How do i know if web development is right for me?

This is a serious concern where there are very few people that I can have this discussion with. I am having difficulties finding active online communities where I can share my struggles about this subject. While StackOverflow is a popular forum, this thread is not suitable for it.

A little background…I am a 24 year old male, disabled, and live at home. I haven’t worked a job since April 2017. My sole income is social security disability. I have Aspergers and mental health issues, which has caused significant difficulties for me in the workplace. I have held 17 different jobs; most of them I have been terminated from or forced to resign.

I come from an EMS background. I used to work in emergency services for 2 years. Before that, I worked various other jobs, such as lifeguarding and seasonal jobs.

About October of 2016, I decided to pick up web development. I was still working in EMS at this time. I had an idea for an elaborate web application I wanted to build, and these “drag-and-drop”-type online website builders (like Wix or Weebly) did not offer the features needed to build it. I knew that I would have to learn to code to achieve my goal. In addition, I though web development would be perfect because I could do freelance work and not have to communicate much with others.

I started with basic HTML and I worked my way up. I looked up web development and how to learn it, and I kept getting massive amounts of resources, I did not know what was right to choose. I ultimately started purchasing $10 courses on Udemy.

I moved on to learn CSS and PHP, and then I started building my project.

Fast forward to now…

I have spent months on a project using PHP and have scrapped it, then I started over again. And then I started another and spent months on it, then I scrapped that one too.

I keep trying to learn these new technologies, such as React and Node, and I feel like I cannot grasp it. I cannot understand the documentation whatsoever and reading articles online leave me confused with all the incomprehensible jargon.

I keep jumping from one Udemy course to another. I have probably spend hundreds of dollars at this point on Udemy courses. Some are either too simple; others are way too difficult to grasp. Some only touch up lightly on the subjects, like a basic tutorial. Some are outdated with depricated code. Many promise “this is the only web development course you need”, but this is very misleading. I don’t know what to trust.

I feel comfortable with HTML, CSS, vanilla Javascript, procedural PHP, and SQL. However, after 2 years of learning web development, I STILL DO NOT HAVE A PORTFOLIO.

I don’t know if I am going about everything correctly. I know only one person who is skilled in web development. However, he is busy with his job and cannot cater to me. I don’t expect him to either.

Research has left me feeling lost. I keep getting pointed in all different directions with little success.

Most say you don’t need a college education to pursue web development, but all I know is that I am struggling trying to learn on my own.

I keep reading all these success stories about people being able to pick up a job after only 6 months or so of learning web development. I have been doing this for 2 years and still nothing. I feel I have barely budged in my progress.

There are so many ways to approach my projects, I don’t know what to choose. Should I use PHP; should I use NodeJS/Javascript for my backend? Should I use a relational database or a noSQL database? If I do so, how do I integrate it with Elasticsearch. Should I use framework?

My web design skills suck. I am fearful (and quite burnt out) at this point to start my project over again. My code is difficult to alter because as you know with PHP, everything can become spighetti code and difficult to read and maintain.

I don’t feel confident in my abilities. I feel I am very mediocre in almost every aspect. I don’t know how to rate and gauge my own code to professional standards.

I am a perfectionist and very self-conscious. I have grown discouraged and feel lost. I am embarrassed to show all the incomplete work I have done.

At what point do I realize web development is not right for me? Should I continue what I am doing? Will I eventually hit a point where I will feel confident enough?

What I don’t understand are the people who are able to pick up these skills and learn all these different frameworks, libraries, and technologies with no formal educational background.

Brad Traversy for example, how the hell does he absorb all that knowledge and skill? There are people who know both the MEAN/MERN and LAMP stacks plus more and I am scratching my head wondering how.

You look at all these frameworks and 3rd party modules you would include with Node/Express for example, each has their own mini syntax and approach to it.

The thing is, I have been studying diligently these years. I hate to give up, but I also would hate to be wasting my time too.

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I ultimately started purchasing $10 courses on Udemy.

There are plenty of free resources out there, don’t spend another dime on anything else. No amount of courses will teach you experience.

I was going to jump into addressing each part of your post but it seems like most things boil down to a few things.

  1. Your a perfectionist, and thus having finished anything since it “doesn’t feel right”.
  2. Your having classic Impostor syndrome
  3. You don’t know what to use, since there’s so many choices.

I advise a few things.

  1. Don’t care about perfection, it will make you waste time worrying about the dumbest things I’m very much a perfectionist, and I usually keep a list of things that can be improved over time. But I don’t focus on it at that current time, there’s always something that can be done, but that doesn’t mean you should do it.
  2. Set a crazy short term deadline for yourself. Don’t understand Javascript + Nodejs? Then go build a basic express app in 1 week from right now. That might sound impossible, but its always possible if you set your mind to it and focus at the task at hand. You probably will fail, but in the time you fail, you will have learned more than you could of in a week of “studying” I always say you learn more by doing and failing than by preparing to do. Failure is very cheap in development, time is not. Spend most of your time failing instead of preventing yourself from failing and you will learn more.
  3. Pick an approach and stick with it. If you don’t want to learn Javascript or anything, then stick with PHP and run with it. Finish a basic version of your project in 2 weeks from the ground up. You will know where you stand as you go.
  4. Part of the journey is knowing how much you know, and the only way to know what you know is to challenge yourself until you reach your limit. So go out and see what you can accomplish in a short amount of time to see your real limit.

You may never feel confident enough, but that doesn’t mean you “can’t make it” There’s always more to learn, there’s always bugs in your code, there’s always more you can do, but that doesn’t mean your a failure it just means you need to keep learning, and working. It’s all part of the process of being a developer. Your never going to be magically the perfect developer, you can only add to your skills over time.

The road to be a developer is not an easy road to go through, there’s lots of twists and turns, and no clear road map. You can spend all your time analyzing the path to figure out which is the best way to go, or you can just start sprinting down one and see where it gets you. It could be a dead-end, or the wrong path, but starting over again is cheap (ctrl+z).

PS. portfolios are overrated if you have experience on github to show off, and or live projects to reference.


I am wanting to create a massive project for my city that combines a Q&A forum, reviews, dining listings, job listings and such. Businesses can create an account and add coupons. Everytime a user participates, he or she earns points. He or she can then exchange those points for rewards.

The issues I am having:

  1. Creating a resposive layout with all the content, especially designing the responsive navbar.
  2. Creating a forum where a user can insert images and rich text, then being able to validate it all. I don’t want a user to be able to use html tags, because what if they forget to add a closing tag, would that break the entire page. Also, what about malicious script tags and XSS attacks?
    If I use a wysiwyg, like tinyMCE, how do i validate it? It is difficult to find resources.
  3. How do I use a cropping tool like croppie for their profile images. Should I covert it to base64? How do i then validate the base64 on the backend to ensure it is a legitimate image?
  4. How do I integrate elasticsearch?
  5. My design skills suck.

Little things like that