Don’t: Get caught in tutorial paralysis

This is the fifth article in our “The 12 Dos and Don’ts of becoming a Web Developer” series.

So you’ve checked out a few of the resources on my list.  Great!  You’re well on your way to becoming dangerous as a web developer.  However, there is one thing that you are undoubtedly going to want to do, and I’m here to tell you not to do it.

Don’t get caught in tutorial paralysis.  Seriously.  Don’t do it.

What is tutorial paralysis, you ask?  When you’re first learning, tutorials are safe.  You have a friendly instructor telling you what to type in your text editor or command line, making sure you don’t have to think too hard.  You can finish a tutorial series in a few hours or a few days, and you’ll feel really proud of yourself for sitting through it, for learning.  You feel like you’re really getting a handle on this web development thing.  At that point, the friendly instructor will usually tell you what course you should take next.  So you complete the next one, and you learn something a bit more advanced, and on and on until someday you actually have to build something.

That is generally the point where you realize that, despite the 50-100 hours of tutorial videos you’ve watched, you have no idea — none at all — how to actually build something on your own.  Cue the eternal despair of the dark night of your soul.


You can talk the talk, but at some point, you need to walk the walk.  The very, very best way to learn how to do something is to build something on your own, even something that you’re super ashamed of (but you won’t be. You’ll be proud of your creation, even if six months later you’ll go back and feel horrified by it.)  Tutorials are great to teach you the basics, but they will never, ever challenge you the way hacking together something on your own will.  If you’re not ready to bash your head against the monitor at least half a dozen times when you’re working on something while you’re learning to code, you’re not challenging yourself enough.  Don’t worry; for all the frustration, and the blood and sweat and tears, the feeling you get when something you’ve been fighting with for hours or days actually works is like a drug.  But, you know, in a good way:




Remember that feeling.  You’ll need it during the next dark night of the soul.

Check back next week, and I’ll give you some advice on what to do with all the awesome code you’re writing.

Articles in this series:

Filed in: Web Development