Someone recently asked me, “My son wants to learn programming or web development, where should he start? What’s the best language to start with?” Choosing just one thing can feel like one of the hardest decisions when you are starting out and even after you’ve been working in the field for a while and want to learn or try out something new. Between my friend’s questions and this video by Michael Locke, I was inspired to write this post.

How I Learned

The way that I learned to build WordPress websites was I googled around for website development training and found this specific WordPress tutorial by Chris Coyier at css-tricks.com of how to design a WordPress site. I had never heard of WordPress and there were a ton of other options out there as far as learning, but I knew that the best way for me to learn(Everyone learns differently, if you can read the docs/support page for a language and start coding in that language, do it!) is to have someone show me how to do things and for me, a video is even better since you can pause, rewind and even skip forward to review and pick up the exact information that you need. At the time, there weren’t many free videos about WordPress out there like there are today and his was the best, step-by-step training I had seen for free.

What if I Waste Time?

I guess our biggest fear when choosing something new to learn is “What if I learn this and then never use it?” or “What if it’s like flash and suddenly stops being used?” Well, that is always a risk, but in the 10 years that I’ve been writing code, flash is the only language that has died and even it is still lingering around here and there in some way or another. As far as never using a language or tool that you have learned, that’s why I pick stuff I like. If I spend a lot of time learning something and never use it again(I’m looking at you, Java!) I can honestly say it was fun while it lasted. The majority of time that we feel is wasted not on things that we did but on things we DIDN’T do. I spent 1.5 years learning Java in college but I don’t feel like that time was wasted because I have been able to utilize the logic, theory, and other things that I learned from it over and over with other languages and tools like when I learned PHP and Javascript.

Taking Advice

I figure while I’m handing some out, I should also warn you about taking advice. I was once told that PHP was basically a dead language and wasn’t worth learning. Of course, I found out later that the opposite was true.

Never let other people tell you how good or bad of a developer/programmer you are. I have had 2-3 interviews where the interviewers made me feel like I knew nothing. It wasn’t because one of us didn’t know what we were talking about. It was simply because my training did not match what I thought they were looking for. You shake hands and keep going to other interviews until you find one that is a match.

Focus

Finding this one tutorial and sitting at the computer, typing along as he did, is what got me started in WordPress as well as content management systems(CMS) in general. Picking WordPress and it becoming the most widely used CMS was purely coincidental, but picking this one system/language/tool and running with it is what made me the developer I am today. Focus is one thing that developers and programmers have in common. At some point, they decided what they wanted to learn and focused in on that one thing. In the long run, it doesn’t matter so much what you pick as long as you focus in on it and learn as much as you can about it and build as many things as you can with it. The web is an exciting industry and there is always something new coming out to learn. What keeps me from being overwhelmed? I pick the stuff I like and tools that I believe will be valuable to me.

Hope this was helpful! There are hundreds of great resources out there but guess what? You have to pick one!