cases, certain technology or certain languages go well with certain databases. For example: in Mern stack, M stands for MongoDB and in LAMP stack M stands for MySQL, but it’s totally up to you which database you want to choose for your application. We are going to discuss some popular databases for 2020.
Relational Database: RDBMS is still the most popular database. PostgreSQL, MySQL, MS SQL is still most preferred to use.
NoSQL: MongoDB, CouchDB, Elasticsearch
Cloud Database: Firebase, Azure Could DB, AWS
Lightweight & Cache: Redis, SQLite
GraphQL: (Optional) You can learn about GraphQL which is quite popular nowadays. It’s a query language for your API. It has a simple syntax similar to JSON, and it is fairly easy to implement.
A lot of developers skip learning testing, and they just think that it is a waste of time, but we recommend you to learn it to make save your time and to make your life much easier being a developer.
There are testing frameworks available for different languages such as Jest and Mocha for JS Testing and PyTest and Robot for Python.
You should definitely learn about the content management system especially if you are freelancing. A CMS is used to add content to your website or application. It is great for clients to be able to update their own content.
Headless CMS: (Getting popularity in 2021) Contentful, Prismic.io, Strapi, Sanity.io.
Deployment & DevOps
Hosting a full-stack app or backend app is a bit more complicated than just a frontend application especially when you have databases. Make sure that you know how to use CLI for deployment. In most companies, there is a different team working on DevOps. So it’s completely optional to have knowledge about DevOps. You can learn that if you are working on your own project.
Learn about the below stuff given below to deploy your application on the server.
Hosting Platform: Heroku, Digital Ocean, AWS, Azure., Linode
Web Servers: NGINX, Apache
Containers: Docker/Kubernetes, Vagrant
Image/Video: Cloudinary, S3
CI (Continuous Integration)/CD (Continuous Delivery); Jenkins, Travis CI, Circle CI
All the above technology, tools are good enough to make you a frontend, backend, or full-stack developer. Don’t get overwhelmed with the content we have mentioned in this article. You don’t have to learn everything. Choose the right set of tools and technology as per your end goal. Follow the points given below to set the right path for yourself…
Create a learning path based on what you want to do
Learn the fundamentals and necessary technologies
Watch tutorial/videos, read the documentation but be sure that you get your hands dirty in the coding. Make your own project based on what you learn.
Create a portfolio and take action as per your end goal. Apply for jobs, find a client for yourself, etc.