My experience on the Code First: Girls – Introduction to Web Development Course

Hello, Hello!

I thought I should share my experience on the 4 weeks Code First Girls: Intro to Web Development course in Leeds.

So let’s talk about it!

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Why web dev?

So if you’ve been following me on Twitter or read any of my previous blog posts, you know that I have been learning Python and taking part in the #100DaysOfCode challenge.

The thought of learning front end popped up in my head a few times whilst learning Python, however, I didn’t want to jump straight into learning a new language without completing Python.

But then I decided fuck it, why not? No one makes the rules.

Code First: Girls ‘Intro to Web Development’

I first came across the opportunity to join the Code First: Girls ‘Introduction to Web Development’ course in Leeds via Twitter. I spoke with @xEtsAx about the opportunity as she was also learning Python; she mentioned that she had signed up to the London course and encouraged me to apply. I applied and I landed a place on the course!

I was a bit apprehensive on how I was going to juggle the course alongside working full-time but I was determined to go for it.

Pre-Course Prep

The pre-course prep was a simple yet great introduction to building a personal website using HTML, CSS and a little bit of JavaScript. I liked that there was a set structure to a web page, as soon as I wrote <!DOCTYPE HTML> I was ready to go, ready to code, and ready to see what I could create on a page.

I completed two landing pages via an online course. The first was for a personal blog and the second was for a small business website. I learned basics such as HTML structure, headers, creating an image element on a page, and lists. I also learned how to create a navigation bar, a like button using JS, and to design and position elements with CSS.

EPIPHANY

I had so much fun doing the pre-course prep, being able to instantly see visuals of the code I’ve written on a page was something I did not experience with Python.

I had greatly committed to learning Python, I was on DAY 83 of the challenge. I freaked out a little thinking I’d chosen the wrong language and I’d be throwing all of those hours of dedication away. I brought myself back to Earth and decided that I will pause learning Python (which I did enjoy) and put 100% into the CFG course.

SHALL WE BEGIN?

FIRED UP, READY TO GO!

The CF:G Intro to Web Dev course covered: HTML/CSS, Javascript, Bootstrap, Git & Github, jQuery, and User Experience. A very healthy curriculum I must say!

The course progressed at a good pace, the instructors were very patient with us and our class helped each other out whenever anyone fell behind.

I’m going to highlight a few of my key learning points and what Ifound hugely beneficial.

Text Editor

I had the first-hand experience of writing code within the text editor Atom. I learned how to link HTML, CSS and Javascript files within Atom; I’m sure Google or YouTube university could have taught me the instructors explained this well and I was able to practice with their ongoing guidance. We created a mock-up of a landing page and were able to practice what we learned so far with HTML/CSS.

Frameworks

We all know there’s a new framework every day, well not every day but you know what I mean. Learning Bootstrap was my most enjoyable lesson, I found it very easy to digest and convenient to use. I created a carousel using Bootstrap and I was legit buzzing, I sat and watched the slides go by with the one picture of myself flickering through haha.

JavaScript

In an earlier blog post, I spoke about trying JavaScript last year for the 100DaysofCode challenge, I did about 8 days of Javascript via freecodecamp and then I gave up, que in the violins, sad, I know.

I was a bit apprehensive about revisiting JS during this course but I had a completely different experience than when I tried it on my own. I think it’s mainly due to me learning Python, the syntax was quite easy to pick up and I didn’t need to constantly question why things were written the way they were. I think that was a big hindrance in my earlier days, I treated javascript the same way I would learn a foreign language and I couldn’t move past the ‘why’ and why I felt things didn’t make sense.

The CF:G course instructors explained the use cases of JS: how to make our websites responsive using JS and that JS can be used both client and server-side. They had my attention. We completed a few exercises in the console and was introduced to jQuery which I still need to wrap my head around. I definitely want to develop my knowledge of JS and eventually build a decent portfolio.

Git & Github

I missed the lesson on Git & Github but thankfully I had the handout slides and we recapped in the following weeks. Luckily for me, I’ve had the experience of pushing code to Github via the terminal from attending a Django Girls 1 day workshop.

I had never used Git, we used Git to collaborate doing pair programming for our course project. This is where things got difficult between my project partner and I. I was based in Leeds at the time, and she between Leeds and Oxford, this was more of a reason to make sure we both knew how to get Git up and running so we can work on the project in our own time.

We ran into a couple of speed bumps:

My partner preferred for us to sit and build the website together side by side. I felt that this wasn’t practical as I was working full-time, also I wanted to learn how to collaborate using git.

In the end, it didn’t matter as her laptop broke and it was time to focus on the project.

I thought it was worth being open and honest here about some of the obstacles I’ve faced during this course and this was high up on the list. I can only imagine what it’s like collaborating in a big team.

Course Competition

My partner and I decided that we wanted to build a site which focuses a meaningful topic. We had slight disagreements but we finally agreed on building a website centred around digital abuse.

In this day and age of social media and online trolling, we felt that so many people would be able to relate to online abuse. We also wanted to raise awareness on the subject matter and signpost to useful organisations.

The next challenge, building the website! We both went visited websites we admired visually and clicked ‘inspect’ to review the code. We both had different priorities when it came to our website. I was more focused on the content and building my coding skills; my partner had a keen eye for design and wanted to focus on user experience.

We drew a mock-up of our proposed site, we both had 1 non-negotiable feature each. I was fixated on having a navigation bar across the top of the page, my partner wanted a carousel on the front page. We both agreed.

Drawing a mock-up of the website was the easy part, the tricky part was implementing our own designs.

I present to you the struggle:

I managed to figure it out and one of CF:G instructors helped out. The 3 circle containers, in living proof:

My project partner and I presenting.

We didn’t have much time to complete the project but we were determined to have an index.html page, an about us page and an additional page. It didn’t have to be perfect and it was far from but we had as many different elements we could come up with; social buttons, contact form, search button etc.

Presenting our website

It was an amazing experience and my project partner and I had time to reflect on our experience together on the course. There were so many things we’d improve on and change, but nevertheless, we were able to present our work on digital abuse.

I bought my 4th domain name (lol), and I plan on building a website from scratch. I’m aiming to do some front end web dev courses on freecodecamp or codecademy. Thanks to CF:G, I’ve been equipped with the tools I need to build a hopefully fab portfolio.

A big shoutout to all of the instructors who definitely helped with my confidence level and answered a number of my ‘silly’ questions. A few of which I follow on twitter @PaulineNarvas (who is fab btw), @ArianneDonoghue (sent me many Raspberry Pi resources on slack), @TechyRey, @PenelopeHindle, and @itsjaderyan.

If you’re interested in enrolling in a Code First: Girls course, applications may still be open, codefirstgirls.org.uk.

That’s all from me folks! @MillennialRach

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