Learning something new…where to start?

As mentioned in a previous post, I need to start learning web technologies as it’s clear as a desktop developer that things are changing rapidly in the industry and I don’t want to be left behind!

Here are a few things that I have found helpful so far.

1. Learn by doing

To be blunt, I am not one of these people who can stick my head in a book and read all about something then be able to do it. I find that I am better at actually using a new language or technology and learn from mistakes. I find that if it is a language for example, most of the time it is about learning the syntax of that language and it’s probably more effective to attempt simple problems and try to solve them than to read about how to solve them. You are more likely to take it in if you do it yourself.

2. Learning sites

A site I have found extremely useful for this is Codecademy. It basically holds your hand through the basics of a new language like javascript (for me). Taking you through the simple parts of the language like basic syntax and moving on to more advanced things. Sites like these usually let you write code to solve preset problems and grade you on a basic level of pass or fail. Hints are also available so you won’t be frustrated if you can’t figure something out. Another neat feature of this site in particular is the achievements or rewards for passing a module, you can share these with your friends which is cool. Highly recommend!

3. Personal project

This is something that I always have the best intentions with but find hard to follow through and complete as I tend to hit roadblocks during development. However, I still think this is a very important part of the learning process as it challenges you and also gets you thinking about how you can use something new in the real world. You never know, something that starts out small for a personal project could become the next Google or Microsoft, so don’t give up right away. I’d do well to take my own advice here as well!

4. Examples

Examples are always useful when you are trying to use the new language or technology. Usually this comes in handy when you are doing your personal project or trying to solve your own problems. I had a good experience of samples when I tried looking at Knockout. I found they had a great example page and tutorial section which takes you through how everything works, gradually building up the difficulty. Always look for samples as well as using the documentation when you get stuck.

5. Ask an expert

This should probably be number 1 in the list but it can’t really happen until you have looked at something yourself. I find this to be 100x better than googling something. You can quickly communicate the problem to someone who is classed as an expert in the topic and get an answer from them almost instantly and chat about the problems you are having. You’ll find it’s quicker to ask follow up questions and give examples of the specific problem you are stuck on. I know you can do this online but it’s nice to talk!


These are just a few things at the moment but as you can see my emphasis is on the practical side of learning over the theory. Of course I’m not ruling the theory out, I just think it has it’s place and when it comes to development I firmly believe in using the tools to learn rather than looking at them.

I wish you all the best in learning something new and please let me know what you think. Have I missed anything out which you do when learning something new? Let me know. Cheers

One thought on “Learning something new…where to start?

  1. When you want to learn a new technology, the best way to go is to create something that can be useful in real life. That way you run into real issues that are practical, and commonly encountered by teams involved in real life projects.

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