Maximizing the Value of an Online Web Development Tutorial: Tips and Strategies

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Are you feeling like you've gone through many tutorials, maybe even finished a whole video course, and still not getting the results you're expecting?

Well, you're not alone, many devs myself included have been stuck in "Tutorial purgatory". ⁠ ⁠It's this concept where you're going through structured content and you get the feeling you're learning, but when you actually leave the tutorial and try to do something by yourself, you get immediately stuck.

You can escape this hell-hole, I'm going to share with you my experience of how I overcame this problem, and how you can do it too.

The reason people get stuck in the first place

The following is a made up example for the purpose of painting a better picture for you.

Let's take Mike, he's a 25 years old waiter, recently he's been thinking about his life, he feels like he should be doing something more meaningful.

He gets home one late night and decides that he's had enough with his dead-end job and that it's time to do something he actually enjoys. He opens his laptop and starts researching, more than anything coding pops out to him the most.

⁠He decides that every night he will dedicate 2 hours to learning how to code, he's invested in courses, bought a paperback book on Javascript, he does this for 2 months straight, he's very proud of himself, he finishes both the book and the course, and he's ready to start his first project. ⁠

⁠However when he opens the blank code editor, he realizes he doesn't even know where to start, he's googling all he can for the next 3 days, and these 3 days have been the hardest for Mike.

He feels like this is too hard and he's just not "talented" enough for it, nevertheless after not being able to do pretty much anything, he decides he should find a new course, and starts doing it, now everything seems easy again, he's smashing it for the next week, he even started "learning" in the mornings before work.

But the next time he tries to do the project he started a week earlier, it all seems to be the same, he gets stuck every 5 minutes, and frustratingly after a few days he gives up completely.

What Mike doesn't realize is that his brain is playing tricks on him, when he's following the video course, he's making progress very quickly and it places him in this lukewarm place, where he feels like he's slowly reaching his goal.

But whenever he tries to do something by himself it's the opposite, he can't even write 1 line of code on his own, and the brain doesn't like this place, it's struggling too much, so it's easier to go back to "learning", instead of continuing this struggle. ⁠

Mike is stuck in tutorial purgatory, and the only way he could ever get out of it is if he becomes aware of it. I was in a similar situation when I first started, and this is what I did to get out of it. ⁠

Embrace the struggle

What beginners don't realize is that the struggle is what advances them further in their skill. Coding is like this, so unless you're willing to google your way out of problems, and stick through the hard times you won't make it.

Let's say you've taken a Javascript basics course, you've learned the theory watched a couple of videos even coded along, now you've reached loops, you do the exercises the instructor does, and feel like you're getting the gist of it.

Now instead of racing through the rest of the course, find a simple loop exercise, sit down and think about how you can solve it, you get stuck? Google it -> solve it (even if this means copying someone else's code) the simple act of googling and finding the solution will make your life so much easier in the long run, that's it, learn a concept -> do an exercise, as simple as that.

As you get more advanced, so should the training you do. Let's say you already know basic Javascript, so you take a course on a framework, or even a simple HTML, CSS, JS build a website tutorial.

I recommend that while you code along with the instructor and develop the project they are doing, you also start a separate one. ⁠ ⁠Here's an example, you start a course where the instructor is teaching you how to build a simple blog, well something similar to this would be a portfolio website.

Where instead of blog posts that contain title, content, and cover image, you would have projects that have a title, description, and an array of skills used for that project. ⁠⁠The projects should be similar, and just the mere act of thinking and actually doing it helps you grasp the concepts you're learning even better.

What I recommend you do, is after each finished section of the tutorial, you go ahead and implement the same in your side-project, this way what you're doing is fresh and hopefully easy to do. ⁠

Final thoughts

Learning to code is not an easy deed, and if it feels easy you may be doing something wrong. Here are a few key points to keep in mind:

  • Side projects are your secret weapon
  • Google is your best friend
  • Struggling on a bug means you're learning (don't get hung up on bugs for too long, you may need more experience for some, leave them be and come back later).
  • Tutorials are only good if you repeat the concepts by yourself
  • Struggling for more than 1 hour? Take a break; Go for a walk; Go to the gym; Go to sleep; (The mind is solving it in the background and when you come back to the screen the bug might be magically solved in 5 minutes)
  • Ask for help, most of the questions you'll encounter are already asked and answered, but something specific might not be. Be that person who asks the question, some future learners will be grateful.
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