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Once one of my non-programmer friends asked, "I have a cool website idea that I don't want to share. Rather I want to develop it on my own. So, I want to learn web development. Tell me what to do?"

And sometimes many other people asked about how to start with web development as a profession. But they are non-programmers or not from Computer Science background. What should I suggest to them? Learning programming from the scratch? Or using CMS-like tools? Or anything else?

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Tell your friend that his idea isn't that great. –  Tangrs Feb 11 '11 at 8:58
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3 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

It does of course depend on how complicated the idea is.

  1. Not too complicated = CMS based (lots of tools out there) - Drupal / Joomla / Wordpress / Modx / Django
  2. More complicatted = need to learn programming

Your non-programmer friend will need to take time and work out:

  1. Work out whether there IS something similar - market research
  2. What skills that will need to be learnt - PHP / Django-Python / Ruby-on-Rails / Clojure etc - Including business skills, collaboration skills, marketing skills etc
  3. Develop step-by-step goals to implement the idea
  4. Whether they are going to need investment type funding - Write up a business plan, have a snappy pitch
  5. Whether they have the FOCUS to carry a project through - These things take motivation, 'When the going gets tough, the tough gets going'
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+1: I'd remove the "not too complicated" vs. "more complicated" decision. Always start with established web site building tools until you can prove that your site requires programming. Always. –  S.Lott Feb 11 '11 at 11:53
And for 99% of 'new cool ideas', a CMS will be plenty good enough. :) –  sevenseacat Feb 11 '11 at 13:05
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Explain to them that it's going to be months, if not years before they're ready to develop a full-fledged web application. If he or she is still interested, then point them in the direction of some of the better web learning resources, like Html Dog, Try Ruby!, and Rails for Zombies. I have one friend who's an Architecture major, and he recently learned HTML and CSS in order to create an online profile. It can be done, but be sure they know how much work it's going to be, and of course offer up your services if it's a good idea (assuming you can program of course).

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And sometimes many other people asked about how to start with web development as a profession.

Here it is a simple answer - there is no way how to start it, because you cannot learn some skills needed for development. If you have them, in 99% cases you are already a developer.

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"because you cannot learn some skills needed for development" What do you mean with that? Of course people can learn these skills. –  pyvi Feb 11 '11 at 10:59
if someone don't have logical thinking, he/she cannot convert idea into algorithm, this people can just write code, but cannot develop. And don't try to say that anyone can learn logival thinking. –  SergeS Feb 11 '11 at 12:09
And anyone who isn't a developer yet can't think logically and thus can't learn it? Wow... –  pyvi Feb 11 '11 at 12:47
"If you have them, in 99% cases you are already a developer" - I think I know quite a number of people with the skills I think you're talking about and many of them are not developers. And what did people with these skills do, before there were software developers? –  FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Feb 11 '11 at 15:40
You wrote both "there is no way how to start it" as if anyone who isn't yet can't become one and "if you have them [logical thinking skills] in 99% cases you are already a developer". Newsflash: not every logically thinking person becomes a developer. –  pyvi Feb 11 '11 at 17:19
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