Perfect JavaScript in 1,000 projects

Front-end developer Wes Bos sits at a laptop at a garden table
(Image credit: Jenna Bos, Bear and Sparrow Photography)

It’s easy for front-end developers to feel overwhelmed these days. What should you learn next? Which framework is going to take off? There are no absolute answers, of course, but if full-stack developer Wes Bos creates a course on a new technology, it’s safe to say it has matured enough for you to be able to pick it up and not waste your time on it. The latest one is CSS Grid, a free video course that more than 35,000 people signed up to in the first week alone.

This new course took Wes around two and a half months of full-time work to build, requiring a lot of upfront investment so he could understand and explain it comfortably. 

To pay for this massive investment, Mozilla came on board as a sponsor and in exchange Wes used Firefox Devtools to demonstrate to viewers how they work and how effective they are when it comes to CSS Grid.

Clearly Wes’s courses are learning by doing at its best. Yet he says he’s actually a very slow learner himself. 

“It might seem like I can just consume anything and understand it,” he laughs. “But the only thing I can attribute my understanding to is just pushing through those harder points and sheer time. I have a big chunk of my day dedicated to learning new skills, which is extremely lucky. That’s why it seems like I’m always a bit ahead of the curve.”

Front-end developer Wes Bos working in a cafe.

Photography: Jenna Bos, Bear and Sparrow Photography (Image credit: Jenna Bos, Bear and Sparrow Photography)

That was also the thinking behind JavaScript30, a free 30-day JavaScript coding challenge, which teaches vanilla JavaScript without frameworks, libraries, compilers or boilerplates. People were always asking Wes how they could learn faster and improve their skills.

“My advice is always that you need to build 1,000 things,” he suggests. “It’s going to take some time, you need to actually put in the work, but once you get through those 1,000 things, I can guarantee you’re going to be a lot better. The JavaScript30 are your first 30 of 1,000 things to get you rolling.” 

But Wes recognises it's not that easy to get started: even he hated JavaScript initially. “I very clearly remember being extremely frustrated with jQuery,” he sighs. “It just breaks, so there’s a possibility you waste four hours not getting anywhere.

"I see that all the time. Often I get nasty emails from people, and a couple of hours later they apologise. You just get that rage blindness of how hard it is to learn. I hated it for a long time, and there was no ‘aha’ moment for me. I just kept at it and slowly but surely, over the course of three or four years, it started to get a little bit easier and I became more confident.”

His style of teaching has clearly tapped into a need. Around 220,000 people have taken at least one of Wes’s courses. Often they enjoy them so much that they're willing to pay for others – such as ES6 for Everyone, React for Beginners and Learn Node. And now he regularly receives emails from people telling him he changed their lives.

Front-end developer using his phone in a cafe.

Photography: Jenna Bos, Bear and Sparrow Photography (Image credit: Jenna Bos, Bear and Sparrow Photography)

“It’s really weird, you don’t expect it,” he enthuses. “At the end of the day I’m just some guy recording my screen, but somebody emailed me recently saying they went through a bunch of my courses and got a C$15,000 raise from their boss [around £8,600], which is life-changing for a lot of people.

"Obviously, I’m not going to attribute just my courses to it – these people are self-starters – but they said that my courses played a large role in them either getting raises or jobs. They also said that I’ve reignited their love for web development. There’s a lot of burnout in our industry, people get sick of it after a while, and need to continually update their skills. I want my courses to be fun and remind people of that little spark they experienced when they first started learning and worked things out.”

At Generate New York, Wes is going to talk about new things coming to JavaScript that will make web development much easier and more enjoyable, while his workshop will be an introduction to React.

“It will start you from the ground up and explain all the different React concepts,” Wes describes. “You’ll leave being able to build an application that fetches data from an API that is routed on the client side and pulls in your CSS.”

An advanced React online course that will focus on GraphQL is also in the pipeline, as is a course on Visual Studio Code. In addition Wes has been trying to figure out how to teach the basics of JavaScript and CSS from scratch. “A lot of people tell me they can’t take my courses because they don’t understand the initial part of JavaScript,” he explains. “I’d like to work out how I can teach those things in a really nice way. It’s such a huge topic.” Clearly the Bos Monster may still just be at the beginning. 

This article was originally published in issue 305 of net, the world's best-selling magazine for web designers and developers. Buy issue 305 or subscribe to net.

Want to pick up more JavaScript tips courtesy of Wes Bos?

Wes Bos is giving his talk What’s New In JavaScript? at Generate New York from 25 - 27 April 2018

Wes Bos is giving his talk What’s New In JavaScript? at Generate New York from 25 - 27 April 2018

Wes Bos is a full-stack JavaScript developer, speaker and teacher from Canada. He works as an independent web developer and is a lead instructor at HackerYou and Ladies Learning Code. Wes is the author of Sublime Text Power User, and the creator of React For Beginners,, Command Line Power User and hundreds of YouTube tutorials.

In his talk at Generate New York from 25-27 April 2018, Wes will cover some of the best things that are brand new to JavaScript as well as things that we can look forward to in the coming months and years. Strap yourself in for a fast-pace talk full of hot tips as we rocket ourselves into the future of JavaScript. 

Generate New York takes place from 25-27 April 2018. Get your ticket now.

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Oliver Lindberg

Oliver is an independent editor, content consultant and founder of Pixel Pioneers. Formerly the editor of net magazine, he has been involved with the web design and development industry for more than a decade and helps businesses across the world create content that connects with their customers. He is passionate about content, user experience, accessibility and designing for social good.