How to Learn JavaScript for Digital Marketing

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I’ve broken down my experience into 2 parts:

  1. 8 valuable lessons for JavaScript beginners.
  2. Free tools I’ve used to learn.

This piece should help anyone looking to start learning JavaScript some tips on how to learn it and what resources to use.


 

1. 8 valuable lessons for JavaScript beginners

 – It’s Not Easy, So Be Positive
 – Make Sure You Understand The Structure Of The Language
 – Use Real World Examples
 – Be Resourceful
 – Just Keep Going
 – Stand On The Shoulders Of Giants
 – Be Clear On What You Want To Achieve In Your Scripts
 – Review What You Do

It’s Not Easy, So Be Positive

JavaScript is a language.

Most humans take years to master their native language, some take longer to master the written language, so you shouldn’t expect to be a master after a couple of hours; it’s a constant learning process to be practiced and refined. If you do a couple of Spanish lessons, you might be able to order a beer, but you won’t be able to translate War & Peace.

A MASSIVE difference from learning a human language is that we learn by observing and listening to conversations from those around us. We copy what we’ve seen and repeat on an endless trial and error loop. It’s not just words though, there’s a long list of things that can make a simple sentence vary in it’s meaning: the punctuation, the context, the knowledge of the subjects being referred to, the tone of the persons speaking it; the list goes on.

A computer knows none of this!

In JavaScript, you are God creating the world from scratch. You’ve got to define all the elements you need (not earth, wind, water and fire, but the punctuation, the context, etc…) as well as telling it what to output and how it should be shown back to you.

Make Sure You Understand The Structure Of The Language

Looking at JavaScript with no knowledge is a daunting task because it’s so different to what we’re used to dealing with. Once you learn the structure of it, everything becomes clearer and easier.

JavaScript is a logical language with hierarchies, rules and dependencies. If you learn this foundation you make writing and debugging your code less difficult. One way I’ve done this is by making the code more tangible by visualising parts of the code as physical metaphors.

To tell a script to open my oven, I need to identify where it is, how to get there and what to do once I’ve found it.

I can’t say “House > Oven > Open Oven” because that doesn’t say where in the house it is, so the script won’t be able to find it. The way to the oven is “House > Ground Floor > Kitchen > Oven > Open Oven”.

Use Real World Examples

The most common questions asked by anyone wanting to get into the Digital Marketing industry are always: “What is the best way to learn SEO/PPC/CRO?” The answer is always “By doing it!”.

It’s like asking, “What’s the best way to learn guitar?” The theory helps, but real mastery comes from practicing and playing. The moments where I’ve felt the information really sinking in is when I’ve put knowledge into practice, like my PPC role, learning how best to approach Bid Strategies.

If you can’t immediately practice, then applying the logic to an everyday situation you’re used to is the next best thing (like opening an oven).

Be Resourceful

If you don’t have much real world stuff to apply the information to, there’s lots of stuff out there to help you along the way.
YouTube videos.
Online tutorials and interactive courses.
Technical documentation.
Online forums.

We all learn differently and different tasks require different support, so don’t be afraid to use multiple resources to support your learning.

But for all these resources, nothing beats the ability to speak one-to-one with someone more experienced to go through learnings (big thanks to Fountain’s Developer Extraordinaire, Daisy for being this person for me!). If you do know someone who already has these skills, speak to them or give them an I.O.U. for some of their time to help you out.

Just Keep Going

Persistence is key, it’s fine to take a break, but don’t leave it too long.

Brain not playing ball today? Give it a break and come back tomorrow! But make sure it really is tomorrow, as next week will be no good.

Practicing the same tasks over and over doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not progressing. Quite the opposite, it’s the process of understanding and more importantly retaining that understanding.

Stand On The Shoulders Of Giants

The internet and the coding communities are generally really open to sharing ideas and solutions to problems. There is almost always someone out there with more knowledge than you and are willing to share it. If someone else’s solution fits your problem – use it!

As long as you take the time to understand the advice and solutions, how they work and what they’re doing, then it’s a 3-way win:
Open your mind to new solutions that you wouldn’t find on your own.
Proactively working to the root of your problem.
Saving time.

Be Clear On What You Want To Achieve In Your Scripts

The balance of effort is 99% on the programmer. The code will run, but only from what you give it (remember, you are God!). That makes it key for you, as the programmer, to make the script as clear and easy to read as possible.

Whilst you’re starting to learn JavaScript, keep your functions simple. When you’re more experienced you can then integrate more functions and make them more complex.

Even the most experienced coder knows code can be long and tedious to go through, so good scoping and lots of helpful annotations will pay you back after the weekend and you can’t remember what “that” bit of code did, or what you were working on.

Review What You Do

If you’re clear with your scripting, reviewing will be easier.

Things always look clearer with the benefit of perspective (so long as you’ve annotated correctly). Going back after a little while lets you input new things that you’ve learned, debug with a fresh pair of eyes and helps clarify what you know.


 

2. What Free Tools Have I Used?

Codecademy JavaScript Course

With the language comparison earlier, you need to learn how the language is built to work: the do’s and don’ts, the structure, the syntax and lots of “best practice” rules.

Codecademy’s course provided a nice bitesize flow and a logical structure to outline the basic elements of JavaScript. The interactive elements are really helpful, and provide you with practical hints and tips to show you if you’re going wrong and what to do about it.

If you don’t get on with it there are loads of others out there too!

Google Sheets Apps Scripts

This is a nice safe playground for practicing JavaScript with a tool that ALL Digital Marketers need to use.

It opens up the possibility of automating tedious tasks within spreadsheets. Ben Collins’ introductory course was helpful in showing slight differences between standard JavaScript and how it is used within Google Sheets along with easy to follow tutorials.

Google Ads Scripts

There are lots of free Google Ads scripts available online.

Reading the code, annotating to understand what’s happening where and why is a great start to seeing how you can use and adapt these to suit your purposes in the future.

Google’s Ad Scripts support documentation can be very useful too.

Mozilla MDN Web Docs

This is a great resource for getting a better understanding of all facets of JavaScript, giving definitions and user cases of all the “out of the box” JavaScript terms and rules.

YouTube

We all know if there’s a problem, YouTube will generally have a video showing you a solution to it.

It provides everything from beginner courses to zoning in on specific problems, all for FREE (Like & Subscribe!)! The only thing that takes time is seeing which course is the best fit for you and how you plan to use coding.

14 July 2020

By Jamie Smith

Jamie Smith

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