(+) Best Online Courses #8

The Web Developer Bootcamp on Udemy by Colt Steele

I should begin by noting that this “Best Online Courses” series is in no way meant to be in any qualitative order, because if it was, I probably would’ve started with this one. Since the Denver Public Library recently began offering free access to Udemy, I thought I’d take the opportunity to highlight one of Udemy’s top courses that IMO absolutely everyone should take on their journey to learn web development. Although this isn’t the first course that I’d recommend for those just getting started in learning web development, it’s a course that I consider an essential resource and by far one of the best on the Internet. If you haven’t already done this course and want to learn modern web development via HTML, CSS, and JavaScript (on both the front-end and back-end), I’d highly suggest stopping what you’re doing and doing this course first.

I originally completed this course myself in September 2017. Here’s the review that I originally posted on freeCodeCamp back then (with a few minor edits to bring it up to date):

This course may well be one of Udemy’s most popular courses by far with over 560K enrolled students as of today, beating out its nearest competitor, The Complete Web Developer Course 2.0 (which I previously reviewed as Worst Online Courses #1), by almost 200% of that course’s student enrollment. Created by Colt Steele, who’s worked at some of the biggest names in coding bootcamps and MOOC platforms including General Assembly, Galvanize, and Udacity, it’s a very extensive and wide-reaching course that more than lives up to its name as a virtual bootcamp and is elevated by its instructor, whose experience with coding education is clearly evident throughout its 46.5 hours. That’s certainly a big time investment, and most people will likely take at least a couple of months to get through it (if not longer)—it ended up taking me just about the whole summer of 2017 and I made the effort to make at least a little bit of progress almost every day.

Now the main difference between this course by Colt Steele and “The Complete Web Developer Course 2.0” by Rob Percival is in the tech stack that each course covers—Steele’s course covers the MEAN stack (MongoDB, Express.js, and Node.js, leaving out Angular), while Percival’s course covers the xAMP stack (MySQL and PHP, leaving out Apache). For me, having taken both courses now, I’m glad that I gained exposure to both tech stacks as they each have their pros and cons, but Steele’s course will probably feel more up-to-date for more people since the JavaScript ecosystem has been rapidly increasing in popularity in recent years. Additionally, Steele’s course covers back-end development (via Node.js, Express.js, and MongoDB) in depth to build a sample full-stack web app (called “YelpCamp”), while Percival’s course barely scratches the surface of PHP and relational SQL databases and doesn’t have an equivalent xAMP full-stack project. In the end, this made Steele’s course feel much more well-rounded than Percival’s, which had almost as much breadth of material but didn’t tie all of the topics together in the same way that Steele’s course did.

But despite the differences in subject matter, Steele’s course simply ended up being a huge improvement over Percival’s, so much so that it’s honestly just a no-brainer to take Steele’s course instead of Percival’s. Not only did Steele cover a dizzying array of topics from the front-end to the back-end, along with foundational and intermediate concepts like the DOM, JSON, RESTful APIs, authentication, authorization, and deploying web apps to Heroku, but he also explained all of his code line by line in plain English and made sure to cover some of the essential topics that every front-end Web developer should know, like using MDN as a reference, understanding the DOM, and knowing what the CSS cascade and box model are. None of these important topics were covered by Percival in his course, which contributed to making Percival’s course less comprehensive and distinctly inferior.

That’s not to say that Steele’s course is perfect though, because it definitely has its flaws. For one, Steele consistently misused the H1 through H4 header tags and never used them in order sequentially, demonstrating a lack of awareness on how to use them properly to establish document structure and hierarchy. Furthermore, for the Tic Tac Toe Board project in particular, he used an HTML <table> to implement the board layout instead of using DIVs, which is generally not considered good practice because HTML tables should be used primarily to display tabular data and not for layout purposes. Steele was also a bit sloppy in the spacing for his JavaScript code, and didn’t conform to any of the coding style guidelines established by Google, Airbnb, or Douglas Crockford. The HTML and CSS coverage both also came across as cursory and not very in-depth compared to courses available on Lynda.com, and the HTML coverage in particular wasn’t up to date with the latest HTML5-specific tags. There was absolutely no coverage on responsive Web development techniques either (like “mobile first”), or using responsive text sizing (by using either ems or percentages), or the accessibility implications of using the <strong> and <em> tags. Lastly, the closed captions automatically generated by Udemy were effectively useless as they showed the wrong word too often, particularly on key terminologies, so total beginners to Web development as well as non-native English speakers will likely get very frustrated by that.

Conclusion: For the most part, Colt Steele’s “The Web Developer Bootcamp” is an extremely well-crafted and well-rounded crash course (or comparable virtual “bootcamp”) on both front-end and back-end Web development using the MEAN stack—minus Angular (or React for that matter), of course. You’ll need to take a separate course for either Angular or React if you want to learn those! Steele is an effective & exceptional instructor and ties everything together so well by the end of the course that you’ll be amazed at how far you’ve come once you get there. Combine this with Brad Schiff’s “Git a Web Developer Job” course also on Udemy to form a one-two punch that will help you to truly begin to get job-ready as a Web developer!

Rating: 4 out of 5 (-1 for various technicalities detracting from the thoroughness of the material and demonstrating some poor practices)