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Is JavaScript Easy to Learn?

Since it’s consistently the most popular programming language from the Stack Overflow web developer survey, you may have asked yourself, Is JavaScript easy to learn? While I have encountered web developers on Quora and in forums who say that you can learn JavaScript easily, the truth is that JavaScript is a complex language that has been updated and extended many times. For this reason, learning JavaScript can be difficult if you have never learned a programming language before. You might encounter outdated tutorials or courses or you might start learning a library or framework (these are the inventions that extend a programming language) before you have a solid grasp on the JavaScript language.

Luckily, there are modern solutions for those who are learning JavaScript in 2019 and beyond. Today, I’m going to cover the potential hurdles you can face while learning JavaScript and workarounds you can use so that you can easily continue your progress. It’s all about bringing a can-do attitude to learning programming and choosing the right high-quality courses. If you can do those two things, you will increase your chances of success and minimize your frustrations.

Below, I will cover challenges that are specific to learning JavaScript and solutions specific to each challenge.

ES5/ES6 Syntax

Problem: Most of the highly rated books geared towards beginners I have found on Safari Books Online use ES5, the JavaScript syntax that was used prior to 2015. In July 2015, however, ECMAScript2015, also called ES6, was released. And while there have been subsequent versions of JavaScript released since then, none of the versions had as many changes that were made in the ES6 version. We now write JavaScript very differently, so while I have recommended highly rated JavaScript books in the past, many of them do not cover the updated syntax.

Solution: Take a JavaScript course that teaches ES6 from the beginning. There are now JavaScript-Only Bootcamps you can take, but you can also consider a course like Andrei Neagoie’s The Complete Web Developer in 2019 that covers HTML and CSS as well if you’d like a refresher.

Libraries and Frameworks

javascript framework for is javascript easy to learn

Problem: It is not enough to learn the basics of the JavaScript language if you want to work as a front-end web developer. Libraries like React and jQuery and frameworks like Angular, Vue and Ember were created to extend the functionality of JavaScript so that they can solve unique front-end problems.

Solution: Research which frameworks are used most by companies where you live and learn the top two or three. Likely, they will be React, Angular and Vue. You can conduct your research by searching for “Front End Web Developer” jobs in your area on Dice, Indeed or another job search website. Take a look at the job descriptions and note which libraries and frameworks are used. Once you have analyzed 10-20 job posts, you’ll have enough information to know which libraries and frameworks are most popular.

If you’re planning to become a freelancer, then stick to React, Angular, Vue and jQuery. These four libraries / frameworks will likely cover 90% of the job posts you’ll see for front-end gigs on popular freelancing platforms.

Should I Learn DOM Manipulation?

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Problem: DOM manipulation is one of the more difficult aspects of JavaScript to learn, and it’s making a minor comeback. Before I go into detail, I will cover what the DOM is and why this matters.

Technically, the DOM is not part of the JavaScript language specification. Instead, it is an API, but it is important part of front-end web development nonetheless. It allows web developers to create events that happen when a user interacts with a webpage or a web app, adding a level of interactivity that makes online web experiences much more exciting.

One of the challenges that web developers used to face was that the browsers did not implement features of the DOM consistently. After testing a front-end experience in multiple browsers, it was common to find at least one browser where code written to interact with the DOM did not behave as expected. This meant that web developers needed to take a piecemeal approach, writing additional code to accommodate different browsers.

Enter jQuery, which was invented by John Resig in 2006. jQuery is a library that solved the issues with inconsistency, and many front-end web developers began to rely on it. Now that the browser wars have largely ended, however, there are some technical interviewers who are wary if a web developer they’re interviewing does not know DOM manipulation. Sometimes, they want to ensure that a new hire knows DOM manipulation rather than relying on jQuery as a crutch.

Solution: Talk to experienced web developers in your area. Boots on the ground knowledge is the only way you’ll find out if companies are using vanilla JavaScript or jQuery. I generally advise aspiring web developers to create at least two projects using DOM manipulation and one with jQuery. That way, you’re covered. If you are certain, though, that you want to work as a front-end engineer and concentrate on user experience, then learning the DOM and learning it well is in your best interest.

Should I Learn Node.js?

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Problem: If you would like to work as a front-end web developer, you must learn HTML, CSS and JavaScript. If you wish to become a full-stack developer, though, your choices are almost endless for what to learn as your back-end stack. Many front-end web developers who want to learn a full stack are tempted to learn Node.js because it is back-end JavaScript and they already know some JavaScript but may be overlooking other core technologies they will need to learn in order to succeed.

Solution: If you live and plan to work in a large city like New York, Chicago or Los Angeles, learning node.js after you learn front-end JavaScript is a perfectly acceptable path to becoming a full-stack web developer because you will find business that need web developers who know node.js. If you live in a smaller city, then it’s best to do some research to learn if there are additional technologies you should consider. Perhaps you live in a small city where there are a lot of banks that use C# ASP.NET as a back-end solution, or perhaps Java is much more common. If you have questions as to how to conduct research into the technologies you should learn to land a job where you live, be sure to check out my post on Become a Web Developer without a Degree where I go into considerable detail about how you can learn about which skills companies are seeking.

When Can I Stop Learning and Start Applying to Jobs?

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Problem: The subject of JavaScript is, in a word, endless! It is important to acknowledge that you will never be able to learn everything about the language. Many aspiring web developers, however, are unsure as to when they should start applying to jobs.

Solution: If you are unsure as to whether or not you’re ready to work as a web developer, you can start applying to web developer roles once you have completed the following steps:

  • Complete a full-stack course such as Andrei Neagoie’s The Complete Web Developer in 2019.
  • Complete two to three large-scale, original projects to showcase your work.
  • If you want to work as a full-stack developer, a role that is increasingly becoming more in demand, then at least two of your projects should have a functioning back-end and require user permissions.
  • Your projects should use at least one framework or library that is in-demand where you live, which will likely be React and/or Angular.
  • Consider completing a course on algorithms that will help you with a technical interview, such as Andrei Neagoie’s Master the Coding Interview: Data Structures + Algorithms.

Yes, I continue to recommend Neagoie’s courses because they are excellent! Out of the dozens of courses that I have piloted, I believe that Andrei Neagoie, Colt Steele and Jose Perilla are three of the best instructors on Udemy.

Best of luck to you as you embark on your JavaScript learning journey! If you have specific questions about which courses are right for you, feel free to contact me at laura.white@youcanlearnhowtocode.com or leave a comment below.

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