6 basic mistakes all beginner web developers make

Jul 31, 2017

When Light Creative brought me on as a junior developer seven months ago, I thought it was a dream come true. I had gone through countless online courses and learnt the ins and outs of writing code. At Light, I thought I had found a place to unleash my newfound knowledge. But I was in for a shock over the next few months as I made huge mistakes, time and time again.

My mistakes cost weeks of work and caused headaches for myself and my managers. For the young and dumb developer, learning everything you need to function is not an easy task.

So today I’ll be divulging the biggest mistakes I’ve made, so that aspiring developers can avoid them at all costs.

1. Not following the designs

Designs are created with deep thought and care and handed over with lots of trust. But for most front-end web developers, designs are something you’ll probably think of as a guide and end up glossing over. So, it shouldn’t surprise you when designers easily see where your work differs from their designs and ask you to correct it. Designers have no problems with ordering you back to fix up a margin that's off by ten pixels. Learning to follow designs exactly will save mega time and keep your designers happy.

2. Getting into code debt

Code debt is a hot topic in programming. It’s a serious issue that eats away at your time. As you are writing your code, it will be ever so tempting to leave a task here or there undone. Or to make a quick fix that gets the job done but doesn’t follow standard practice. These very small problems will amass into a beast if left unaddressed.

I am telling you now that there is no worse position to find yourself in than drowning under a huge mess of code debt you’ve accumulated over the last couple of months. It might seem like hitting deadlines is worth cutting corners, but this is only creating more work for yourself (or the unlucky soul who has to fix all your work). To prevent bad code debt, any time you see a bug, or code that could cause a potential bug, immediately stop what you're doing and fix it.

3. Not browser testing everything

This is another lesson that’s usually learnt the hard way. When you finish your project, in your super modern browser, you get a great feeling of accomplishment. But what you don’t consider is that what you’ve just built is probably broken in 80% of other browsers currently in use. Though it may be tempting to quickly look through a couple of different browsers and handover the project, this will come back around and cost you a lot of time to fix.

And if you don't fix it, your client will call one day asking why their site is a steaming mess on their favourite browser - Internet Explorer 10. You’ll then have to spend the next day getting it working and checking back over every other browser too.

Once I was working on a big project and browser testing wasn’t done properly. All of a sudden someone noticed a few problems over a few different browsers. So I had to drop everything and spend a week straight browser testing over 100 different pages. To prevent this horror from ever happening again, I fully browser test all my work on all active browsers.

4. Not listening to your seniors

As a young hotshot developer, it’s tempting to think that you know everything under the sun.

But there is one fact that will constantly assert itself and bring you back crashing to reality. Your senior developers are much better than you. They have made all the mistakes you have yet to make. They have been through everything you have been through and know exactly where you’re at. When they tell you to do something a certain way, you should listen. Now this doesn’t mean not to question them or try to come up with better solutions than they offer. But keep in mind your senior developers are many steps ahead of you. Respect their authoritahh!

5. Anddd not listening to everyone else, too

Development is just one piece of the puzzle. Making assumptions about what designers, developers, and managers want will leave you with a product that’s off the mark.

As a developer, jumping into the mix of design and management can keep you in the loop and help you produce the work that’s needed.

Sometimes, I’ve solved a problem one way when working on a project, just to find it was the wrong solution for what we were trying to achieve. Though it’s tempting, don’t hide yourself in a productivity cave, hidden from others, and busting out endless lines of code. Staying in the loop with team members will keep your work on track.

6. Breaking things!

A final rule is not to break things. This might seem obvious but you would not believe how easily a project can be broken with one line of code. I have been guilty of this many times. To overcome this, a programmer must thoroughly test all their work. Never just assume something is going to work because your assumption will probably break something.

And those are the biggest mistakes a beginner programmer can make when first getting into the workforce. Take these lessons to heart and you will soar like an eagle (with super code abilities) and not be dragged down into any super-code-eagle traps.