Introducing the MDN Web Docs Front-end developer learning pathway

The MDN Web Docs Learning Area (LA) was first launched in 2015, with the aim of providing a useful counterpart to the regular MDN reference and guide material. MDN had traditionally been aimed at web professionals, but we were getting regular feedback that a lot of our audience found MDN too difficult to understand, and that it lacked coverage of basic topics.

Fast forward 5 years, and the Learning Area material is well-received. It boasts around 3.5–4 million page views per month; a little under 10% of MDN Web Docs’ monthly web traffic.

At this point, the Learning Area does its job pretty well. A lot of people use it to study client-side web technologies, and its loosely-structured, unopinionated, modular nature makes it easy to pick and choose subjects at your own pace. Teachers like it because it is easy to include in their own courses.

However, at the beginning of the year, this area had two shortcomings that we wanted to improve upon:

  1. We’d gotten significant feedback that our users wanted a more opinionated, structured approach to learning web development.
  2. We didn’t include any information on client-side tooling, such as JavaScript frameworks, transformation tools, and deployment tools widely used in the web developer’s workplace.

To remedy these issues, we created the Front-end developer learning pathway (FED learning pathway).

Structured learning

Take a look at the Front-end developer pathway linked above  — you’ll see that it provides a clear structure for learning front-end web development. This is our opinion on how you should get started if you want to become a front-end developer. For example, you should really learn vanilla HTML, CSS, and JavaScript before jumping into frameworks and other such tooling. Accessibility should be front and center in all you do. (All Learning Area sections try to follow accessibility best practices as much as possible).

While the included content isn’t completely exhaustive, it delivers the essentials you need, along with the confidence to look up other information on your own.

The pathway starts by clearly stating the subjects taught, prerequisite knowledge, and where to get help. After that, we provide some useful background reading on how to set up a minimal coding environment. This will allow you to work through all the examples you’ll encounter. We explain what web standards are and how web technologies work together, as well as how to learn and get help effectively.

The bulk of the pathway is dedicated to detailed guides covering:

  • HTML
  • CSS
  • JavaScript
  • Web forms
  • Testing and accessibility
  • Modern client-side tooling (which includes client-side JavaScript frameworks)

Throughout the pathway we aim to provide clear direction — where you are now, what you are learning next, and why. We offer enough assessments to provide you with a challenge, and an acknowledgement that you are ready to go on to the next section.


MDN’s aim is to document native web technologies — those supported in browsers. We don’t tend to document tooling built on top of native web technologies because:

  • The creators of that tooling tend to produce their own documentation resources.  To repeat such content would be a waste of effort, and confusing for the community.
  • Libraries and frameworks tend to change much more often than native web technologies. Keeping the documentation up to date would require a lot of effort. Alas, we don’t have the bandwidth to perform regular large-scale testing and updates.
  • MDN is seen as a neutral documentation provider. Documenting tooling is seen by many as a departure from neutrality, especially for tooling created by major players such as Facebook or Google.

Therefore, it came as a surprise to some that we were looking to document such tooling. So why did we do it? Well, the word here is pragmatism. We want to provide the information people need to build sites and apps on the web. Client-side frameworks and other tools are an unmistakable part of that. It would look foolish to leave out that entire part of the ecosystem. So we opted to provide coverage of a subset of tooling “essentials” — enough information to understand the tools, and use them at a basic level. We aim to provide the confidence to look up more advanced information on your own.

New Tools and testing modules

In the Tools and testing Learning Area topic, we’ve provided the following new modules:

  1. Understanding client-side web development tools: An introduction to the different types of client-side tools that are available, how to use the command line to install and use tools. This section delivers a crash course in package managers. It includes a walkthrough of how to set up and use a typical toolchain, from enhancing your code writing experience to deploying your app.
  2. Understanding client-side JavaScript frameworks: A useful grounding in client-side frameworks, in which we aim to answer questions such as “why use a framework?”, “what problems do they solve?”, and “how do they relate to vanilla JavaScript?” We give the reader a basic tutorial series in some of the most popular frameworks. At the time of writing, this includes React, Ember, and Vue.
  3. Git and GitHub: Using links to Github’s guides, we’ve assembled a quickfire guide to Git and GitHub basics, with the intention of writing our own set of guides sometime later on.

Further work

The intention is not just to stop here and call the FED learning pathway done. We are always interested in improving our material to keep it up to date and make it as useful as possible to aspiring developers. And we are interested in expanding our coverage, if that is what our audience wants. For example, our frameworks tutorials are fairly generic to begin with, to allow us to use them as a test bed, while providing some immediate value to readers.


We don’t want to just copy the material provided by tooling vendors, for reasons given above. Instead we want to listen, to find out what the biggest pain points are in learning front-end web development. We’d like to see where you need more coverage, and expand our material to suit. We would like to cover more client-side JavaScript frameworks (we have already got a Svelte tutorial on the way), provide deeper coverage of other tool types (such as transformation tools, testing frameworks, and static site generators), and other things besides.

Your feedback please!

To enable us to make more intelligent choices, we would love your help. If you’ve got a strong idea abou tools or web technologies we should cover on MDN Web Docs, or you think some existing learning material needs improvement, please let us know the details! The best ways to do this are:

  1. Leave a comment on this article.
  2. Fill in our questionnaire (it should only take 5–10 minutes).

So that draws us to a close. Thank you for reading, and for any feedback you choose to share.

We will use it to help improve our education resources, helping the next generation of web devs learn the skills they need to create a better web of tomorrow.

The post Introducing the MDN Web Docs Front-end developer learning pathway appeared first on Mozilla Hacks – the Web developer blog.

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