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Lesson 0 - Introduction

Welcome to Web Development at Berkeley's Introduction to Full-Stack Development DeCal!

Welcome! Learning a new skill set, whether you're a seasoned developer or an interested beginner, can always be a daunting task. Full-stack web development, with its many aspects, facets, and tools can be especially daunting to newcomers, and having years of programming experience may not necessarily help you if you're never learned these tools or the skillset required to be a developer before. This is going to be a long journey, but by the end of our curriculum, you'll have a solid grasp of web development (hopefully), along with an introduction to tech culture, the tech community, and the tools you need to succeed in any engineering-related role.

At times it may feel as if all you're learning is what to google, or what tech YouTubers to watch to solve a problem, or even how to say big words without understanding their meaning - we're here to tell you that that's perfectly normal. If you ever feel out of place, or that you may not be up to the challenge, I can assure you that we've all felt that way at some point in time. Every programmer in their learning journey has had moments where they've wondered if they were cut out for the job, but what separated the ones who succeeded and the ones who didn't were making sure that those thoughts didn't stop them from achieving their goals.

tip

Hey there! Full-Stack Development is super difficult, and it takes most people 1-2 years before they're able to truly understand the field well. Don't be afraid to ask questions and just keep plodding forward. Trust in the process and it'll all make sense eventually!

Tips to Succeed In This Course

Contrary to what many people believe, you do not have to be a wizard with math to write code. The two subjects share some overlap but also are quite different. Many artists, lawyers, historians, linguists, and others have great success learning how to code. Don't let those preconceived notions hold you back at all.

Also keep in mind that this is hard. Learning how to code is hard. It's similar to learning a foreign language where you have to learn a lot of small pieces of information to be able to make sense of the larger picture. It's easy to feel discouraged, especially when you feel like you should get something but don't. Keep your head up and keep trying. Walk away from the problem and come back later. Try explaining your problem to someone / your dog / a rubber ducky (seriously, it works.)

Never feel afraid to Google anything. Every programmer you know, from the top person in the field to the newest student is Googling things constantly. This isn't cheating; it's a skill. It's a requirement. There is so much information coming at you that cannot possibly remember it all. Copy and paste code. Look at StackOverflow. Ask dumb questions. You get better by repeatedly exposing yourself to information. Each time a bit more will sink in.

Don't try to understand every piece all at once. There are times where it's okay to just trust that something works and come back later to understand how. It's a tough balance because you do want to try to understand what's going on. I'll try to signal to you what's worth diving into and what's worth leaving for another day but just know you don't have to understand it all at once.

Lastly, this isn't a get-rich-quick scheme. Learning to code is hard and requires a lot of hard work. While entry-level jobs are out there and you can get them with months of work, I guarantee you you'll have to work hard for them.

Your TA's for this semester

Kimberley Fan

Kimberley Fan

Facilitator

Hi everyone! I'm Kimberley and I'm studying computer science from Walnut, California. I really like building websites from the ground up and being able to help other peers enjoy it too is fun to me. Besides web development, I'm into aesthetic cafes, anime, and kdrama, screaming, and retail therapy. Feel free to hit me up for whatever!

Dhruv Vaish

Dhruv Vaish

Facilitator

Hi y'all! My name is Dhruv and I'm an EECS + BioE major from Santa Clarita, CA. I love anything about smart software design and organization and accessibility, in my case accessibility in healthcare. In my free time, I like to watch Netflix, listen to music, eat, and take adventures on the BART. See you all soon!

Alex Wu

Alex Wu

Full Stack TA

Hi everyone! My name is Alex, and I am a fourth-year computer science major. Besides web development, I love drawing prototypes on Figma and building startups. In my free time, I practice magic & cardistry and play chess & hearthstone.

Vicky Li

Vicky Li

Design TA

Hello friends! I'm a 3rd-year majoring in Computer Science. I'm from Minnesota so if you really like snow you can ask me questions about it. Anyway, other than that I love to dance, play Toon Blast on my phone, code, and make websites look sexy. Excited to meet you all, get hyped for an amazing semester!

Samarth Goel

Samarth Goel

Full Stack TA

Hey there! My name is Samarth and I'm majoring in CS and Business. Web Development and Education are both huge passions of mine, which is why I'm so excited to be helping with the Full-Stack DeCal. Besides coding, I practice martial arts, play guitar, and play the drums in the cal band.

Rachel Ng

Rachel Ng

Backend TA

Hi I am Rachel! A senior studying environmental science & data science :~) I am excited to share and learn alongside everyone!! in my free time I like to climb, run and maybe read!!!

Nitya Krishnakumar

Nitya Krishnakumar

Frontend TA

Hi! I’m Nitya, a junior studying CS from Portland OR. I love web development so I’m super excited to be teaching this class! In my spare time, you can find me watching TV, beating my friends at card games, and catching up on sleep. Looking forward to meeting everyone this semester!

Rebecca Won

Rebecca Won

Frontend TA

Hi, I am a sophomore studying CS and this is my first semester being a course staff at WDB. I started learning web development with this decal and I am super excited to help you guys learn web dev at WDB just like how I started my learning! Outside of web development and teaching, I like to binge watch movies and try out some nice foods :D

Neil Kamdar

Neil Kamdar

Frontend TA

Hey! My name is Neil and I'm a 3rd year majoring in Computer Science from Orange County, CA. I love web development because it allows me to creatively solve any problem and make it usable for anyone. My interests include playing pickup basketball, finding new places to eat, and exploring trails and cities. I'm really excited to TA this semester!

Joshua Tsai

Joshua Tsai

Backend TA

Hello, I am a sophomore studying EECS. This is my first semester on WDB’s course staff and I am excited to meet you all.

Emir Karabeg

Emir Karabeg

Fullstack TA

Hey! My name is Emir, and I’m a sophomore from SoCal studying CS and Data Science. I love to ski (go Cal Ski Team), play video games, spearfish, and build startups. It’s my first semester in WDB, and I’m excited to meet everyone and get to know y’all!

Isabel Zheng

Isabel Zheng

Design TA

Hi all! I’m Isabel, a 2nd year Data Science major from LA. I love all things out of the box and empathetic, especially within tech. Outside of web development, you can find me watching astronomy videos, cafe hopping (peep the cafe pic), and listening to Ichika Nito.

Why was this course created?

I firmly believe that web development is an indispensable skill in today's online society. Every idea, organization, and initiative needs some sort of online presence in order to grow and succeed, and the internet is the backbone of our modern society. In order to create a startup, web development is needed. In order to start a club, you need a website. In order to succeed at a hackathon, web development skills are typically indispensable.

Web Development comes in all shapes and sizes, from API Development to easily using Artificial Intelligence to connecting people all over the world. Web Development is far more than just creating a website, and the skills that fall under the field of web development are an essential tool for anybody looking to create something cool.

Why then, is Web Development so undertaught in the UC Berkeley community? Courses like CS 169 (Software Engineering) are typically inaccessible to non-CS majors and use outdated technologies. Decals like the Web Development and Web Design Decals teach the basics, but they don't cover the tools that are actually used in the industry to create beautiful and functional web applications at scale. Lastly, while there are a few clubs that offer Web Development experience to students, this experience typically consists of working with real clients, and these clubs can often require high levels of experience to join.

With all these factors in mind, we set out to create Web Development at Berkeley's Introduction to Full-Stack Development DeCal, a course where students with all sorts of backgrounds and experiences with development and design could come together to learn these fundamental technologies while also learning about the tools used by professionals, to create meaningful projects that serve as opportunities to learn, and get the chance to gain real-world experience by (hopefully) joining WDB as an industry developer or designer, all in a no-pressure, supportive environment.

We want each and every one of you to succeed and have the ability to build whatever you want, and to that end, we've created this course :) hope y'all enjoy it!

tip

The course staff cares about one thing - making sure that you can learn and succeed in this course. Don't hesitate to contact us with any questions or comments as the course proceeds!

Syllabus

Before continuing, please look over the Course Policies to get an idea of how this course is structured, what you'll be learning, and what our expectations are.

Important Logistics

  1. All materials are on this course website. This includes course readings, homework, and projects
  2. All communications will happen on Slack. You will be invited to the slack workspace if you are enrolled in the course.
  3. Read through the Course Policies for information on grading, absence policies, and more if you haven't already. This is incredibly important for you to understand how to succeed in this course

What You'll Be Learning

A big part of what's hard upfront is all the terminology people throw around when talking about programming and web development. Some of it is unavoidable due to this being a separate field of thought, study, and practice, and then some of it just people inflating their egos by using esoteric and/or academic terms to describe something that could be described in much simpler terms.

Some of these words you really need to know (like HTML tags, functions, scope) and some you can just ignore (like monads and functors.) We'll try to differentiate that for you. But if there's a word you keep seeing here often or hear often in the context of what you're studying, it's probably a good time to go look it up and get a good grasp on it.

Let's fundamentally define what you're going to be learning in this course.

You will learn everything you need to know to create your own website, from back to front. In order to do this, you will have to learn several "languages." I put languages in quotes because not all of these are technically languages but it's a good approximation for now. For now, we're calling them languages. The first three languages you are going to learn as part of our "basic stack" are HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

The House Metaphor

HTML - THe Frame

Why do you need three languages? Let's make the imperfect metaphor of building a house. To build a house you need tools (like your text editor, your browser, your command line.) After you have tools, you need all the building material: the 2x4s, the shingles, the dry wall, the windows: all the things you need to put together to make a house. This is the HTML, or hypertext markup language. However this house thus far isn't going to be very pretty to look and not very functional. It's not going to have any color or any sort of elaborate structures. It's going to be bland, inert, and boring.

Likewise, you can create a website that's just HTML but it's going to be a black-and-white text document with no style or interactivity.

CSS - The Decorations

In order to arrange, style, and generally make this house more useful, you're going to have some blueprints. In an overly-reductive way, you could think of the blueprints as being a set of rules: this 2x4 goes here, that shingling goes on the roof, this particular wall be blue, and this window goes here. You define a bunch of rules that dictates that if some item matches this condition, then some rule is applied to it.

If it is a 9x15 wall, it goes on the south side of the house. This is the CSS of your house, or the cascading style sheets. CSS is a series of rules that define that if you are an HTML thing that matches this condition, then apply some style to it. If you are the first paragraph in an article, your font size is 25px and your font color is blue.

JS - The Interaction

Okay, so now we have a well arranged and nice looking house. Now, being the modern age and me wanting all the gadgets, I want to install a whole slew of smart home devices. I want it so when I pull in the driveway with my smart-enabled car that the garage door opens, the lights turn on, the thermostat turns on the heat, the TV is set to continue my favorite TV show, and the smart cooker begins cooking dinner.

I am adding behavior to my house; I am adding a layer of programming on top of what exists. This is like frontend, or client-side, JavaScript. It's adding a layer of behavior on top of your website. Do you want to pop up a message if a user clicks a button? Do you want to refresh the stock-ticker on the page so it's accurate? Do you want to change the picture that's showing on your page every few seconds? These are things you'd typically do with JavaScript. And like all the smart home devices, having JavaScript on your page isn't always necessary.

This website, for example, probably wouldn't need javascript (it's actually just markdown), but any interactions that you see (for example the scrolling sidebar on the right or the dropdown menus on the left) use Javascript to add animations and additional spice to the website.

Backend - Services

Now, if I want to order delivery to my house, I have to call someone else. Someone not at my house. I'd use my smart assistant and ask them to call a pizza place and ask them to deliver pizza to my house. The pizza place in this example would be like a backend server. One pizza place can serve many houses, and it probably only does a few things (like make pizza, salad, drinks, etc.) and deliver that to all sorts of clients.

The clients, in this case, could be different peoples' computers, phones, smart assistants, smartwatches, smart ovens, who knows!? So one server can service many clients. In this case, we're just worried about people's browsers (like Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Safari, etc.) on their computers and phones. While the frontend code (the smart house stuff) is almost always in JavaScript (there's stuff like Web Assembly but for the purposes of this course just JS), the backend code can be in any number of languages: Python, Ruby, JavaScript, Java, Go, C#, etc.

Today we will only be using JavaScript on both the frontend and the backend so you don't have to learn two languages, but just know you could use a different language on the backend.

To recap:

  1. The HTML is the structure. It's going to contain all the text, the various images tied to the text, and it will generally group things together. Just like the drywall in your house, HTML doesn't do anything other than exist. It relies on other things to do things for it and to it.
  2. The CSS is the blueprint. It's all the rules of what goes where, what color it is, what size it is, what font it is, what the decorative background images are, like HTML, CSS doesn't do anything, it's just a set of rules that describe what things go where and how they look.
  3. The frontend / client JavaScript is the smart home. It's all the cool pre-programmed stuff you can tell your house to do. JavaScript is what can change the HTML and CSS to react to various stimuli.
  4. The backend code (we'll still use JavaScript) is the pizza place. It's a place where we can request things from and it will send back what we ask for. Or we can send things to it, like when you upload a new photo to your social media account. One server serves many clients, just like one pizza place serves many homes.

Evolution of the Web

Web 1.0

Web 1.0, also referred to as Syntactic web or read-only web was the first stage of the internet. The role of the user was static, they could consume information provided by content producers in the form of HTML and CSS.

This was before the widespread use of Javascript (which was created in 1995) and since Javascript is what enabled much interactivity, users couldn't actually interact with these sites.

Today, Web1.0 platforms are still common. Portfolio sites for example, can be completely static HTML and CSS pages with no interaction.

Web 2.0

Of course read-only is pretty boring, so when Javascript became more widespread developers went nuts to provide interaction to websites. Thus, Web2.0, also known as the Social Web or read-write web was created.

In this era, users can produce content and interact with websites. Today, most websites like Amazon, Twitter, ore ven this one are Web2.0 websites.

Web 3.0

I won't talk too much about this one since it's out of scope, but it's basically the semantic web (read-write-execute) and most commonly associated with Blockchain. feel free to google more about it.

The Development of Web2.0

HTML, CSS, and JavaScript are all powerful tools in their own right, and these are the languages that the entire internet is built on. Try inspecting the browser right click → inspect element. If you go to the "elements" tab at the top of the inspector, you'll be able to see the HTML, CSS, and some of the JavaScript for the site you're inspecting!

When Web2.0 first started, people manually wrote HTML, CSS, and JS files, linking them together and using Web API's to allow the JS to interact with the HTML.

When you write a webpage, the browser is what actually interprets and executes your code, rendering the HTML and CSS and executing the JS to make your site functional. All that you send is the code (today that often bundled and condensed).

info

Every browser decides how to execute your code differently. This means there are variances between browsers in how rendering and execution is handled, which can cause some nasty bugs on certain platforms even though the code works fine on another.

Today, much of HTML, CSS, and JS is standardized by various nonprofit organizations such as the HTML Living Standard or the ECMA Script standard for Javascript.

An example of a basic HTML site is below:

<!-- All of this would be in a file like `index.html` -->
<!DOCTYPE html>
<html>
<head>
<title>Page Title</title>
</head>
<!-- CSS -->
<style>
body {
background-color: powderblue;
}
h1 {
color: blue;
}
p {
color: red;
}
</style>
<body>
<h1>This is a Heading</h1>
<p>This is a paragraph.</p>
<span id="demo" />
</body>
<!-- Javascript-->
<script>
// This will set the `span` with an id of `demo` to have the child "Hello Javascript"
document.getElementById('demo').innerHTML = 'Hello JavaScript!';
</script>
</html>

However, you can quickly see how this can become a mess when having to deal with tons of interactions. For example, the simple act of "signing up" can involve over a hundred of lines of vanilla javascript. You have to watch for changes on inputs, collect these values in Javascript, handle when the user presses submit, deal with loading states, and deal with response dates (among other things).

Javascript libraries like JQuery were built to help this problem by giving Javascript more power in less lines of code by abstracting some of the tedious logic behind a library.

Even this wasn't enough, and thus frameworks were born.

Frameworks are tools or languages built on top of HTML, CSS, and Javascript to expand their power and make them easier to use. Some popular frameworks include React, Springboot for Java, and Flask for Python.

Frameworks can encompass Frontend, Backend, or even both (fullstack).

As you can see, the web is a series of abstractions around abstractions. Frameworks are simply abstractions around Javascript which is an abstraction around the instruction set for the browser to run your code. Pretty neat!

Now that we've introduced the concepts of frameworks, let's talk about the structure of the course and what frameworks you'll be learning.

How This Course is Structured

We've structured this course in a linear way that should make sense from a development perspective.

First, we'll be starting with basic HTML, CSS, and Javascript to give you the fundamental building blocks for creating websites.

After, we'll talk about Node.js (Javascript on your local machine) and npm (a package manager for Javascript) and some other common development tools

Next, we'll dive into React.js, a frontend framework created by Facebook and the most popular one today.

Once you've nailed the fundamentals of React, we'll start to look at Backend code, learning about HTTP and how to spin up your first Backend server.

With some knowledge of frontend and backend, we'll combine the two and create a full stack site that reads and writes data to a server.

To persist that data, we'll look at databases (specifically a NoSQL database called MongoDB) and hook it all together to make a username/password authentication flow.

Finally, we'll move to UI/UX principles. UI/UX stands for User Interface and User Experience respectively. UI is essentially the actual design of the site and what it looks like. UX is how easy the site is to navigate, how the user feels when they use the site, and essentially all about how accessible the site and the site design is.

Throughout this course you'll be applying your skills by building projects and websites that you can show off, pretty neat!

note

This is the best part about Web Development, a final product that you can show off to friends and lives permanently on the internet!

Getting Started

Tools

Before we get started, we need to set you up with all the necessary tools you're going to need to get up and going. I use macOS to write code on but nearly everything I'm going to suggest has Windows equivalents and some have Linux equivalents as well.

What's important here is that you find what works for you. Every developer has very strong opinions about their tools and will tell you that is some reason you have to use their tool. Don't listen to them. Find what works for you. If you find yourself fighting your tools more than they're helping you, consider trying something else. Keep an open mind.

What's shiny or popular is not necessarily going to work for you. Take time to invest in making your tools work the best for you. Small wins amount to huge boosts in productivity in the long term.

The Browser

One of your biggest allies in writing websites is the web browser. You may not be yet aware but your browser has a myriad of developer tools built into it that help you understand your code, helps you find bugs, and helps you experiment directly on your running website. All of the modern browsers are great and you can use any one of them to develop sites with. I recommend you pick one and really get to know its developers tools.

My Recommendation: Chrome

Chrome

Chrome dev tools are incredibly powerful, and it's the most-used web browser, so if it works on Chrome, it'll work for most of your users.

That being said, Edge, Safari, or Firefox are all very, very good browsers with great dev tools too. If you feel comfortable with one of these already, stick with it. If you're using Safari, make sure you enable dev tools.

The Editor

One of the most controversial things you can ask a developer is which editor is the best. There are so many strongly-held opinions that it's hard to tell which one is going to work for you. There are many flavors and it all depends on what you want out of your editor: do you want it to hold your hand as much as possible? Do you want it to get out of the way? I'm going to give you several choices but let's start with what I've been using.

My Recommendation: Visual Studio Code

Download Visual Studio Code

Super fast and easy to use, Visual Studio Code has a lot of convenient features and helpers while being relatively lightweight. It's free, open-source, and works well on Mac, Linux, and Windows. And perhaps one of the best features of VSCode is it has a huge amount of available plugins.

If you're not feeling VSCode, two other editors that are similar in their offering are Sublime Text 3 and Atom. Both are great. I used Sublime for CS 61A and still use it for everything I do with python. Both are free to download. Sublime has an unlimited trial that asks you to pay $80 when you can.

If you want a more complete offering, you may investigate using an integrated development environment (commonly called an IDE.) The reigning IDE for front-end development is WebStorm.

WebStorm is a very powerful IDE that has a lot of features and tools built into it. It aims to be more than just an editor; it aims to be the entire development suite.

This is my tool of choice and a great integrated solution.

Lastly, I'm going to simply state there are two more tools you could use: vim and emacs. These are tools that you use in the command line / terminal and use just the keyboard, no mouse. These tools have difficult learning curves, but once you're productive in them, they allow you to go very fast.

My advice for you is: don't, especially right now as you're learning to code. If you want to revisit it later then you could do that. But just know that it is indeed quite difficult.

The Terminal

You're going to have to learn to use a terminal during this course. It's less scary than it seems, I promise! There are two things to worry about when talking about the terminal, and I'll try to help you tell the difference between the two: the shell and the terminal emulator. The terminal emulator is the actual window in your operating system; it itself doesn't execute or understand your commands you're sending to it. The shell is the code running inside of the terminal emulator. This shell can be swapped out to whatever shell you want to run. Unlike the things I recommended above, these various terminal emulators and shells vary a lot more by operating system.

If this is confusing to you, it's okay. It's a minor detail that you can come back to later.

For the terminal emulator, it doesn't matter a whole lot which one you use. I personally use iTerm2 but you can just as easily use the default Mac Terminal.app or Hyper for Mac. For Windows, I'm told the aforementioned Hyper also works well as well as cmder. If you're on Linux, I'd say just use whatever the OS's default emulator is.

For the shell, we are going to use bash. You don't need to install it unless you're using Windows (then use these steps to enable it). It's 99% already there on your computer unless you're using some obscure flavor of Linux. Whenever you open your Mac terminal, it'll be running bash by default unless you've changed it.

There are other options. The reason we use bash is because it is so prevalent. Bash is everywhere. Everything you Google will have the answers written in bash. My favorite shell is actually fish but it's not very popular. Another shell people swear by is zsh. These are all very cool but I recommend looking at these later.

Trusted Resources

Something really important is that you choose to learn from good sources. Just like it's important to get your news from quality sources, it's important to get your technical information from sound sources. Here are some of my personal favorites:

  • For anything to do with HTML, CSS, or JavaScript, Mozilla's MDN is my go-to. I literally have it open all the time.
  • CSS Tricks has fashioned itself into a premier development website. It has great content not just for CSS but for HTML and JavaScript too. If I want a tutorial, I'll head there. If I want more technical how-to info, I head to MDN.
  • For video content, you really can't beat the content on Frontend Masters. I love it.
  • If I'm working with a library or a framework, it's a good idea to head directly to their GitHub (we'll talk about GitHub later) page or their official documentation. It's best to head straight to the source.

Frontend Masters also puts out a really awesome book every year called the Frontend Handbook. It's a good way to get an overview of the whole industry.

Installations and Basics

HTML, CSS, and JavaScript already come pre-installed on your computer, but there'll be technologies we utilize later in the course that you'll need to install in order to use. Along with that, you'll be using Github and Github pages to hold and showcase your homework, so you'll need to set up an account there. For the sake of time, we've decided to make setup and installation the first homework of the semester so that you have time to download everything you need and make sure it works without any pressure. Even if you think that you've already downloaded web development software in the past, please look through and complete the first homework in case we cover something you don't have.


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