5 Tips to Become a Better Web Developer 5 Tips to Become a Better Web Developer

So, you are looking to become a better web developer?  Well, the fact that you are willing to read this article is a great start!  It's actual one of my five tips.  I'll begin by listing, what I believe, are the most important pieces in becoming a better web developer.

  1. Test
  2. Adapt
  3. Think/Plan
  4. Trial and Error
  5. Ask for help


I have put this as number one because no matter how well you can follow the other 4, if you cannot properly test, you will never get better.  You will be closer, but testing will help you reach the highest level of success.  In fact, even if you are just beginning and find lots of errors in your code, at least with testing, you will find these errors and fix them!

Let's begin discussing how to test.  Testing should start by covering the basics.  E.g. if you are tasked with creating a form that saves data and requires validation.  The best place to start is by submitting your form.  It's important to try all aspects of submitting your form.  Start from the ground up, submit the form with no data.  Do you see all of your expected error messages from your validation?  Perfect, one part of the task complete. 

Next, begin populating one field at a time then submit the form.  Does that error message disappear and the rest remain?  Did your field value stay populated?  Excellent.  Continue this process until all form fields have been tested.

Next, verify your data.  Did everything save properly?  If you have fields that do not require validation, start again and ensure you populate those fields as well.  Did they get saved properly.

As a project manager, when I review people's work, you have no idea how many issues I find just from performing these basic steps!

In some cases you're ok to stop right here and move on.  This depends on how much "testing time" you have been allocated.  If you have more, from here you should go on and test special characters, different language characters (French, Spanish, etc...).  How does your form deal with a lot of characters?  Is there a maxlength on the form elements, etc...

If you are not testing a form, start by ensuring that all of the "business rules" work as expected or if it's a calculation, test with different numbers and ensure you receive the expected result, etc...

My biggest pet peeve as a project manager is a developer telling me it's done and find out that they were too lazy to even open the web page in a browser to ACTUALLY confirm that it was done.  Instead they assumed there change was perfect.


In today's society, technology changes so much.  Be on top of things, make sure what you are doing is a good way to do something.  Just because you've been doing something one way for a while, it doesn't mean that it's the best way or that a better way has been found.

Communicate with your team, tell them how you are successful, in turn listen how they are successful, learn from them and adapt their good behaviours and make them your own.

Further down the list is trial and error, but I heard a great proverb once, "You will not live long enough to make every mistake for yourself, so learn from the mistakes of others."


You should never just "jump in" to web development.  It's important to think about what you are required to accomplish.  Devise a plan of attack before you begin.

Imagine if you had to go on a road trip to a city you knew little about, are you just going to jump in the car and start driving?  Of course not (unless you have a GPS), you're going to look at a map, get directions from Mapquest, etc...  The bottom line is you are thinking about how to get there before you begin.  Same goes for developing.

Right now you might be saying, "I've done this several times, I don't need to plan or think this through."  Wrong!  Let's use another car analogy.  You are driving somewhere that you have gone several times.  This time you have a time limit.  Each time you've taken a few different roads along the way because you started from a different location.  Are you just going to start driving and make up the fastest route there?  No, you're going to think first about the other times you drove here and decide which is the fastest route.  Let's not forget, time is money.

Many experts say that planning should take 50% of your total development time allotted.  25% goes to actual development and the other 25% goes to testing and bug fixing.

Trial and Error

As I mentioned earlier, you cannot always make every mistake.  But if the tire is not quite round yet, don't be afraid to try something.  If it's never been done before or you've never done it before, do you think you are going to get it right on the first try?

If you think this way, you might get let down a lot.  It's ok to not succeed on your first try.  The important thing is to learn something out of it.  Why did it fail, what did you learn from the failure.  What did work, why did it work?

Take these points and try again with a different approach.  Think of how you learned to ride a bike for the first time.  I doubt the first time you got on and started peddling that you didn't fall.  When you did fall, I bet you thought about what you did wrong (or your Mother/Father told you) and how you are going to correct it the next time.

Ask for help

Do this early and do it often.  Obviously, don't bug someone every two seconds.  If you're stuck on something, write some notes about what's happening, prepare some questions to ask.  Think everything through.  Once you're ready, ask your co-worker for a few minutes of their time to discuss the problem.

Don't have a co-worker, no problem.  Search out a forum on the Internet to help you out and post there.  Again, be detailed, describe your problem, what you've tried, etc...

Odds are that someone has encountered this before.  Even if they haven't, they might be able to give you a couple of things to trial and error with.

That's all for today's article.  Hopefully these tips will help you out, I use them all the time.

Published on Mar 24, 2009

Tags: Theory

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