10 Tips To Quickly (And Effectively) Learn JavaScript [Beginner’s Guide]

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JavaScript is the language every aspiring web developer needs to learn, and for good reason, too – nearly every website uses it, and it powers the top front-end frameworks like React, Vue.js and others.

As powerful and feature-rich as it is, JavaScript is also deceptively tricky to learn and can be a huge pain point for budding web or fullstack developers.

Not to worry, you're definitely not alone.

This articles discusses 10 simple but effective tips that you can implement starting today to help you learn JavaScript.

First, though, let's cover some of the basics about the language itself and clear up a few common questions.

P.S. If you're just here for my tips and not for a history lesson on JavaScript, click here to skip to the first one.

Web development has come a long way since the early days, and in large part thanks to JavaScript.

You've no doubt heard of it before, even if you're completely new to programming.

JavaScript is the programming language of the internet, responsible for things like animating icons, processing payments, accepting form submissions, and so much more.

Pretty much anything that requires programmatic logic on the internet is most likely handled by JavaScript code.

This is why JavaScript is crucial for developers to learn – it's really the bread and butter of any frontend-facing application, and pretty much every web or fullstack job you might apply to will probably ask for some level of proficiency in JS.

Common Questions About JavaScript

In case you're like me and just like to wonder about why things are the way they are, I've compiled a handy list of common JavaScript questions (if I missed any that you had in mind, be sure to let me know in the comments).

Is JavaScript Difficult To Learn?

It's not inherently difficult to learn the core principles of JavaScript, especially given how many high-quality, free resources are out there. The real complexity associated with learning JavaScript is understanding how to apply it within the context of other technologies.

Once you've mastered the essentials of the language, there are plenty of other tools that rely on JavaScript that are also crucial for software development.

A few of these JavaScript-reliant tools include:

  • Node.js – a JavaScript-based runtime environment that allows developers to use JavaScript outside of a web browser
  • React – one of the most popular UI libraries built with JavaScript. A large portion of modern frontend development occurs with React, making it a very valuable skill for programmers
  • Vue.js – a popular JavaScript framework developed by Evan You optimized for building scalable, robust applications
  • TypeScript – a superset of the JavaScript language that provides optional static typing (and makes it way easier to develop clean, maintainable JS code)
  • Fetch API – an interface that allows developers to fetch resources from REST endpoints

And so on.

Don't worry if that list seems overwhelming! There's always a lot to learn, but the good news is this: you'll be doing yourself a huge favor by really nailing the basics of JavaScript first before jumping in to learning other tech (which brings us right into our next question…)

How Long Does JavaScript Take To Learn?

It's impossible to give an accurate estimate of how long it will take to learn JavaScript, since it can vary drastically from person to person. However, if you have a decent understanding of basic programming concepts and are willing to dedicate time every day to mastering JS, you can learn the basics in 30 days.

Am I saying you'll be hired as a JS/front-end developer after following 30 days of YouTube tutorials? No, sadly not.

But, if you give JavaScript a solid month of daily attention, you can learn the core principles of the language, enough to start building your own projects and to start branching out into JavaScript-dependent technologies like React or Vue.js.

This is really the goal you should be aiming for: be proficient enough in JS so that you feel comfortable building stuff on your own.

After all, tinkering and messing around with your own projects is where the real learning begins – nothing can replace it.

Why Do Some People Seem To Hate JavaScript (With A Passion)?

This is really a mixed-bag of a question: JavaScript's critics like to point out that it's an extremely flexible language and has been known to lead to some pretty serious bugs in the past (not just because of human error but from how the language is structured fundamentally).

To me, this seems like a bit of a weak argument, considering how much information that exists about how the language works, and what the best practices are for developing software with JS.

The truth of the matter is that JavaScript is deceptively tricky to learn, and even harder to master. It's a language with a lot of character and quirks, which can make it challenging to develop with.

It's a classic catch-22: the flexibility and inherent freedom JavaScript provides can be a nightmare when debugging bad code, but can also help you develop a lot of software at breakneck speeds.

For now, let's move away from questions about the language and start looking at some actionable tips to help you get started on your learning journey.

1. Learn JavaScript's History And How It Works Under The Hood

This may be an unconventional tip when it comes to learning a programming language, but I absolutely swear by it.

It's super important to understand the core of a language, where it came from, and how it actually works.

I won't pretend to be an expert about JavaScript's origins, but here's a quick summary to get you started:

In September of 1995, a Netscape developer named Brandon Eich whipped together a scripting language (originally called Mocha) in just under 10 days as part of Netscape's web client: Navigator. Tensions were high as Netscape needed something truly spectacular to compete with Microsoft's newly-minted Internet Explorer.

Eich's Mocha (later named LiveScript, then ECMAScript once it was standardized) was his implementation of a client-side interpreter, the fundamental building block of modern web browsers.

While I'm not recommending memorizing Brandon Eich's entire life's work, it can be really beneficial to learn JavaScript's origins.

For example, knowing that JS typically runs inside of a browser can give helpful context when trying to understand the motivation behind Node.js, a popular open-source library that makes it possible to run JavaScript outside of a browser.

If you're curious about JavaScript's history or about how it actually works under the hood, check out these links:

Give those links a read, and you'll be primed to start diving into the details of JavaScript in no time.

2. Come Up With A Structured Curriculum You Can Stick To

Structure is your best friend.

Repeat after me.

Structure is your best friend.

The classic scenario of trying to learn a new language is this: you find a bunch of great tutorials, set out to get through them all, but then find yourself re-watching them or looking for more of the same content to tell you what you already know.

This endless cycle is called tutorial hell, and I really don't want you to end up there (or actual hell, for that matter).

More than ever, there are tons and tons of technologies and skills to choose from, so it can be tough to prioritize what to learn first. Just look at this sample roadmap for learning web development:

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Image from W3Schools

Overwhelming, to say the least.

My recommendation is this:

  • Determine which technologies and skills are most important for your goals – people learn code for various reasons and end goals; identify yours and which technologies are most important to reach them
  • Create a study plan to attack the most important skills first – having a study plan (like we discussed before) will keep you focused; it's definitely a must, especially if you're learning web dev solo
  • Rinse and repeat – repetition is the name of the game for learning coding; one 12-hour tutorial once a month is nowhere near as effective as 15-20 minutes of practice every day

Of course, your mileage may vary, but the goal is to focus on essential topics and to incorporate a healthy mix of passive learning (watching tutorials, reading the docs) with active learning (solving problems, coding along with videos et cetera).

3. Be Familiar With The Pre-Reqs (HTML, CSS)

Even if you want nothing to do with CSS or other areas of web development, chances are you're going to be using JavaScript in tandem with other web technologies.

It's a good idea to learn how all the pieces fit together before you dive in to learning JavaScript.

I'd recommend looking into MDN's article titled “What Is JavaScript” – it provides a high-level overview of the language and how it fits in with CSS and HTML.

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If you haven't yet dived into what HTML and CSS are, then your best bet is to check out Youtube and watch a crash course or two.

It won't take you more than 45 minutes for each, but it'll save you a lot of confusion in the future when you try to build small-scale projects and don't know what a div is.

4. Know Your Way Around Your IDE

You're going to be coding a lot when learning a new language.

This is pretty clear from the beginning, but what isn't clear is how to go about doing that.

You're probably already stressed enough about mastering the language, and now you need to learn how to use another piece of software?

Luckily, there are lots of good IDEs out there, but my personal preference (and the industry standard) is VS Code, developed by Microsoft.

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I've taken the liberty to write up a handy-dandy guide to help you get set up with VS Code and show you around some of the fundamental features it offers. Check it out here:

Take a little bit of time to get used to your IDE because it's going to be your main tool going forward as a developer-in-training and as a new hire (hopefully soon!)

5. Learn How To Read The Docs

The MDN docs are your best friend when learning JavaScript (in addition to Stack Overflow, but that goes without saying).

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For JavaScript, specifically, MDN has a whole section for beginners, with detailed information about each and every part of the language.

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The JavaScript section of MDN is basically a reference manual for all the features of the language – definitely something to keep handy

Keeping this page bookmarked will help you tremendously when going through tutorials. It's not necessarily the best resource to learn JavaScript, but rather it acts as a reference when you're stuck with a problem or can't understand why your code isn't working the way you want it to.

Besides MDN, here are some other JavaScript docs that you can use as a reference:

I'd also recommend having these resources open as you code through projects or problems to keep friction low, but we'll get to that in the next section.

6. Code Side-By-Side With Your Tutorials

It may seem obvious, but coding along with tutorials (as you watch them) is one of the best ways to internalize information.

This all has to do with something called active learning.

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Watching tutorials passively is an easy way to consume a lot of content, but it's difficult to retain information without actively using it.

Without delving into the neuroscience too much, active learning encourages the formation of neural connections because your brain associates experiences to the content you consume.

Next time you're practicing your coding skills, try coding along with the tutorial or even take a pause every so often and code a function or method that utilizes the concept you just learned – you'll be surprised at how much better you can retain the information!

7. Do A Little Bit Everyday

This is probably not news to you, but consistency is important for learning anything, including how to code.

When I'm feeling particularly unmotivated, I try to remember:

Consistency is better than perfection.

You don't need to do a lot every day, but a little bit is definitely better than nothing.

If you're not sure about how to craft a structured study plan, or where you should even start with learning how to code, definitely check out our free Web Dev Handbook:

In the Handbook, I go through a bunch of different options on how to structure your study plan to learn web dev effectively, without having to study hours and hours per day. (There's also a lot of other stuff in there like my top YouTube channels and websites to learn coding, a breakdown of the web developer job and salaries, and more goodies like that – but you'll see soon enough 🙂 ).

In my experience, learning to code is just like learning a language – you can't internalize all the syntax and rules without practicing consistently, and especially not by cramming all at once.

8. Build Your Own Projects (Even If You Don't Feel Ready)

Building projects is the final boss of learning how to code.

It's daunting, even for experienced coders, because of all the places where things can go wrong, not to mention how overwhelming it is to figure everything out.

Deep breaths.

Here's the good news about projects though: they're scary at first, but after building a few functional programs, it becomes addicting.

It's super fun when your code does exactly what you want it to do, and there's pretty much no better way to learn how to program.

If you're not sure where to start, I'd recommend GitHub:

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I did a quick search for “javascript projects” and tons of beginner-friendly results popped up

I'm not recommending you go and copy someone else's code line for line, but looking at other people's work is a great way to get inspired.

Observe other people's code and try to extend it with the skills you're learning:

  • Can I make this method more efficient?
  • Maybe I can add a search functionality to this page?
  • How about I try to use a CSS framework to style this web app?

And so on and so forth.

If you do end up extending someone's project, just make sure to credit them if you ever publish your own version online!

9. Make Time To Absorb Everything

Time is something everyone wishes they had more of, especially developers.

Learning to code, in particular, is not a one-and-done event.

You can't learn JavaScript in a weekend, no matter what any coding guru on YouTube says (especially the ones selling overpriced courses).

Making time to absorb the material you're learning has been shown to drastically increase comprehension and long-term retention:

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Productivity YouTubers can't talk enough about spaced repetition, but as someone who learned most of their coding fundamentals solo, I can say first hand that it does work.

So, how do you start?

You don't have to follow all the rules of spaced repetition to the letter before you see results, but it's a good idea to chart out your learning long-term.

  • How long do you have to learn code? If you're applying to jobs or want to get hired by a specific date, use this as your milestone
  • Do you know what technologies are most important for your goals? Web developers rely on JavaScript, HTML, and CSS – knowing these are the most important skills will guide your learning. Start learning those the earliest and study/practice them hands-on the most consistently
  • How much time do you have per day/week/month to learn? Like we discussed in the previous point, knowing your priorities is key. If you only have 4 hours every week to study coding, dedicate the majority of that time to crucial skills and repeat the concepts that are critical to your goals

For further reading about spaced repetition, definitely check out this starter guide by LifeHack.

10. Extend Your Learning

Learning to code can feel like a vacuum sometimes.

You watch tutorial after tutorial, finish code challenge after code challenge, and eventually all your mind can think about are functions and classes.

The fact of the matter is this: being a web developer doesn't just involve knowing how to solve coding problems. It also means knowing how your code fits into the overall architecture of the software you're building.

Learning about how all the different parts of a software application interact is a crucial part of being a good developer, too.

Lucky for you, I wrote an article about the different kinds of software terms you might hear as a web developer:

Depending on the kind of job you're after, this may not be an exhaustive list, but it will at least get you started with understand software as a system with all different types of moving parts.

With JavaScript, in particular, there are tons of technologies and developer tools that rely on it to function.

Do yourself a favor by learning the context surrounding those JavaScript-reliant technologies (React, Node.js, et cetera), and when it comes time to actually learn them, you'll already have a solid foundation to build on.

The Bottom Line

Learning to code is an exhausting, long, and frequently frustrating process.

JavaScript is particularly daunting to learn, especially if you're going at it solo, because it's annoyingly tricky but also so fundamental at the same time.

My advice is this:

  • Make a rock-solid study plan – structure is truly your best friend here
  • Be familiar with the pre-reqs to web development (HTML, CSS, and so on) – knowing web dev basics like HTML and CSS will give you helpful context when learning JS
  • Know how to use important developer tools (IDEs) before you start learning – you'll be coding a lot when learning JavaScript, so knowing your way around an IDE is crucial
  • Don't be afraid to start coding projects early on; it's truly the best way to learn – you can't learn coding without actually coding, and you may be surprised at how fun it is (even if you can only code a simple app, it still counts)
  • Do a little bit each and every day – consistency, consistency, consistency (pretty sure that's how the expression goes)
  • Give yourself time to absorb concepts and build projects – spaced repetition and learning things over the long-term will increase retention and comprehension

It's a huge effort to learn a new language, coding or otherwise. But it's totally worth it in the long run – web development is not only an exciting and fast-paced field, but it's also incredibly satisfying to build stuff.

Take frequent deep breaths, remember the 10 tips from above, and I'm positive you'll get through learning JavaScript without throwing your computer through a window.

Let me know in the comments if you're currently learning JavaScript and what you've enjoyed in the process so far! (Alternatively, if you hate JS and everything about it, you can let me know too 🙂 )

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