I'm a developer in Melbourne, Australia, and co-founder of Hello Code.

Published Mon 26 November 2007

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Five easy things that make you a better web developer

At the moment, our company is looking for another junior web developer. We're targeting uni leavers, as we want someone we can mould into our idea of a perfect developer :) But the downside of this is that most of the applicants have very little commercial experience — they might have learnt how to code, but they don't have a clear idea of how it all comes together just yet.

With that in mind, here are five things that people with little experience can do that makes them a more rounded developer — without any more experience.

5. Be a passionate user of web services

If you're someone who uses Flickr for their photos, has a Facebook account and uses it regularly, uses Google Docs for brainstorming and making online lists... then you've gained yourself easy points. Without having written any more code, you already have a better idea of how web services work — what their interfaces look like, what little things make for a better user experience, and how it all comes together.

4. Write a blog

Sure, there are millions of blogs out there, but not everyone has one. The simple act of maintaining a blog puts you above the common man — it's just another indicator to us that you're involved with the web and you know what you're doing.

3. Have big ideas

You can't spend very much time browsing the tech blogs without realising that anyone can be the Next Big Thing these days. Launching a web2.0 startup is the tech equivalent of being a rock star — everyone has a dream of being one, and a good combination of skill, effort, and sheer luck can make it happen for almost anybody.

So it's pretty hard not to know this and read about it almost daily, and not have some big ideas of your own. The best way to show off these big ideas is by attempting to implement them — then you have an opportunity to say in the interview, "well I've written my own online file sharing service, just as a personal project". Of course, if you find a way just to mention your big ideas, and you're passionate about them, then that's almost as good.

2. Be curious

I think IT is the perfect industry for someone who is constantly curious and looking for great new ideas — because the industry is constantly changing, something new is always around the corner. And a good developer is a curious person who is constantly reading blogs and news about these great new services and technologies. Your quest for the next technology to play with should be an insatiable thirst — otherwise you're in the wrong industry. Well, unless you'd like to be supporting legacy VB6 code for the rest of your career.

1. Want to be better!

And of course, the single best thing you can do, without any experience, is to care about what you do and how you do it. A bad programmer says "I've faced this problem before, and this is how I fixed it". A good developer is constantly looking for better ways to solve problems, based on their tools and experience. It's hard to demonstrate this in an interview, but if you can say "I've taught myself how to use Photoshop" or "I've written a little project using AJAX to get a feel for it" — or even if you can just speak passionately about what is is you want to be able to do — then you're already miles ahead of the apathetic programmers that seem so prevalent these days. But that's a different post...

If you can think of any other tips for web developers, leave them below.

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