Advice on becoming a web developer


My goal is to become a web developer. So far, I’ve learned front end development through books and tutorials (such as W3 Schools). I would also like to learn back end development with PHP and databasing (MySQL).

As of now, I know all the concepts of HTML, CSS and JavaScript pretty well. I would like to start building my portfolio to get a job.

So, I have a few questions:

  1. What are employers looking for in a portfolio?

  2. I don’t know much about web design (besides coding it). How do I make a visual layout of a project before I code it? I’ve heard about UX and prototyping, but I am unsure. How does this work?

  3. Any other advice?

Thanks for your help!


I guess examples that demonstrate that you can do the work.

The industry standard for designers would be Photoshop or Sketch, but as a developer who masters CSS and HTML, and is coming up with a design prototype, I’d say it’s perfectly okay to design through code. It is very valuable to find a quick CSS workflow. There are tools like Livereload, which refresh the styles instantly on screen when you save the file. This saves a lot of time.

Each of the areas of knowledge for building websites is huge in itself: Design & UX, HTML & CSS, JavaScript, databases, server side development… and I would suggest you find the area you’re most passionate about and focus on that. It is good to have general knowledge in each of those but bear in mind you will never be able to master all of them at once, so it’s good to focus. You will reach a point where you will want to specialise, and being a jack of all trades and master of none will not cut it for ever. There will come a point where you cannot stand-out from the crowd. Even if you want to be a full-stack, focus more in one of the areas, so that in the future you can be an expert in that area.

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Thanks for your response.

Are there any books you would recommend on designing with Photoshop?

Not really, I’m a developer myself so I haven’t delved into design much at all. I remember when I started learning web development I also had an interest in design… but soon all my time was consumed learning development.

Hope someone else can recommend something. I’m sure Sitepoint has a few good books on design and UX.

I was previously recommended this book:

I’m not sure if this is what I’m looking for though. I basically want to make designs in Photoshop so I have something to code.

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As far as what employers are looking for, many are looking for “full-stack” coders, because if they can hire one person to do the job of three or four, they save money. But it’s not exactly easy to be a full-stack dev. As @Andres_Vaquero has stated, choose an area that you can be an expert of, but learn as much as you can of the other areas. That will make you more valuable.

Also, when you make a portfolio don’t just gather URLs and put them in the portfolio. Sites and apps can change (without notice), and sometimes just flat disappear. Make sure you create screen-caps of projects that you work on, after you’re finished, and include those in your portfolio, so the prospective employer can see what you’ve done. (By screen-caps, I mean of how it looks in the browser, not the code, itself.)

Basically, no matter what server-side language you decide to go for, they are all based upon C / C++, the primary difference being syntax. Some are better at particular things than others. PHP is good, but there’s also .Net, ASP, JSP, ColdFusion/Lucee, among others. Look in the Help Wanted section (newspaper or online) and see what is in demand in the area where you live.


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I completely agree. Although I don’t do much design work these days, when I was doing a little more I always found it significantly faster to use CSS and HTML than to use photoshop. It was especially true when the client asked for a design-wide font change or to reposition certain elements.

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