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How to learn

Over the last two decades not only have I learned a lot about building websites, but I learned a lot about the actual process of learning. This is my advice for better learning.

April 9, 2020

Comprehend, don't just memorize!

My first computer had BASIC commands written on each key, so it was easy to jump into coding. However, the first time I sat in front of a PC keyboard, I felt completely lost. I asked myself How am I ever going to remember all these commands?.

Soon after, I realized that it's much more important to understand new concepts, rather than only try to memorize them. It's ok to not remember everything at first, as long as you know where to look for the answer.

Practice often, not harder!

I have 15+ years of experience and I still google stuff. You will too! But over time, you will inevitably remember more and you will google less.

The key to speeding up that process is not to spend hours on end coding, with large periods of inactivity in between, but rather to spend a little time coding every day.

The old Latin saying Repetition is the mother of learning certainly holds true in this case.

Don't skip exercise day!

Whenever you're taking a course (a good one at least), you will be presented with a variety of exercises, that allow you to practice the new concepts you encounter in each section. Don't skip them!

I'm serious!

If you jump directly to the solutions, you're doing yourself a disservice. You might think you got it, but trust me when I tell you that as soon as you'll sit down to build something from scratch, you will feel lost.

How do I know? Because I've done it myself.

Write it down or it didn't happen

Back in high school, we had two types of programming classes: "theory", where we used pen and paper to draw diagrams and even write code and "lab", where we got on the computer and ran that code.

The idea of writing computer code on a piece of paper seems absurd now, but I guarantee that this helped me understand and remember those new concepts a lot faster.

Should you write code on a piece of paper? Probably not, especially since the languages of the Web rely on the visual feedback you get in the browser.

What you should do however is keep a notebook where you draw diagrams and write down your own observations or personalized cheat sheets.

Build something YOU enjoy!

When building up a portfolio of websites or projects, my advice is to think about your own hobbies and passions and build something around one of them.

Since this is for learning purposes, why not have fun in the process and work with content you actually care about instead of some generic dummy text or stock photos.

And if your child, sibling or significant other has the same passion, that's even better because you can both spend time coming up with content ideas and they can keep you accountable.

Did you know that a lot of successful websites started out as passion projects?