Bread+Crumbs

bits & bites from the world of code

7 Stages of JavaScript for Creatives

Jan
29
2015

Can’t I Just Make it Look Pretty?

As a creative, diving into front-end web development was probably a pretty obvious choice for you. After all, front-end devs are the geniuses (admit it, we’re pretty awesome!) responsible for the aesthetics of a website. We have the power to tap a few keys and turn a black and white page into a full-blown masterpiece with vivid colors and mind boggling animations.

I’ll be honest, that’s certainly what initially drew me into front-end development.

But, as I’ve learned, catering only to the visual aspect of a website won’t keep you afloat as a web developer for very long.

Having a strong eye for design and a strong grasp of HTML and CSS can certainly turn a dull, unpolished website into a visually appealing website. But the visual part is just one slice of the pie. Most websites don’t exist merely to look “pretty.” Nearly all websites serve a higher function – to inform, to entertain, to sell products and much more.

This is where JavaScript comes in. It is the logical, quirky platform that provides interactivity and useful customer experiences. But, it is also the nemisis of many creatives.

The Challenge Begins…

For creatives, JavaScript can easily become an aggravating thorn in your side. For those of us who may try to avoid crunching numbers and solving algorithms like the plague, JavaScript is easily a daunting undertaking.

But life is nothing without a few challenges. And that is most definitely something JavaScript provides.

So, prepare for a whirlwind adventure that may take you through the following gut wrenching lows and euphoric highs.

1. Denial

The first impulse for many creatives is to initially resist JavaScript. Many will deny its necessity and leave it to the more “techy” lot of developers who are accustomed to writing equations. They will assure themselves that their success as a front-end dev does not depend on their ability to code using JavaScript.

2. Anger

As front-end dev conversations start to revolve around JavaScript, denial becomes futile. The need to learn JavaScript becomes evident and resistance will eventually lead to anger. An adult tantrum may arise as a result of learning how much time and effort will be required to learn this language.

3. Acceptance

Eventually reason takes over and you will accept JavaScript into your life. Your arms may not be as open as other developers, but you’re at least making an attempt to welcome it into your dev environment. You learn to let down your defenses and open your mind to the possibilities available with this powerful language.

4. Frustration

Acceptance, of course, comes with a variety of hurdles. The road to learning JavaScript is filled with challenges, frustrating ones. The variables, the logic, the chunks of code…it all looks like a garbled mess. At times it is more than just frustrating, it is downright hair pulling.

5. Pride

Like anything you stick with long enough, there will be bouts of success. After hours, sometimes days, of playing around with different code, you will have a breakthrough. It may be small — like a simple “on click” effect — but it is a huge achievement in your eyes. You relish — as you should — the glory of being able to write your first bit of JavaScript code from scratch.

6. Doubt

Just as soon as your first truly momentous JavaScript moment has arrived, so too does it pass. The more you dig into the code, the more you feel that for every step forward you take two steps back. You begin to doubt your ability to ever really master this confusing language.

7. Enjoyment

Finally, you reach a point where, despite the struggles, you truly enjoy the challenge of learning to code using JavaScript. You are eager to continue your journey and have prepared yourself for the setbacks ahead. And, most importantly, you’ve learned that any roadblocks you have encountered or will encounter in the future are merely learning experiences designed to make you a stronger, more well-rounded developer.

Coding Confessions

I’ll admit that four months into my own JavaScript adventure, I still find it incredibly difficult and hand-wringing. But I have also come to realize that it does get better.

When I struggle with a problem, I learn to walk away. Take a break, maybe even sleep on it.

The struggles will probably always exist, but I’m learning to enjoy the accomplishments more than I dwell on the struggles.

My code is probably not the most well-written or the most concise…yet. But the small victories count. The moments where I’m able to figure out a solution without using a jQuery plugin or copying someone’s else’s code are priceless.

Although JavaScript is frustrating for creatives and visual learners, it is also incredibly useful and, yes, even necessary as a budding front-end developer.

So, if you’re ready to throw you’re hands up, don’t. Stick with it. I promise, persistence pays off.

Remember, everyone encounters struggles. The key is not to give up. Dory from Finding Nemo said it best, “Just keep swimming!”

Beginner Resources

There are a variety of resources available for those interested in learning JavaScript. Some of the items below have been (and continue to be) incredibly helpful to me. Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments below!

Online

  • Code Academy: JavaScript, jQuery and Make an Interactive Website exercises
  • Udacity: JavaScript Basics and Object-Oriented JavaScript
  • Treehouse: JavaScript Foundations

Books

  • Eloquent JavaScript (free to pdf download)
  • JavaScript: The Good Parts by Douglas Crockford
  • JavaScript and JQuery: Interactive Front-end Web Development by John Duckett