On learning JavaScript the hard way vs. the pretty way

Thursday marks the end of week 3, unit 3 of LC101, and almost exactly one month since my last post. There’s been a lot of life stuff in between. The big event was my boyfriend’s and my trip to Breckenridge, Colo., a.k.a. the promised land, a.k.a. the place where I learned how not to dress like a ski n00b the hard way (post on that forthcoming).

Just n00bin’ it up out there.

.The other big event was, obviously, starting our third and final unit of LC101, which for me means seven weeks of JavaScript. I was stoked! Along with HTML and CSS, JavaScript is one of the big three front-end languages, the one you can do all the interactive fun stuff with! I was like, let’s do this:

And then I opened the course content and found … a big ol’ text book. The third edition of Eloquent JavaScript by Marijn Haverbeke is well-designed but oddly-phrased. For example: “The actual maximum whole number that can be stored is more in the range of 9 quadrillion (15 zeros)—which is still pleasantly huge.” Like –

Moving right along then. 

It’s been two weeks now of … text book. You know, like any old regular, boring class!

I used to be able to doing old regular, boring classes pretty well. I could grind through weeks — months — YEARS of boring stuff like cell mitosis or whatever. No. Freaking. More. Call it my dwindling internet-afflicted attention span, but these days I need my learning to be attached to results that are both concrete and — kicker here — interesting.

So I stopped reading the textbook and bought a Udemy course called “Make a responsive portfolio site: JavaScript and HTML” by Reece Kenney.

Pro tip! Buy your Udemy courses in a private window/incognito mode because their tech-savvy butts know if you’ve looked at a course before and will charge you more the next time you look.

In terms of learning things, if Eloquent Javascript is like mainlining technical know-how, the Udemy course is more like absorbing it through osmosis. I watch Reece do a cool thing (Bootstrap! Font Awesome! JavaScript things!) and I copy it. If this sounds like cheating at worst and learning by rote at best, I present you this screenshot:

I write reviews of romance novels too, if you missed that.

It’s just…so pretty. And functional. And looks like a real thing.  I really did have to use some JavaScript to get some of those effects, even if I didn’t have to totally understand how it was all coming together. (As of this writing I’m still finishing the site, but I’ve got it on Github if you want to check it out).

By comparison, here’s the finished version of our first LC101 JavaScript assignment:

Screenshot from LaunchCode’s JavaScript unit. 

Like, oh man. How did they know I wanted to make…whatever this thing is?

I think I feel compelled to describe all this because I want to give myself (and maybe you as well, dear reader) permission to learn the pretty stuff first.

I’m realizing that to be a successful front-end web designer, you don’t really need to be a JavaScript wizard. To make the portfolio website I used Bootstrap, Superslides, typed.js, and other code that was already written by wildly talented people for me and anyone else and free to use under the MIT license.

And even though I will copy and paste that stuff all day long, I think I may have even learned something despite myself.