Web Developer Roadmap: Laravel Edition

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March 12th, 2019, posted in #howto
by Indra

This is a series of 3 articles: this Laravel version, a short version and a long version

 

You want to be a web developer. But you’re not sure where to start. You’ve seen some scary flowcharts out there, and you tried to make sense of them but it made your head hurt. We know the feeling. We’ve been there, all of us web devs at UPDIVISION.

 

This is why we thought of putting together our experiences of becoming who we are today. So, this is an article about what you need to learn and the order in which you need to learn it to get from coding Jedi padawan to web dev Jedi Master. And while we’re at it, we made some less scary charts and workflows made to be understood by real people, not just coding wizards.

 

You want to be a web developer. You’ve come to the right place. What you’ll find in this article is a breakdown of the most important steps on the path to becoming a web developer, whether you’re just starting out or you’re well on the way but feel a bit lost, whether you want to be a back-end, front-end, or a different kind of developer (yes, you can be a database-focused one or mobile dev or even a dev ops etc.).

 

This is neither a list (though we’ve compiled one here), nor a flowchart (though we have those as well). This is a detailed, step-by-step story of what, when, and why you need to learn to reach full web dev mastery. We have a longer, general oriented version here, if you`re interested. What you`re reading is the Laravel oriented version. 

 

 

Prerequisites

 

Before beginning, just make sure you know what you want to achieve in web development. That’s pretty easy: decide what you want to do for the next 20 years of your life. OK, OK, kidding. But not really. If you want to succeed in any field you need to persevere. And it takes time. Years. But it’s the same for everything else in life.

 

 

Let’s assess your level first:

 

L0 (Sith): OK, we get it, you don’t like programming, but you work in a connected field and you want to snoop behind enemy lines.

L1 (Jedi enthusiast): you’ve never touched programming in your entire life but you plan on changing that.

L2 (Jedi padawan): you have some idea of programming from high school or college and you’re just starting your career or switching from a different career.

L3 (Jedi knight): you are a software engineer, but you worked in a different field (not in web dev).

L4 (yep, you’re a Jedi knight too): you are a server administrator and you want to become a software developer.

 

 

Now that you loosely placed yourself on a level, start with the corresponding step:

 

L0: Keep reading

L1: Front - end

L2: Either back-end or front-end

L3: Listen to your heart. Though probably back-end is more appropriate, unless you have experience with JavaScript in an embedded environment, in which case try a little bit of both before deciding.

L4: Back-end definitely, unless you want to forget everything about servers

 

 

Bear in mind: This is what we recommend, but we also think it’s better to choose after you try a little bit of both, especially if you’re on L1. However, if you want to start from a different step go ahead and pick your own path. Go crazy.

 

 

Things to keep in mind:

 

  • Whatever technology you choose, you need to get at least acquainted with Git, either in command line form or user interface.

  • Our team uses bitbucket for internal projects and GitHub for our open source projects. There’s also the option of using GitLab or having your own server. We’ll talk about this in another article, but for now remember that you need a repository.

  • If you really hate Git there’s also Mercurial as an option. Do your research, choose one.

  • Don’t forget to make use of Google along your journey. There’s plenty of support out there from Stackoverflow ( a Q&A community) to github issues pages and forums. Make use of these.

 

Also, no matter what you choose to learn you don’t really need to reinvent the wheel. Someone already did that before. This is why a package manager is always helpful. It will allow you to download and use code already created (a library) in your application. Here is a list of package managers that you may need:

 

Package Manager/ Module Loader/ Task Runner

 

Composer or an alternative depending on the language 

PHP (Laravel)

Webpack

JAVASCRIPT

Yarn

JAVASCRIPT (we use this) 

npm

JAVASCRIPT

Gulp

JAVASCRIPT

Grunt

JAVASCRIPT

 

 

 

FRONT END

 

Front end has 3 components: the elements that load on the page (html), how the page looks (CSS), what the elements do on certain actions (JavaScript aka JS).

Front end development is largely geared towards CSS and JS. You will sometimes hear frontend developers being addressed as Angular/Vue/Node developers. This is because they use that specific framework for their JS needs. There are also Node.js developers who do front end (I will not address this here).

 

Here is the flowchart our team came up with:

 

 

Here is a list of what you need to learn, in the order you need to learn it. The mandatory items are for beginners and the optional ones for when you're ready to move to the next step. Don’t skip the basics because it will hunt you later. I speak from experience.

 

HTML

●     Mandatory: HTML

●     Optional: Blade (optional)

 

 

CSS

●     Mandatory: Classic CSS

●     Advanced: SCCS (Sass) / Less

 

 

JavaScript

●     Mandatory:

       - JavaScript (I skipped this and started with jQuery and when I moved to Vue.js it came back to haunt me, but make your choice)

       - AJAX

       - JSON

 

●     Optional (choose one and stick to it. For quick, dirty things use jQuery for advanced, elegant code choose one of the last 3):

       - jQuery

       - Vue/Vuex - we use this

       - React

       - Angular js

 

●     Advanced: After you’re done with the basics above get started on the hardcore stuff that will make you an amazing front-end developer

       - Canvas

       - SVG manipulation

       - D3 library

       - Three JS

       - SPA

       - ES6

       - JSX

       - Testing Jest/Mocha

 

Besides the mandatory stuff that makes you a great front end developer you also need to have a good amount of Photoshop knowledge. Being a front end developer means you also have the job of turning those pretty designs from PSD to HTML.

 

To make all of this neat and tidy in your head, here’s a table:

 

Technology/Score

 Mandatory  

 Optional  

 Advanced  

HTML

x

 

 

CSS

x

 

 

JavaScript

x

 

 

SCCS

x

 

x

JSON

x

 

 

AJAX

x

 

 

VUE.js/ REACT/ Angular/ Node.js

 

x

x

jQuery

 

x

 

ES6

x

 

x

SVG manipulation

 

x

x

D3 library

 

x

x

Three JS

 

x

x

SPA

 

x

x

ES6

x

 

x

JSX

 

x

x

Testing Jest/Mocha

x

 

x

 

 

 

And here’s the in-depth list:

 

Frontend HTML/CSS

Bootstrap

Bulma

Foundation

Sass

Email templating

Responsive Media Queries

 

HTML4/5

HTML Components (figure, small, header, footer, article, when to use div)

Editable content

Input types, validations, required, placeholders, autofocus, regular expressions

Local storage

Audio player

Video player, preload, display controls

Slider with the Range Input

Data Attribute

Iframe

 

CSS3

Flexbox

Rotate/Scale/Skew/Transform/Matrix

Gradients

Transitions

Grids/CSS Columns

calc()

Advanced Selectors

Generated Content and Counters

Webfonts

 

Javascript

jQuery

AJAX

Canvas

Vue/Vuex

React

SVG manipulation

D3 library

Three JS

SPA

ES6

JSX

Testing Jest/Mocha

 

 

Conclusion

 

I write this article primarily as a back end developer, so I’m a little bit biased towards back end development since I don’t ever see myself doing anything else. When I think about 30 years from now, I still see myself working in the industry in a role where back end is involved, but not necessarily as a software engineer.

 

Now, returning to the conclusion of the front end stretch of your web dev journey: I think front end is a great path to carve for your future. You have plenty of things to learn and plenty of paths to choose from. People will always need that new app or website or maybe even holograms in the future. Point being: you will never not be needed.

 

Being a front end developer is hard work because you need to make your code run perfectly on so many resolutions and browsers. Being a front end developer also teaches you patience (confession time: one of the reasons I went primarily back end is that I completely lack this trait). Also, it can be enormously satisfying seeing your work actually being acknowledged – unlike, say, back end.

 

So, if you have a passion for learning and also you feel like you’re a little bit of an artist this is the one for you. And no worries if you’re the kid who actually loved math. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to use that as well.

 

BEWARE: even as a back end developer you need a basic knowledge of front end so get acquainted with tml/blade, Bootstrap and some js.

 

To get started create your first application (we’ve covered this in a different article here). Do something really easy, like a form. Start learning by practicing right away and grow into the manual. Don’t start with learning the manual because you will get bored and confused.

 

I cannot emphasize this enough: learn by doing, don’t disregard the theory, but don’t make it your primary focus. I have seen plenty of people quit because the theory looked too hard, but in practice as you grow as a developer you will learn the theory.

 

Do some html first, then add the CSS and finally add some functionality to the whole setup by adding JavaScript. Potentially start with vanilla JavaScript if you never did any programming before. If you want to go to the next level and add data to your application even better. Find a public API and consume that.

 

Do something like this: https://jsonplaceholder.typicode.com/ or use one of the google APIs that are free, like maps or roads or whatever sounds good to you.

 

 

So, without further ado: front end development – the pros and cons:

 

Pros

Cons

- Develop anything from websites to mobile apps (check progressive web apps)

- Get recognition for your work

- Technology advances quickly so no time to get bored

- Plenty of online resources to learn from

- Plenty of jobs

- Can get boring at some points doing the PSD to HTML gig

- Clients focus on you, not your back end counterparts so you get most of the headaches

- You get to hear things like “That button isn’t red enough”

- Technologies pop out all the time so it can get crazy at times

 

If your front end developer soul does not feel satisfied with these tables you can download some difficulty charts from the pdf here.

 

 

 

BACK END

 

If you think of front end as the body, back-end would be the brain of the operations. It makes everything work and connect. Backend is probably the most complicated subject to explain in programming, since it’s so vast and it can go so many ways. There are backend systems out there that don’t even have front end interfaces, there are backend systems that are meant to just serve an interface, those who serve mobile apps, robots, serve factories, monitor systems, airplanes and ships and then there are those that actually interact with the front end component.

 

In talking about back end there are multiple places to start, and that’s the problem here. There’s not one shoe to fit all developers, but you have to start somewhere. So let me tell you a little with how I started and how I ended being a back end developer (mostly Laravel) (spoiler alert: not my first choice).

 

Once upon a time I discovered I actually kinda liked C++, but seeing how I didn’t know what C++ was good for (I was young, C++ is great. You can do embedded programming, I highly recommend it. If you’re not a big fan of crazy, jump there right now. Web development is a lot crazier). So, I started learning C#. And that’s how I made my first Windows program.

 

Yep, the rumors are true. Back in my day we had programs, not apps, and being connected to the internet wasn’t the main focus and crazy as it seems 512MB of RAM memory was impressive. I’m not old and I started very early. This just goes to show technology moves fast.

 

So, because technology moves fast, I quickly jumped into APS.NET. Not long after that, the first iPhone launched and a year or so later Android became a thing and apps started to explode. So, I decided to pursue that path.

 

While I was developing my first big Android app in JAVA (yeah, been there, done that, hated it), my team realized we needed an API for the app, since the app was meant to call you a cab at the airport. So, after a little bit of debate we decided APS.NET was too expensive and restrictive and, since all of us were JAVA developers, we didn’t really know what we would get, but we chose PHP and I got to write the API. PHP was so much fun that I stuck with it ever since and I ended up here doing backend for years in PHP and occasionally Python for small server needs. Not long ago I picked up Laravel and I loved it and that’s how I ended up at my current job at UPDIVISION and writing this article about back end.

 

It’s my firm belief that back end is the most beautiful form of programming there is (but hey, I might be a bit biased). I’m not here to convince you to choose this path, but if you decide to, here’s a little review of what you need to know. 

 

What you need to get started with when you’re following this path is choosing your programming language. There are a lot of resources out there to help you choose, so I won’t go into detail, but my favorites are PHP (duh!) and Python. Since in this version I focus on Laravel, I left out quite a bit, but you can always jump to the general version

 

After you choose your poison, you need to get familiar with it. So, get your environment ready. I am a Linux enthusiast and I choose a Vagrant box every time, on any OS. Laravel has this helpful little thing called homestead that you just download and move on with your live. Here is the official documentation on that.

 

PHP also has this thing called a stack so you can go with that instead of using vagrant. This will work the same as a server (local server). E.g.: WAMP (for windows => stands for windows apache MySQL PHP), LAMP (linux apache mysql php) or LEMP (linux nginx mysql php) - my choice (for Linux), MAMP (for Mac) etc.

 

I am not a fan of Apache, I usually choose NGINX, plus NGINX is recommended for Laravel, so go with it if you can. If forced to use Apache, use that. Unless you’re a hardcore fan of NGINX like me, you won’t truly care.

 

Here’s a flow chart we came up with so things are a bit clearer:

 

 

 

So, the steps to start are:

 

1. Choose your programming language of choice

2. Learn some sort of database language. Most of us go with SQL (compatible with plenty of databases). You can also go with a non-SQL type of thing, but I recommend starting with SQL since it’s pretty easy to understand

3. Learn some theory. Unfortunately in backend you cannot skip this. You need to get your basics in order. You need a basic understanding of:

          - Object oriented programming (OOP)

          - Design patterns

          - Basic server architecture

4*. Learn basic front end (see front end flow here)

5*. Create your first CRUD (create - read - update - delete) application. Do something really easy, like a form. Start learning by practicing right away and grow into the manual. Don’t start with learning the manual because you will get bored and confused.

6. Start using a framework

 

* Steps 4 and 5 should happen at the same time

 

 

One last thing before you get started on the list. You need to know about JSON. Json is basically a way to format information as a text that is compatible with all programming languages and can help you communicate between the front-end and back-end or server to server. You can also use XML as an alternative, but I recommend JSON because it’s easier.

 

Below is a small guide to go through after you’re ready to start. You can start with this as soon as you want, but not before learning a little bit about OOP.

 

 

Step 1

 

These recommendations are not necessarily in order. For example, to do search and authentication you need some sort of database.

 

The point is that, at the end of your first learning marathon, you need to master these at some degree. I did not add a score card for these since they’re all mandatory and basic.

 

 

Basic backend

CRUD

Authentication

Search

Filtering

Internationalization (aka site in multiple languages) 

User Management

Log view

Database connection

File manager

Unit testing

 

 

Database feature. There’s a “*” next to the ones that are necessary in the initial phase. The rest can be learned as needed.

 

DB

*Basic schema

*Basic queries

Schema of more than 100 tables

Indexes

*Foreign keys

Query optimizations

*Views

Prepared statements

Raw queries

Mysql custom functions

Transactions

Archiving

Manage high amounts of data

Partitioning

Replication

Transaction processing, concurrency, ACID rules, OLTP 

Online analytical processing (OLAP), data warehouses

Big data, MapReduce, Pig Latin

NoSQL Redis

NoSQL MongoDB

NoSQL DynamoDB

Postgresql

*DB backup

 

Also while we’re on the database subject, don’t be shy to make use of tools like Workbench to get help with your database design or queries.

 

 

Step 2

 

You might need to get to the next level with your application soon after you start. So, once you master your first CRUD it’s time you add your framework. Every popular web language has at least one framework.

Since this article is geared towards PHP, I recommend Laravel. Laravel has a great community ready to answer any questions, great documentation and plenty of online tutorials.

 

Laravel features

Eloquent

Queue System

Basic authentication

Notifications

Advanced routing

CSRF Protection

Validation

Errors & logging

Localization

Frontend Scaffolding

Encryption

Events

File system

Task Scheduling

Collections

Artisan

Database migrations

Pagination

Broadcasting

Helpers

Mail

Package Development

 

Once you’ve mastered your first Laravel app, you might want to add in some integrations depending on the type of app:

 

Integrations

Google maps API or equivalent  

Google charts API or equivalent

Google drive API

Social network login

CDN for media and resources

AWS integrations

PayPal

Braintree

Stripe

 

Once this is done, you might want to make it available to people outside your platform as well. This is where this great invention called an API comes in. This allows you to communicate between languages in a standardized format like JSON. If you want to go down the Laravel path look into Laravel Passport.

 

API

REST API development

REST API consumption

REST API documentation

REST API testing with Postman 

REST API Unit Testing

SOAP

 

After your API is ready you might also want to learn how to deal with searches, files, and optimizations & testing. I recommend learning on an as-needed, case-by-case basis.

 

Search

Elastic Search    

Solr

Algolia

 

 

Ecommerce

Manage categories & products   

Attributes, Attribute Sets

Prices & currencies

Manage users, addresses

Manage and apply cart rules

Shopping cart, orders, invoices

Payment systems

Notification emails

Carriers   

 

 

Files

File processing

OCR

File upload with AJAX

PDF generation

Export to csv/xls

Import from xls/csv

Image resizing

Video encoding

File management and archiving  

 

 

Optimizations & Testing           

Refactoring

Unit testing

Functional testing

Caching Memcached

Caching Redis

Front end testing

Page speed optimization

SOLID

Selenium

LightHouse

TDD

 

Here is a downloadable version of the backend flow and charts mentioned.

 

Once you’re done with your app you need to put your DevOps hat on. If you don’t have one you will need to learn a few things. In the next section you can see a list of what you need to learn as a backend developer to deploy your application.

 

 

 

DEV OPS

 

This section does not cover everything a DevOps engineer should know, not by far. But since backend and DevOps are so embedded in each other, I consider this a brief starting point.

 

To this I would add at least an in-depth understanding of networking and Linux or other server OS to be able to consider someone a DevOps. If this is something you really feel you want as a career path, start with the CISCO training Stack.

 

Below is a diagram that will help you navigate the Dev Ops journey:

 

 

 

As a backend developer you will have at least a few run-ins with the command line in your career. These are some requirements you need to take into account so that the command line is piece of cake: Linux, terminal, and error logging. Not all of them are mandatory. You will see an asterisk (*) next to the ones that are mandatory and a number and “||” next to the ones that are mandatory but only need one of them.

 

Linux

 

Packaging programs

                                    

Common commands

*

Common issues

*

Access rights and ownership  

*

 

 

Terminal

                                 

vim

1. ||

Fish shell

 

nano

1. ||

custom path and bash settings  

 

 

 

Error logging                                                              

file/db logging

nginx/apache log

SAAS (software as a service) error logging  

server/os errors

 

 

Next you need a bit of knowledge about the server itself.

 

Server

 

Deploy and setup ftp

1. ||

Deploy and setup aws

2. ||

Deploy and setup ssh

1. ||

Deploy and setup with ci

2. ||

Deploy and setup heroku

2. ||

Deploy and setup google app engine

2. ||

Deploy and setup google compute engine

2. ||

Use and setup google kubernetes

 

Deploy and setup digitalocean

2. ||

Docker

 

Cron Job

*

Install/Generate ssl certificates (free/proprietary, dependent on server of choice)

*, just use certbot, don’t give yourself a headache

htaccess

 

htpasswd

*

Apache config

3. ||

Nginx config

3. ||

error codes (most common)

*

Multiple php/python versions working in parallel

 

Sandboxing

 

Server to server communications via ssh

 

 

Others (none are mandatory): 

CI/CD                        

CircleCI

Jenkins

 

 

Server Monitoring    

Clustercs

New Relic

DDOS monitoring

Cloud flare

 

If you want a list of technologies and their difficulty, download it here.

 


 

Final Conclusion

 

While all this might seem pretty straightforward, you have to be aware that you need up to two years to learn everything to the point where you’re comfortable not googling every error or solution depending on the level you started. This is real work and serious study, but if you’re determined, nothing can stand in your way. And hey, you’re not alone on this journey. Look at us – we made it. And you don’t have to be alone – if you find you need a mentor, read a bit here about how we mentor our apprentices.

 

Good luck on your web developer journey and happy coding! Subscribe to our newsletter if you want to be kept updated with the longer versions and other web development stuff you might find cool.

 


About the author

Indra

I am an experienced software engineer and team lead. I know my projects inside out – I have to. I’m the one making sure all the pieces fit together, the servers are up and running, and the hardest tasks get done. When I’m not doing that, I teach and do research at the university. I’m eager to upgrade my skills all the time and pass on to others what I know.

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