10 essential resources for front end web developers

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Being a front end web developer today just might be one of the coolest jobs in the universe. It's like being a painter during the Renaissance or an astronaut during the Space Race. As front end web developers we are not only witnessing, but participating in daily revolutions in UI technology. The landscape is radically changing and inventions and discoveries are happening at an ever increasing pace.

Because of this, there's almost no stability, which means that there are more opportunities than there are people to take advantage of them. It's not exactly a bad problem to have, but it also means that we can't afford to stop learning. So, to help you stay on top of your game, I've rounded up 10 essential learning resources for front end web development.

1. MDN. Frameworks are all the rage today, but the underlying technologies of HTMLCSS and JavaScript are still critical to learn and know. And learning them the right way means not just hitting any old website when you need to look up how a certain HTML tag works. The Mozilla Developer Network is the best site out there for this. It has information on the three core technologies every developer needs to know. There are even great sections for things like ES6 – the next version of JavaScript – and it's all community-curated, which helps keep it up to date.

2. The browser console and developer tools. This one actually ties with MDN for the number one tool, mainly due to the frequency that you will use the console and other dev tools. Learn it; know every in and out. Chrome's developer tools are amazing, but Firefox is coming up with some really clever features for its developer tools, and IE isn't lagging far behind, although it insists on doing everything differently so it feels like a different beast, where the other two are as familiar to each other as siblings.

3. Online coding tools. These tools allow you to create small test projects or example applications using only the browser, so there's no need to worry about managing files on your disk. And when you want to share a project with someone else, all you need to do is give out a URL. There are a couple of reasons why front end developers need to have these in their tool belt. First, experimenting is much easier in these tools, and since they save your work, you can access old experiments any time without having to worry about keeping useless work around. Second, these tools are indispensable when trying to solve a problem. Have something that's not working? Create an example and let other people look at it. They can make the fixes and show you what you did wrong.

There are four main competitors in this space and tons of less popular ones, and each of them does 90 percent of what the others do, yet they all offer unique features that are worth checking out. Listed in no particular order is JSFiddle, JSBin, CodePen and Plunker.

4. Stack Overflow. Hands down this is the best place to learn things and get issues solved. In combination with one of the aforementioned online coding tools, you can find a solution for just about any problem here.

5. People. There are many personalities in the industry doing a lot of great work. Finding people you admire who are doing work you're interested in and following them is a mark of someone interested in learning. Because this space is so hot and moving so quickly there's an almost unlimited number of people to follow. Addy Osmani and Paul Irish are both good starting points. These guys are highly active on Twitter and Google+ and are almost like news outlets, constantly talking about front end advancements.

6. Podcasts. Sadly, the space here is pretty sparse, but not enough to write it off completely. Only two podcasts are producing regular content and have been around for a while. These are JavaScript Jabber and the Shop Talk Show.

7. Newsletters. There are four newsletters that are a must for front end developers. These include JavaScript Weekly, CSS Weekly, HTML5 Weekly and Node Weekly. You may raise your eyebrows at Node Weekly, but note that it's not just a web server. There are so many client-side tools for front end developers that you'd be doing yourself a disservice to ignore it.

8. User Groups. One of the best ways to learn your craft is to associate with others who are just as passionate. Your coworkers might fall into this camp, but user-group attendees have demonstrated their commitment to learning by spending their free time to improve themselves.

9. Boot camps. Front end boot camps are a way to go from novice to expert in just a few months. They cost several thousand dollars or more and require full-time attendance, but there's no better way to ramp up quickly. Hack Reactor in the Bay Area is one of the most well known, but there are many others. Here in Utah we have a nights-only boot camp called Dev Mountain. Bloc.io also takes a clever approach with its online boot camp.

10. Pluralsight. No list of learning resources for front end web developers would be complete without mentioning Pluralsight. There's no better way to spend $29 per month if you are, or want to be, a professional developer. Pluralsight produces hundreds of new courses each year, spanning all kinds of topics.

For more information about the essentials of becoming a front end web developer, see my recent Pluralsight course Front End Web Development: Get Started.

Or to learn more about becoming a web developer in general, check out our comprehensive post on the matter.

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Joe Eames

Joe Eames began his love of programming on an Apple III in BASIC. Although his preferred language is JavaScript, he has worked professionally with just about every major Microsoft language. He is currently a consultant and full time author for Pluralsight. Joe has always had a strong interest in education, and has worked both full and part time as a technical teacher for over ten years. He is a frequent blogger and speaker, organizer of ng-conf, the AngularJS conference, and a panelist on the JavaScript Jabber podcast. Twitter: @josepheames LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/joeeames/