Getting Out of Tutorial Hell

Self-taught developers almost always have some experience with getting trapped in and escaping tutorial hell. I'm not exactly sure when or where this term came from, but it does accurately describe the trap that it becomes. So, I want to talk about what tutorial hell is, how it's so easy to get trapped in it, and a couple strategies that you can use to get out and stay out. I see this happen a lot with my fellow self-taught developers; however, I'm sure this can and does happen to those that have gone through bootcamps and universities as well so hopefully this is of some use to everyone.

What is Tutorial Hell?

Tutorial hell is the term used to describe the cycle that most beginner developers get into when they start learning how to code. The cycle starts by watching some tutorials to learn something like HTML and CSS. Then, you try to build something but immediately realize you need to learn JavaScript to make that project into what you really want it to be, so you start another tutorial project to learn JS. Once learning JavaScript, you either continue building the original project or you start a new one and then realize you need to learn something else.

This cycle continues to get more difficult to break because of the nature of the tutorials themselves. When you follow along with a tutorial, someone else has already gone through the project, completed all the research, made everything work, fixed any bugs, and streamlined the entire process so you don't encounter those errors. This makes you increasingly uncomfortable with encountering issues, because you rarely, if ever, encounter them when learning.

Break the Cycle

Until you break this cycle, you will forever be in tutorial hell. So, how does one do this? Build something. Literally, anything you can think of, the simpler the better. If you are learning HTML and CSS, recreate a landing page of a website that you like. If you are learning JavaScript, build a contact form. Once you have a couple small projects under your belt move on to something a little more complex.

The whole point here is to get comfortable with learning on the fly. You will rarely ever have all the information and know everything you need to know when building something, so you will need to be able to learn quickly WHILE building projects. Also, stop being scared of Google. If you are running into an issue, chances are, many others have run into that same issue before meaning the answer is almost always somewhere online.

Prevent the Cycle

If you have never had to endure the mental toll of being trapped in tutorial hell, then congratulations to you! You either have a lot of confidence in your ability to solve problems and learn quickly, or you have yet to get through your first tutorial. For the latter, there is a very simple strategy you can use to make sure you never get sucked into the habit of watching tutorials back to back.

When working on a project through a tutorial, let the instructor explain what they are going to do, (they almost always do this before actually doing it) then pause the video and do it yourself first. You may not complete the task exactly the way they do, but that's the point. It will teach you to be comfortable with doing something in a different way compared to someone else. Just because your thought process is not the same as another developer does not mean that your way is not correct.

Teamwork will always be an important aspect of any developer's career, but having the ability to be autonomous is also a highly sought-after skill. If you learn and practice without the hand-holding nature of tutorials, you will also be teaching yourself to work autonomously.


Basically, Tutorial Hell is a real thing, and it's really good at trapping unsuspecting beginners who are curious about the field of software development. Don't get sucked into the hand-holding learning methods of tutorials by only using the tutorials as a reference and you will keep yourself safe. If you have been trapped and are looking for a way out, start building stuff, and more importantly, start breaking stuff so that you can start fixing stuff! In the words of the legend Danny Thompson, "You ABSOLUTELY got this!".