How to Learn JavaScript

If you have ever tried to build a website with only HTML and CSS, you already know that something else is needed to add more functionality. That something else is Javascript (JS). JS is important in web development, as it adds interactivity to your site. 

Over the years, JS has evolved to run not only in front end applications such as webpages, but also in the backend thanks to Node.js. Node.js is a JS framework. Frameworks and libraries are meant to abstract, or simplify, complicated code and make everything faster and more efficient. 

With JavaScript’s rising popularity—it is considered one of the top three most popular programming languages—it’s no wonder you are here! JS is an extremely versatile language. With JS, you can code both on the front end (using frameworks such as Angular or React) and on the backend (using frameworks such as Node.js). You can also develop web, mobile, and desktop apps.

What You Need to Know About JavaScript

JS is very important in front end applications. HTML structures your document, CSS styles it, and JS makes everything interactive and cohesive. With JS, you can make your page responsive (e.g. event handlers), add animations, interactive maps, or even make use of dialog boxes to help guide the user through your content. If you want to show data from another site you can do that with JS as well. 

Here is what you need to know about JS:

  • Variables. Any of the eight JS data types can be stored in a variable.
  • Functions. There are global scope and local scope functions. 
  • Data types. They include undefined, null, boolean, string, symbol, bigint, number, and object.
  • Loops. Some important ones are while, for, and do/while.
  • Conditional (ternary) operator. Used as a one-line if-else expression.
  • ES6. Be aware of the latest updates (constants, arrow functions, etc).
  • JS frameworks and libraries. You should familiarize yourself with React and Vue.js, among others.

You may see people refer to JavaScript as JavaScript ES6. ES6 stands for ECMAScript version 6. This version brought on major enhancements to JS, adding features like constants and arrow functions. All major browsers support this version, but some outdated ones may not. However, JS takes care of that in the background by using a transpiler to convert ES6 to the previous version (ES5), which is supported by browsers even if they haven’t updated their compatibility.

Skills Needed to Learn JavaScript

Learning JavaScript will be a breeze if you have the following skills:

  • Problem-solving. This is the most important skill to have. Often, you won’t be sure what went wrong in your program, and there won’t always be a handy answer on StackOverflow. You have to learn effective ways to troubleshoot and resolve issues. 
  • HTML and CSS. JS works really well with HTML and CSS, particularly for front end programming.
  • Ability to break problems into small tasks. User-initiated events trigger JavaScript functions. These functions contain logic that performs certain actions. Once these statements and operations are finished, JS manipulates resources to generate user feedback. You will be in control of that logic flow, which usually means breaking a problem into small tasks the program can accomplish. 

Why You Should Learn JavaScript

You should learn JavaScript if you want a tech career as a developer or as a web application programmer. All major web browsers support it. JS is used client-side by 97.1% of all websites. Companies that use JS as part of their tech stack include Walmart, PayPal, and Airbnb. 

JS is used to create content that moves, changes, and updates without the user having to refresh the page. Imagine having an app like Facebook or Twitter that does not refresh automatically! To an extent, all web designers today must be able to use JavaScript, even if it is only to copy and modify someone else’s code to use in a new webpage.

While JS is a great front end language, it’s also used in server-side development. This means that if you really get to know JS, you can become a full stack developer (working on the back and front end code) if you wanted to! You can use Node.js and npm to write backend code in JavaScript. Node.js runs JS code (as you can tell by the extension). 

Gone are the days when you needed to learn a specific language for making great apps for iOS and Android. JS makes it a snap to connect to mobile APIs so you can use your mobile device’s features (e.g. camera) to build your app. 

Learning JavaScript: A Study Guide

The first step is to learn JS basics. Then you can dive into mini-projects, and explore the various frameworks and libraries. The following are curated resources to help you do just that!

freeCodeCamp Introduction to Javascript

  • Online tutorials
  • Free
  • Beginner

JavaScript beginner? Start learning here. You can take the lessons in order or skip to any lessons you want. It covers the basics, global and local scope, conditional logic, and loops. There are multiple JS certifications available, and you can do them in order ( or not) starting from this one (JavaScript Algorithms and Data Structures). To earn each certification, you just need to build the five projects for that specific certification. The certifications you have earned can be added to your resume or LinkedIn page. 

Eloquent Javascript

  • Book
  • Free
  • Beginner

Eloquent Javascript is great for beginners and will guide you in your progression to more advanced topics such as Node.js-related content. Some of what you will learn is handling events, higher-order functions, and regular expressions. The content is divided into three main sections: language, browser, and Node. Each section introduces relevant topics and includes a project to use what you learned so far. There are interesting projects like building a skills-sharing site or a robot. You’ll find links to download the book, buy it, or translate it to other languages. 

Treehouse JS Course

Image from the Team Treehouse site
  • Book
  • Free with library card or $19/month
  • Beginner and intermediate 

There are around 46 hours of JavaScript tutorial videos and content in Treehouse’s site. You’ll have access to a free trial and free content if you link your library card. Focusing on in-demand skills topics, it features videos, quizzes, and coding challenges. This course starts off with basics and dives into Node.js, frameworks, and much more!

30 Days of JavaScript Challenge

Image from the Javascript30’s website
  • Online tutorials
  • Free 
  • Beginner and intermediate 

Wes Bos’s 30 Days of JavaScript is a fun challenge that you should definitely try. Like we said in the beginning, it is recommended that you learn Vanilla JS first, and this is a great way to practice it as you are learning. You’ll have access to 30 videos that show you how to build 30 things using just JS, steering “clear of opinionated design patterns, frameworks, libraries and any type of abstraction”. There are also answer files in case you get stuck. This resource can help you start building your portfolio. 

Udemy JavaScript Course

Image from Udemy’s website
  • Online course
  • $79.99
  • Intermediate 

The Complete JavaScript Course 2021:From Zero to Expert! is a course by Udemy with 98,255 ratings. It could easily be your main, one-stop-shop in your learning journey. 

This course is constantly being updated. In addition, you’ll have lifetime access and get a certificate of completion! No previous experience is necessary.

Udemy also has a JavaScript: Understanding the Weird Parts course that assumes you know the basics of JS. It will guide you through more advanced topics (advanced functions, frameworks, closures, prototypal inheritance, etc) which build on those basics. Towards the end of the course, you’ll have built your own framework!

Communities for People Studying JavaScript

Getting a community to help you in your learning journey as well as in your professional life is key. Networking can help you with your next career move. You can also find a mentor or peer willing to guide you on your learning journey. There are groups for single mothers, college students, people returning to the workforce, and so on. If you can’t find a good fit in any JS group, you can start your own in your area!

Online Communities

There is a Slack workspace for JS learners called WeLearnJS. This is great for people with questions. There are also channels within workspaces like WeLearnJS that are about meetups or conferences nearby. You’ll also find channels for people who want to build projects.

If you’re ever stuck on a JS issue, StackOverflow has an active community of users that help each other. Here is a list of questions about JavaScript. 

Conferences

If you’re already part of online communities for developers, you’ll get emails about conferences happening in your area. If that’s not the case, there are sites you can use to find conferences. On this site, you can search for conferences by topic or location. It is specifically for tech events. JSConf has a list of local conferences and events centered around JavaScript. 

Meet-ups

If you prefer meeting in person you can search meetup groups in your area using the keyword “JavaScript”. There are meetups for learners or people that simply want to talk about JS. Some meetups are started by people looking to connect and others are run by organizations. Some organizations working to empower people learning to code are Girl Develop It, RailsBridge, and Code Buddies. These organizations are pretty widespread across the US, but there are other, smaller ones focused on a particular city or state. 

How Hard Is it to Learn JavaScript?

JavaScript is considered one of the easiest programming languages to learn. If you are already familiar with one programming language, you are well ahead already! If you study in your free time, it can take five to seven months to learn enough to use it effectively. 

It’s all about having a plan. If you already know HTML and CSS, you can get started working on simple web development projects. For example, you can write code for a site, add a JS file, and apply anything interesting you learned regarding JS to the site. This helps to deepen your learning because you can always test and see your changes by previewing them in your browser. 

Will Learning JavaScript Help Me Find a Job?

JavaScript has been around since 1995 and is still rising in popularity today! Its versatility has kept JS relevant and thriving; it’s a highly marketable skill to have! You can apply your knowledge of JavaScript in many different positions: web developer, software engineer, web application developer, security software developer, WordPress developer, and more.

A search on Indeed for “JavaScript” yields 61,327 open jobs! In order to maximize your chances of getting noticed for a role, be sure to have a portfolio of your JS projects (even if they are just in your github). 

There are plenty of stories of people who made a career shift into JS development. Even if you worked in a field seemingly unrelated, such as customer service, you probably have people skills that can easily transfer over into tech, where you’ll be expected to work in teams and be communicative. A lot of companies look at your ability to learn and are sold by soft skills; after all, you can always learn technical skills on the job.

Conclusion: JavaScript is Awesome!

Learning JavaScript is a good introduction to programming in general. This is because there is a lot of documentation around JS due to its popularity. If you learn JS, mastering other OOP languages will be much easier, as the major concepts translate over. There’s so much you can do with JavaScript knowledge. With a thorough understanding of the language and its frameworks and libraries, you can become a full stack JS developer.

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