This Artist Learned To Code By Building A Website Every Day For 180 Days

Instead of learning to code from a course or a book, Jennifer Dewalt dove into coding with no experience whatsoever. This is what happened.


If you want to learn to code, there are plenty of options. You could sign up for Codecademy or an online Stanford course, download a book about Ruby or watch YouTube videos about Javascript.


Or you could do what artist Jennifer Dewalt did: Decide to build 180 websites in 180 days and Just Do It.

“I knew I wanted to code,” says Dewalt. “But every resource I found was like a giant wall I couldn’t penetrate.” Instead of picking a programming language, she decided she would pick concrete projects, and execute, one per day, for about six months.

It was a big shift for a fine artist. Day one, she decided to create a simple homepage: just a few lines of static text. It took her all day. “I was like, ‘It doesn’t matter how bad it looks. It just needs to be done,’” she recalls. “At first that was very hard to get over.”

The daily routine turned into 10 hour days in the office–including an hour spent deploying and debugging and another hour spent writing explanatory posts for her blog–and it remained more or less the same even as the websites grew more complicated. Not that the creative process became any smoother. “There was an existential crisis for the project almost every day,” she says. “There was one day where it was 11 o’clock, and I go ‘Holy crap, this all just failed.’” Scrapping the day’s work at literally the eleventh hour, she whipped up a little homage to Magritte called “Screwdriver” (day 124). (She is an artist, after all.)

But she did it: She made a website every day for 180 days. When Dewalt got stuck, she would turn not to friends or books but to resources on the Internet, like Stackoverflow. “It’s a matter of just knowing where to look,” she says.

Over the 180 days, you can see a clear evolution. Her personal favorites are all from the last month.


There’s “Audio Garden” (day 165), a website with an expanding circle that sounds tones when it hits smaller dots created by users’ clicks.

There’s “How We’re Feeling” (day 178): A display that shows how many tweets have hashtags like “awesome” and “angry” in real-time, along with an overall “positivity rating.”

And there’s Dewalt’s favorite as an artist, “Electro Bounce” (day 169), which, like the best art, defies easy description. It’s like a create-your-own screensaver, only much cooler. Just try it.

Speaking on what would have been day 181 of the project, Dewalt recommends her approach to others, but also points to its limits. ”Building one website a day is great for getting off the ground, but obviously in the real world projects last significantly longer,” she says. Next, she wants to take on some of those multi-day projects, and also flesh out her back-end skills and coding vocabulary.

Dewalt still has plenty to learn, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. “You don’t really need to understand what’s going on in order to make things happen,” she says.

About the author

Stan Alcorn is a print, radio and video journalist, regularly reporting for WNYC and NPR. He grew up in New Mexico.