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Resources for learning front-end web development

A designer colleague recently asked me what course or resources I would recommend for learning front-end web development. She mentioned React at the beginning but I suggested that it’d be better to start by learning HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. As for React: it’s a subset or offshoot of JavaScript so it makes sense to understand vanilla JS first.

For future reference, here are my tips.

Everything in one place

Google’s training resource have also been adding some excellent guides, such as:

Another great one-stop shop is MDN Web Docs. Not only is MDN an amazing general quick reference for all HTML elements, CSS properties, JavaScript APIs etc but for more immersive learning there are also MDN’s guides.

Pay attention to HTML

One general piece of advice is that when people look at lists of courses (whether or not they are new to web development) they ensure to learn HTML. People tend to underestimate how complicated, fast-moving and important HTML is.

Also, everything else – accessibility, CSS, JavaScript, performance, resilience – requires a foundation of good HTML. Think HTML first!

Learning CSS, specifically

CSS is as much about concepts and features – e.g. the cascade and specificity, layout, responsive design, typography, custom properties – as it is about syntax. In fact probably more so.

Most tutorials will focus on the concepts but not necessarily so much on practicalities like writing-style or file organisation.

Google’s Learn CSS course should be pretty good for the modern concepts.

Google also have Learn Responsive Design.

If you’re coming from a kinda non-CSS-oriented perspective, Josh W Comeau’s CSS for JavaScript Developers (paid course) could be worth a look.

If you prefer videos, you could check out Steve Griffith’s video series Learning CSS. Steve’s videos are comprehensive and well-paced. It contains a whole range of topics (over 100!), starting from the basics like CSS Box Model.

In terms of HTML and CSS writing style (BEM etc) and file organisation (ITCSS etc), here’s a (version of a) “style guide” that my team came up with for one of our documentation websites. I think it’s pretty good!

CSS and HTML Style Guide (to do: add link here)

For more on ITCSS and Harry Roberts’s thoughts on CSS best practices, see:

Learning JavaScript

I recommended choosing a course or courses from CSS-Tricks’ post Beginner JavaScript notes, especially as it includes Wes Bos’s Beginner JavaScript Notes + Reference.

If you like learning by video, check out Steve Griffith’s JavaScript playlist.

Once you start using JS in anger, I definitely recommend bookmarking Chris Ferdinandi’s Methods and APIs reference guide.

If you’re then looking for a lightweight library for applying sprinkles of JavaScript, you could try Stimulus.

Learning Responsive Design

I recommend Jeremy Keith’s Learn Responsive Design course on

Lists of courses

You might choose a course or courses from CSS-Tricks’ post Where do you learn HTML and CSS in 2020?

  • Resilient Web Design by Jeremy Keith. A fantastic wide-screen perspective on what we’re doing, who we’re doing it for, and how to go about it. Read online or listen as an audiobook.
  • Inclusive Components by Heydon Pickering. A unique, accessible approach to building interactive components, from someone who’s done this for BBC, Bulb, Spotify.
  • Every Layout by Heydon Pickering & Andy Bell. Introducing layout primitives, for handling responsive design in Design Systems at scale (plus so many insights about the front-end)
  • Atomic Design by Brad Frost. A classic primer on Design Systems and component-composition oriented thinking.
  • Practical SVG by Chris Coyier. Learn why and how to use SVG to make websites more aesthetically sharp, performant, accessible and flexible.
  • Web Typography by Richard Rutter. Elevate the web by applying the principles of typography via modern web typography techniques.
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