Web development is a fast-changing industry. As a developer, there is no excuse for slacking off. You have to constantly learn and improve your skills if you want to stay on top of the industry trends and ahead of the game.
And if you’re like most developers, you probably looked at your code and wondered how you could make it better.
While the old adage, “practice makes perfect” certainly applies to developers, whether they are web or software developers, there are a few other ways to improve your development skills.
In this article, we’ll share five tips that you can start implementing today to become a better web developer.
No matter where you are in your career as a developer, there is always room for improvement. Beginners need to improve their skills to become better at their craft, and experienced developers should always strive for optimizing their code for readability, performance, and maintainability.
1. Write Code Every Day
If you ask any seasoned developer for their best advice on improving your skills, almost everyone will tell you to write code every single day. While the advice might sound obvious (and therefore not very useful) the simple truth is that it works.
Just like you become better at any skill by practicing it regularly, you will become a better developer if you write code on a regular basis. This will allow you to catch your mistakes and it will improve your typing skills as well, which reduces the chances of making mistakes.
Bear in mind, this doesn’t mean you have to come up with new projects every day. But it does mean practicing consistently.
And while you’re at it, take the time to learn the ins and outs of your favorite code editor. Learn the shortcuts and try using it without relying on your mouse or your touchpad. You’ll be amazed at how much more productive you’ll be once you actually know all the features your main tool has.
2. Contribute to Open-Source Projects
Working on open-source projects from places like GitHub helps you immerse yourself in code. You can choose to fork an existing project and create your iteration of it. You can also contribute to an existing project by helping the project reach its final stage or by fixing minor bugs to improve the project’s stability.
No matter which option you choose, it inevitably leads to understanding your code better and it also exposes you to other people’s code which might show you a new way of doing things.
On top of that, you get to collaborate with others on fun projects which help you get a second (or a third!) pair of eyes on your code. You’ll also learn to work better in a team and gain an invaluable learning opportunity.
3. Teach Others What You Know
You might think you aren’t a good fit to write about code. After all, you’re not a writer. But starting a blog, where you share your knowledge with others, is a great way to continue learning.
By writing about what you know, you will learn to organize your thoughts and structure the topic you’re writing about. It gives you the opportunity to review what you already know and back it up with practical examples. In some cases, you might want to research the topic further which leads to more learning and a better understanding of the problem you’re trying to cover.
Not only that, but a blog increases your visibility and it positions you as the expert on the topic. So, go ahead and add a blog to your website. You’ve got nothing to lose and a lot to gain.
4. Challenge Yourself With a New Skill
There is no shortage on development tutorials on the web. And while some of the new trends in the development industry don’t stick around for long, there is no reason to stay within your comfort zone.
Break the monotony of working on various projects by trying out a new programming language or a new way of doing things.
If you’re a WordPress theme developer, try your hand at creating a plugin. If you’re a software developer working with web apps, why not give mobile app development a try?
Even though you won’t reach a level of mastery by going through a tutorial here and there, it still follows the principle of being exposed and immersed in code on a daily basis.
Don’t forget that in many cases, the tutorials on these sites have been written by developers with years of experience and they also often highlight new features in new technology, languages, and APIs.
5. Schedule Regular Downtime
While coding everyday is extremely beneficial, take care to schedule regular downtime, too. As ironic as it may sound, time spent not producing anything will actually make you more productive.
If you’re constantly working, you run the risk of burning out and living under stress, which can result in sloppy code, missed deadlines, and missed opportunities. Your ability to think clearly and solve problems will deteriorate and, ultimately, your health will suffer too.
That’s why it’s crucial to schedule regular downtime. If you find you cannot break away from work, then schedule it in your calendar and set a reminder to stop working for a set period of time. This way, you can take a break without being overwhelmed by guilt, and you might even find it gives you motivation to push through the most intensive coding sessions.
Before you rush off to implement the tips above, bear in mind that programming languages and technologies come and go. While this is a good reason to get familiar with as many languages as possible, you’ll become a much better developer if you spend your time studying and mastering the programming fundamentals.
The simple truth is that the basics never change and therefore it’s better to pay more attention to the underlying architecture rather than focus on mastering the latest new feature to come out in a particular language. And once you have a firm grasp of the fundamentals, mastering your favorite language, or even picking up a new one, becomes much easier. Happy coding!