Best Books For Learning Web Development: The Ultimate Collection

Learning to code websites is a tough but rewarding goal. There’s a lot to learn and it takes quite a few months of practice to really get the hang of things.

But with the right learning resources anything is possible, and that’s exactly why I created this guide. It’s a complete list of all the best books you can use for learning web development from start to finish.

These should pair nicely with my best web design books and they’ll take you all the way from coding simple interfaces to more complex usable websites.

Frontend Books

When most people talk about web development they’re usually talking about frontend work: HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript.

Using these 3 languages you can build any website from scratch and get it working in all browsers. This is the best place to start and it’s crucial information for any aspiring developer. These are my top picks for frontend books regardless of your skill level.

Front-End Web Development: The Big Nerd Ranch Guide

big nerd ranch webdev

I’ve used many of the Big Nerd Ranch Guides and they’re all fantastic. But the book Front-End Web Development by Chris Aquino & Todd Gandee is absolutely fantastic.

This book spans the gamut of everything you’d need to learn to code functional websites. Each chapter delves into detail on the basic frontend languages, how they fit together, and how you should practice for the fastest learning process.

I absolutely recommend this book as a staple for anyone serious enough to dive in. By the end you’ll have a solid grasp of web development and a deeper understanding of the entire coding process.

Responsive Web Design with HTML5 and CSS3

responsive html css

Responsive web design is the new standard for building websites. More than 50% of the world accesses the Internet on mobile over desktop and this demographic is climbing quickly.

In the book Responsive Web Design with HTML5 and CSS3 you’ll learn all the fundamentals of these two crucial languages: HTML5 and CSS3. They’re the backbone of any website and they pretty much dictate how an entire website looks, feels, and operates.

This lengthy guide goes beyond the basics covering how responsive design is the new normal for the web industry. You’ll learn the best tools & techniques to use for modern web development, along with how to plan your website with a responsive-first mentality.

This may be somewhat advanced for a complete beginner but it’s definitely a valuable resource to keep on hand. I’d recommend this book along with the next one as a pair of resources for learning HTML/CSS development.

HTML & CSS

html and css

If you’re looking for a more specific introduction to coding websites then HTML & CSS is generally considered de-facto intro reading material.

These two languages are by far the easiest to learn out of all the languages you’ll find in web development. They also make up the building blocks of every website, using HTML to create page elements and CSS to style them.

In this book you’ll learn the purpose of these languages and why they’re so closely related. Every single person learning web development should start with basic HTML and CSS. From there you can always expand but this is the best starting point for any beginner.

JavaScript & jQuery

js and jquery

Another book I recommend by the same author is JavaScript & jQuery. This takes you onto the next “level” of learning by pushing you into JavaScript’s territory.

Many devs would agree that JS is much more like a programming language, so it’s a step up from the simpler HTML/CSS development work. When you write JS code you’re writing scripts to create behaviors on your webpage.

This book starts from the absolute basics of JavaScript and slowly moves you into the jQuery library. It’s a free tool that’ll help you build websites quicker and easier with fewer lines of code.

Definitely great reading material, but certainly not a great starting point for newbies. Make sure you already know how to code simple layouts before moving onto this book.

You Don’t Know JS: Up & Going

you dont know js

If you have some basic JavaScript knowledge then you may want to push yourself even further with best practices & coding standards. That’s where You Don’t Know JS can come in handy.

It’s a very short book with only 88 pages but it’s split into multiple titles. I actually recommend getting the digital version since you can download all the titles together onto one device and work through the lessons individually.

This series of books aims to improve your existing JS skillset by forcing you to think about the code you’re writing. How could it be more efficient? What are you doing that could be automated? Do you have any vulnerabilities in your codebase?

By working through these lessons you’ll learn how to improve your current workflow and how to build scalable JavaScript webapps.

Secrets of the JavaScript Ninja

secrets of js ninja

One other JS-focused book is called the Secrets of the JavaScript Ninja. It’s authored by a number of skilled developers including the creator of jQuery John Resig.

This book will take you from a semi-experienced novice to a pro in the field of JavaScript coding. As the title suggests, it really will teach you how to be a code ninja and whip up immaculate JS libraries from scratch.

Just note this book is very large totaling over 460 pages. It’ll take a long time to work through everything but I absolutely think it’s worth the investment.

Backend Books

The flipside of frontend development is the aptly named backend development. This code runs on the backend of the server where it’s not accessible to anyone.

Every major website you use including Google and Facebook have massive codebases on the backend. There are many different languages you can try, the most common is PHP since it powers over 80% of the entire Internet.

These books will help you get up-to-speed with PHP and a few other backend languages. But make sure you already feel comfortable with frontend coding before diving into the backend.

PHP for the Web

php quickstart guide

All of the Visual QuickStart Guides are fantastic on topics of coding & programming. Their newest edition of PHP for the Web covers everything you need to get started with basic PHP code(including the new PHP 7).

This book teaches you how to install PHP locally and how to build some really simple applications. You’ll also learn how to build custom web forms, how to store data in a database, and how to use all this information to create usable webapps.

Unfortunately this guide is very simple so it doesn’t get into OOP programming or any other advanced topics.

But this is actually a good thing for complete beginners who want a very gentle intro to the subject.

Learning PHP, MySQL & JavaScript

php mysql javascript

Dynamic websites often use JavaScript and PHP together so you can pass data on the frontend back to PHP without refreshing the page. This is how webapps like Facebook chat work.

If you want to create a similar dynamic webapp then grab a copy of Learning PHP, MySQL & JavaScript. It’s currently in its 4th edition with a whopping 800+ pages and tons of incredible reading material.

This book is not made for complete beginners so I seriously recommend starting with the QuickStart guide first. You should also have a little background in JavaScript, although you really don’t need to know much.

Over this massive tome of PHP/JS you’ll learn how to create MySQL-powered database apps that use JavaScript to pass data over to PHP files, then send data back to JavaScript so it can run in the browser.

If you’re hoping to create dynamic webapps then this book is a must-have resource. It’ll teach you the right way to do everything while teaching you the 3 most popular technologies for the job.

Modern PHP: New Features and Good Practices

modern php

In the incredible book Modern PHP you can dive deeper into PHP to learn about object-oriented coding, custom classes, libraries, and best practices.

The authors does not mince words or hold your hand throughout this process. You should already know a good amount of PHP before picking this up, or at least be willing to research and learn as you move along.

You’ll learn a lot about database connections and how to sanitize/escape user input as it moves to the backend. Everything in this book is still considered “best practice” so it’s a fantastic primer for a semi-experienced PHP dev to enter the world of professional programming.

PHP Objects, Patterns, and Practice

php objects patterns book

With the release of PHP 7 there’s a lot you should learn to build more optimize webapps. Most of the books in this list cover the fundamentals of PHP very well, and these fundies don’t change even in newer versions.

However PHP 7 is a lot faster and it’s good to know how to approach PHP development going forward. That’s why I absolutely recommend a copy of PHP Objects, Patterns, and Practice by Matt Zandstra.

It’s currently in its 5th edition with 580 pages and tons of content on the newer PHP 7 release. You’ll learn about OOP techniques, common web architecture patterns, and how to properly solve problems with the best solutions.

Only pick this up if you’re really pushing to go further with PHP and might even consider PHP development as a serious career.

Learn Web Development with Rails

php objects patterns book

Some developers want to avoid PHP because it’s generally slower and less organized than other “real” programming languages like Ruby. However Ruby code is much tougher to learn so there are tradeoffs.

But if you’re willing to learn Ruby for building websites then you’ll eventually find Rails. It’s a free coding framework built to make Ruby code easier to manage & more organized for the web.

And if you’re completely new to RoR(Ruby on Rails) then I absolutely recommend a copy of Learn Web Development with Rails. This book caters to beginners who just want a solid place to start learning the Rails framework.

You’ll work through custom web applications that force you out of your comfort zone with detailed web projects. This book is absolutely massive totaling 800+ pages in change.

However there isn’t much else I’d recommend for a beginner who wants to push their Ruby skills in web development. This guide is lengthy and definitely challenging but absolutely worth the effort.

Two Scoops of Django

two scoops of django

Another popular backend language is Python, although this is really just a full-on programming language. It can be used for anything from desktop software to mobile applications.

And much like how Ruby has Rails, Python has Django. This framework makes your task easier by simplifying the Python code you need for connecting to databases and building classes/methods/etc.

Two Scoops of Django is the strongest book on Django development covering all the practical aspects of building a Django website. It is not easy to work through and I absolutely recommend starting with regular Python before getting this book.

However if you’re adamant about building a Python-powered website then this book will help you get there much faster.

There are many other frameworks you could try but Django is the biggest with the most support worldwide. It’s practically a staple for any Python web developer and this book is my #1 pick for learning the ropes.

Node.js in Practice

nodejs in practice

One of the newest technologies in backend development is Node.js. This library lets you build fully JS-powered websites with JavaScript on the backend and the frontend.

The book Node.js in Practice is absolutely massive and one of the more technical introductions to the library. You should already have very strong JavaScript programming skills before even thinking about getting into Node.

It requires a special server environment which can be a pain to setup, not to mention you also need to learn how to connect this language into databases and related programs. But ultimately this adds up to a powerful environment where JavaScript reigns supreme.

If you’re brand new to web development I personally suggest sticking to PHP first. It’s the easiest backend language to learn and it’s the most popular out of everything.

But if you’ve got an itch for Node then this book will help you learn all the fundamentals plus a little more.

Picking The Best

It’s tough to whittle down this list since each person comes into web development from different skill levels with different goals.

But generally speaking I recommend starting with the Duckett book HTML & CSS, followed by his JavaScript & jQuery book. These two will give you a solid ground to stand on, and from there you can branch out into any language(s) that catch your attention.

However this is just my opinion and certainly not gospel. If you have suggestions for other related webdev books feel free to drop your ideas in the comments area below.

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