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    6 min read

    A Guide to JavaScript for Beginners

    By Dynasty Deann

    JavaScript is the most commonly used web programming language the world over, and it has dominated this space for some time now. Unknown to the average internet user, one can find the use of JavaScript in websites, mobile apps, web apps, and more. It comes as no surprise that the strong JavaScript developer community continues to grow, with more new developers entering the industry. This guide to JavaScript for beginners touches upon different aspects, ranging from its history to how you may go about learning the language.


    Guide to JavaScript for beginners

    What is JavaScript?

    JavaScript is a cross-platform programming/scripting language that is lightweight, object-oriented, and single-threaded, making it ideal for creating webpages and apps that have complex functionalities. When you come across a non-static webpage, there’s a good chance it has JavaScript running in the background. The use of this language is also common in different non-browser environments.


    The Difference Between JavaScript, HTML, and CSS

    Most webpages rely on three core technologies that include HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, with each playing an important role.

    • HTML. HyperText Markup Language (HTML) serves as the foundation of a webpage, defining its structure and content using a system of tags. You may think of it as the skeleton of a body, wherein it provides the basic framework for everything else.
    • CSS. Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) uses the raw HTML structure and adds the style to a webpage. It controls the look and feel, including elements such as fonts, colors, layouts, and images. CSS adds to the HTML framework, making a webpage visually appealing and organized.
    • JavaScript. JavaScript (JS) paves the way for adding interactivity to webpages. It lets developers create animations, respond to user actions, and build dynamic web applications. Given that JS plays a vital role in controlling how users interact with a webpage and helps make it more engaging, you may think of it as a website’s central nervous system.


    History of JavaScript

    JavaScript has come a long way since its humble beginnings in 1995, when Brendan Eich developed in around 10 days during his stint at Netscape. Originally called Mocha and then rechristened to LiveScript, its purpose was to add interactivity to static web pages. Given that JavaScript has no connection with Java, many believe that the name was a means to leverage Java’s popularity at the time.

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    Netscape Navigator included JavaScript, and Microsoft’s Internet Explorer did not take long to follow suit. The browser wars era not only saw competition in features but also in JavaScript implementations. This led to the need for a standard, and in 1997, JavaScript became an ECMA standard (ECMA-262).


    While initially confined to web browsers, JavaScript’s potential did not limit to client-side interaction. The rise of Node.js in the late 2000s opened the door for server-side JavaScript development, making it a full-stack language. Now, just about every good web development company you can find has programmers who are proficient in this language.


    Where JavaScript Stands

    Consider these numbers collated by Radixweb that highlight the popularity of JavaScript as a programming language.

    • 7% of websites (around 50 million) use JS as a client-side programming language.
    • Around 3.5 million websites use the JavaScript Vue.js framework.
    • Around 97% of mobile application developers use JavaScript for developing cross-platform apps.
    • While 42.87% of JavaScript developers know how to use React.js, 48% of developers wish to learn this JS framework.
    • The median annual income of JavaScript programmers in the U.S. is $112,000.


    Ways to Learn JavaScript

    Given the number of resources available to learn JavaScript, choosing the right alternative might seem daunting. However, you may simplify the decision-making process by taking a look at the pros and cons of each.


    learn javascript online

    Structured Online Courses

    If you wish to learn JavaScript online, you may consider enrolling in a structured course through a platform like Udemy, Coursera, or Codecademy. These platforms offer beginner and advanced courses, so you may choose one based on your existing knowledge. When you opt for any such course, you may look forward to a structured learning path, staying accountable, and working on projects. However, they can be expensive and might not align with your pace of learning.


    Video Tutorials and YouTube Channels

    There are scores of free JavaScript tutorials on YouTube and other platforms. Channels like freeCodeCamp, The Net Ninja, and Traversy Media offer high-quality content that can take you from the basics to building complex applications. This method is free, it allows you to learn at your own pace, and you get to choose from a vast variety of instructors and styles. However, it might not be very structured and may require more self-discipline.


    Books and eBooks

    While books and eBooks might not be the most exciting way to learn JavaScript initially, they can serve as valuable reference points throughout your coding journey. Some great books for beginners include Eloquent JavaScript, Head First JavaScript Programming, and A Smarter Way to Learn JavaScript. While these books provide in-depth knowledge and you may use them as references later, some might find the lack of engagement and interaction problematic.

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    Interactive Coding Challenges

    Websites like HackerRank and Codewars offer coding challenges that let you practice your JS skills in a fun and engaging way. These challenges can help you solidify concepts and identify areas where you need more practice. When you opt for this path, you may look forward to gamified learning, testing your skills, and getting immediate feedback. The absence of a comprehensive learning path is a possible drawback.


    Working on Projects

    With a basic understanding of JavaScript in place, the best way to strengthen your learning is to start working on projects, which could be a simple to-do list app or a complex interactive game. Developing projects will not only improve your skills but also keep you motivated and give you a portfolio to showcase your abilities. Getting to this stage requires a solid foundation in JS basics, and you may find it challenging to debug complex problems.


    How Long It Takes to Learn JavaScript

    Is JavaScript easy for a beginner? Well, how easy this programming language is to learn varies from one person to the next, and beginners may find it challenging at some stage because of its steep learning curve. However, once you begin to understand the basic concepts, the process becomes considerably simpler.


    How long it takes to learn this language depends on your existing knowledge of programming, your ability to grasp new concepts, your dedication, and the level of expertise you’re after. For example, you may learn the ropes in a couple of months, provided you put in consistent efforts. Getting to an intermediate level can take six months to a year. However, if you wish to achieve mastery, you may expect to put in a few years of persistent learning and practicing.


    Developers need to realize that since JavaScript continues to evolve with every update, their learning will remain ongoing.


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    What New Developers Need to Know

    As a new JavaScript programmer, while you may look forward to using a language that powers most interactive elements on the web, you also need to have a firm grip on different concepts. These include:

    • Building blocks. Before writing complex applications, you need to build your understanding of variables (var, let, and const), data types (numbers, strings, Boolean, and undefined), operators (math, comparison, and logical), and control flow (if/else statements and loops).
    • Functions. It is crucial that you learn how to define, call, and pass arguments to functions. They serve as the building blocks of different JavaScript applications, giving you the ability to use code grouped in reusable blocks and improve your project’s maintainability.
    • DOM. Understand how the Document Object Model (DOM) represents your HTML structure and how JS can manipulate it. For example, JS works in selecting and interacting with HTML elements, and responding to user interactions is possible by attaching event listeners to different elements.
    • Scope. Where your variables are accessible can be tricky in JS, and understanding variable scope (local vs. global) is crucial to avoid errors.
    • Closures. A closure is a function that remembers variables from its outer scope, even after the execution of the outer function is complete.
    • Asynchronous programming. The web is asynchronous, wherein things can take time to happen. Promises and async/await keywords help you handle asynchronous operations seamlessly.
    • Modern JavaScript (ES6+). JavaScript is evolving constantly, which makes it crucial for developers to learn the latest features like arrow functions, template literals, and destructuring for cleaner and more concise code.
    • Libraries and frameworks. Popular libraries like React, Angular, and Vue.js provide prebuilt components and structures to accelerate your development, and you need to know how to use them to your benefit.
    • The developer console. New developers need to use their browsers’ built-in debuggers to test code, see variable values, and identify errors.


    In addition, as Derek Robinson from Top Notch Dezigns pointed out in a post on The Next Web way back in 2017, developers need to understand the importance of learning plain old Vanilla JavaScript. This is because several programmers jump right into working with premade templates and frameworks to boost their productivity. However, in doing so, they lose the chance to build a strong foundation in the language. This, in turn, makes it difficult for them to become world-class developers.


    Top JavaScript Frameworks to Learn

    JavaScript Frameworks provide prebuilt structures and tools for web development. They handle common tasks like DOM manipulation, data binding, and routing, thereby giving developers the time to concentrate on application logic and user experience. However, the world of JS frameworks can be overwhelming, to say the least, and given the seemingly endless stream of options, new web developers are often at a loss surrounding which to learn. The top ones include:

    • React. Known for its component-based architecture and flexibility, React excels at building complex user interfaces. Backed by Facebook, it boasts of a massive community.
    • Angular. This comprehensive framework offers a structured approach with built-in features for dependency injection, routing, and more. It’s ideal for large-scale enterprise applications.
    • Vue.js. Known for its ease of use and balance between features and simplicity, Vue.js is a versatile framework that works well for small and large projects alike.
    • Svelte. Svelte compiles code into the highly performant Vanilla JS, reducing runtime overhead.
    • Next.js. Built on top of React, Next.js provides features specifically for server-side rendering and static site generation, making it ideal for applications that rely heavily on search engine optimization (SEO).
    • TezJS. This open-source JavaScript framework comes with a nearly absent learning curve, which is perfect for new developers. It offers simplicity in coding as well as great speed, scalability, and overall website performance.
    • Jest. Jest makes the cut when it comes to the top JavaScript frameworks for testing. Developed by Facebook, it is a great alternative for simplified and automated browser testing.
    • Aurelia.js. This open-source user interface (UI) framework finds favor with JavaScript developers who create mobile and web apps, mainly because it eliminates the need to come up with unique code, tags, or keywords.

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    The best JavaScript framework to learn depends on your goals and preferences. For instance, if you’re new to frameworks, Vue.js and TezJS can serve as good starting points because they do not have a steep learning curve. If you wish to build large-scale applications, learning Angular might work well for you, not only because of its structure but also because of its extensive list of features. Developers who plan to focus on customization and flexibility might benefit by learning how to use React.



    Currently used by a large majority of the world’s websites, including heavy hitters like Google and Facebook, JavaScript is the backbone of the internet. While there have been some concerns about vulnerabilities when it comes to web security, developers can implement measures to override them. Besides, JavaScript’s speed and versatility ensure it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.


    Now that you’ve gone through this guide to JavaScript for beginners, you need to determine how to get the learning process underway. Bear in mind that you cannot build Rome in a day, and if you wish to become a freelance web developer or work with a professional web development agency, you need to dedicate enough time not just to learn JavaScript, but also to gain mastery over your craft.

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