Reviewed: W3Schools, Codecademy and FreeCodeCamp

For some reason, I spent the entire day today (it’s almost 9 at night here) searching for good and free tutorials for web designing. I previously had studied from W3Schools but I wanted to see if others could help. The experience has been an eye-opener, to say it in a few words. Let me review each of them in a few lines.

W3Schools is completely text-based with every new item getting a ‘Try It Yourself!’ section of website for testing and understanding the working. It was a great site to quickly read through (and even download – though the site getting updated means the old one isn’t as good anymore) and these self-practice sections helped us play with options. But after seeing the other possibilities? I think it is more useful to be thought of as a reference site. It’s a great site, and more often than not I still think it is enough for basics, but to those who prefer videos in tutorials are going to be disappointed. One pro worth noting is that the site is free.

Codecademy is offering free lessons and practice but the main feature that lured me to the site – and believe me, that was not the option of more things to learn (though it did play a role) – was the prospect of using what we learned to carry out pseudo-real projects. That’s when I stumbled upon two of its major flaws. The more important one is that you are out of luck in the free account. Codecademy PRO offers access to everything while the free account cannot take quizzes or try projects. Personally, I would like to say that the inability to take projects doesn’t matter but I must confess that if the option were there, I would have gladly recommended it to everyone. The smaller issue, after being used to W3Schools, is the fact that the window is extremely disconcerting. There’s like 10% of vertical screen for text, rest all for practice (and preview). I think I would have liked the ability to resize the screen to be done with text first and then do practice (or maybe even have the text as a Lightbox screen (superimposed over the rest of the screen that can be hidden. Sorry, can’t think of a better phrase to explain). So, though there is a free, you are better off with a pro account.

FreeCodeCamp has two major advantages to its side: A very large active user forum and an open course that can be continuously edited and improved (including practice projects). The ultra huge disadvantages? The fact that the course is NOT good enough and this mediocre course asks for, theoretically, 200 hours for completion. (I will leave the mental math to you to figure out how you spare that much time and over how long a time). You can go through earlier challenges in a breeze but that doesn’t mean you know all there is to know or that you understand what you’re doing and why you’re doing things. Plus, in the initial challenges, there was a lot, and I mean a lot of repetition in the challenge objectives. Plus, it suffers from a screen division issue like Codecademy. So there’s that. The course isn’t even complete but a major advantage over others was that it gave me a pathway on how to go on developing myself. The ‘MAP’ gives a complete idea of how you’ll develop as a Front-End Developer (developing the looks), Data Visualization (no idea, sorry) and Back-End Developer (developing the hidden infrastructure).

So basically, this is my report:

W3Schools is good for reference. Codecademy PRO seems good to work without any substitutes. FreeCodeCamp is good for projects after you’re done with theory and need to figure out how to go on learning.

If luck ever favors me again, there will be review of other sites that I may end up checking out.