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Review: React for Beginners by Wes Bos (Plus FREE Javascript and Markdown Courses You Can Take!)

Wes BosI’ve recently been writing some web apps.  I’m not a web pro, but have done software development non-professionally since before the personal computer existed.  Back when I started emitting HTML in the 90s, the model was submit-and-refresh – in fact, when I started, Perl was the new hotness in web languages (PHP came soon after).

Fast forward and in 2022, and submit-and-refresh is still a thing.  You can write these sort of apps much more easily today using Laravel or Ruby on Rails or a thousand others.

But we’ve also moved on to modern, never-refresh, single-page apps where essentially the page just loads a Javascript engine that does everything else.  You still need have a back-end that speaks JSON and takes the POST, PUT, DELETE, GET, etc. requests.  The back-end can be written in anything – Javascript via NodeJS is popular, though I’ve been using Go.

For the front-end there are a number of major options – from rolling your own Javascript to big frameworks backed by tech giants, such as Angular (Google) and React (Facebook).  I played with both and found the component-based approach of React a lot easier to digest and decided to write the client side with that framework.

All that was left was to learn it from scratch 🤭 To do that, I turned to an instructor I’ve used before: Wes Bos.

I bought his React for Beginners course several years ago, started it, and then got pulled away to other projects.  It lay dormant in my inbox for a while but I recently went through it again and was impressed!

Up front, let me point out that this course is 7 years old.  However, unlike many publishers, Wes keeps updating the shipped code so there is no rot.  Moreover, I went through it and found everything still very applicable and you’re not going to run into things that no longer work or are out of date.  I used the current versions of tools, npm libraries, etc. and the content still works great.

In the course, you build the “Catch of the Day” web site, a full-featured web app where visitors can select various seafood.  Wes provides all the CSS and art so you’re focused solely on the React portion of the work.  You start with a create-react-app scaffold and build each component by hand.  Wes also provides “stepped solutions” at the start of each chapter so you can always pick up at any point or reset your work.

catch of the day

The course starts with configuring tooling (and I really appreciate Wes’s detailed list of both his favorite utilities and VS Code extensions).  The course uses VS Code but you can use Sublime (he has a separate Sublime Power User course that I enjoyed) or any other editor you prefer.

There is an introduction to React concepts and then the bulk of the course is step-by-step building of the app.  You will quite literally watch Wes type every line of the app, explaining what each piece does.

After creating the React scaffold, you learn how to load CSS and work with JSX.  Then he walks through different types of components, and by chapter 10 (of 29) you’re already comfortable slinging components around.  The middle third of the course is all about states and events, and then the last third gets into advanced topics like authentication, ejecting, deployment, etc.

Wes also includes a lot of “you could also do it this way” – e.g., small components vs. stateless functional components.  And while the course is not on Javascript specifically, he does teach you a bit about it and includes some cool helper functions.

Of course, no course is any good if the instructor sucks – and Wes doesn’t!  He’s fun and you really get the sense that you’re sitting down with a pro who’s saying “let me teach you how to do this”.  He is not reading from a script and you’ll see code errors and compiles that fail which he goes back to fix and explains what the error means.  He’s a good speaker and a good teacher.

Wes offers other courses:

There’s are a FREE JavaScript course where you build 30 different things in 30 days, and a free Markdown mini-course.

I’ve learned a lot from Wes and am starting his Advanced React course soon.  I recommend him as an instructor.  Have you tried any of his courses?  Please comment below!

 

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