How do you break into web development?

My students ask me: What programming language should I learn? What do I need to break into web development? Where’s the hot demand?

I usually ask them if they’ve already made a religious choice in terms of languages or platforms. If they haven’t yet, here’s what I suggest as a first-hand observer of the Albuquerque IT market:

Think more in terms of running like mad to keep up with what the market demands.

There is lots of demand for XHTML, Javascript, PHP, Python, etc., and will be for a long time to come. Definitely learn to look at this stuff and understand what’s going on.

The hot areas are: heavy-duty web platforms like Joomla!, Plone and OpenWiki; much lighter-duty small-site platforms like ExpressionEngine and WordPress; and mobile device development.

You need to understand some amount of code to work with the last (mobile devices). There are two ways to do handheld development: learn Java (for Android) or ObjectiveC (for Mac iOS). This amounts to suffering and agony, unless you’re a hard-core propeller-head coder. Or do an emerging style of mobile development that treats it exactly like web app development: Javascript, XHTML, back-end PHP. This area is burning, burning hot, if you’re already an experienced coder.

Perhaps the more designer-oriented platforms are ExpressionEngine and WordPress. Both of them are easy, and you can get great functionality while devoting your energy to designing custom sites.These are a great place to start.

People who have been at the game a while tend to gravitate to one or another of the heavier-duty platforms. Check out my Content Management Systems Overview in my Courseware area for some details and comparisons. And of course CMSs aren’t the only game in town; custom coding in take-your-pick of programming languages remains in substantial demand.

Welcome to the party. Hope you have a good time!