Why is CoreDogs worth my time?

There are two questions here:

Why is learning about the Web’s core tech worth my time?

Some quick scenarios:

  • You run a Web site made with a content management system (CMS), like WordPress, Drupal, or Joomla.

Learning the core will help you keep the software going, understand the support forums, diagnose problems, and customize your site. More…

  • You want to make a basic site for a small business, school, etc.

You don’t need to know tech to make a Web site. Point-and-click tools write pages for you.

But those tools are limited. Learn the core, and you can make sites that help the business. And reflect well on you. More…

  • You work with Web professionals.

Learning the core will help you be a better client, supervisor, or coworker. You can explain to the Web professionals what you want done, understand their answers, and know what you can expect from their work. More…

  • You’re thinking about a career as a Web professional.

Learning the core will help you decide whether that’s the right choice for you. It will give you skills you can use, no matter what you decide. More…

  • You’re technically curious.

Learning the core will help you understand how Amazon, Wikipedia, and other sites work.

  • You teach this stuff.

CoreDogs works for both self-study and course use. It’s particularly good for online courses. More…

Why use CoreDogs to learn about the Web’s core tech?

There are two main differences between CoreDogs and other books and Web sites.

CoreDogs is just about the core

If you want to be a Web professional – a full-time Web contractor, for example – you need to know a lot about Web tech. You need to know all the HTML tags, CSS properties, layout options, and so on. If you want to be a PHP programmer, you need to know about object-oriented programming, buffering strategies, etc.

CoreDogs doesn’t cover all this.

CoreDogs explains the 10% of Web tech that does 90% of the work on the Web. The most basic HTML tags. The most basic JavaScript.

To find out why this matters, look at the first part of this page.

CoreDogs follows best practices from learning research

There’s a second way that CoreDogs is different.

Books and Web sites about Web tech are written by experts on the technology. Makes sense.

But tech experts usually don’t know much about learning. The result? A book that other experts might like. But that beginners have a hard time using.

CoreDogs makes learning efficient and pleasant (or at least not too unpleasant). CoreDogs helps you use your time well.

Yeah, yeah

I sense some skepticism.

You sense right

Can’t say I blame you.

Here are some specific ways that CoreDogs helps you learn.

Learning in context

Tech is explained with scenarios, and they include real tasks. Usually business related, but sometimes nonprofit.

Of course, learning itself is a task. Renata and CC are two characters used throughout the CoreDogs books. One is an enthusiastic youngster, the other older and with some business experience. They ask questions, and respectfully challenge the author. They model how learners should act.

Learning rate

Many books throw a lot of new stuff at you, all at once. CoreDogs makes sure that the learning curve doesn’t ever get too steep.

Focus on outcomes

In many books and Web sites, lessons are arranged around technology. Lessons on tech A, then on tech B, and so on.

CoreDogs lessons are arranged around the results you can produce after each lesson. You learn how to make a complete product before moving on to the next lesson.


You only learn Web tech by doing. Just reading won’t help.

Exercises are a Big Deal in CoreDogs. There are dozens of them. Each one comes with a solution. And each one has a dedicated discussion forum attached to it.

Exercises are not an afterthought. They were designed into CoreDogs from the beginning. Every chapter has this structure:

Chapter structure

Figure 1. Chapter structure

The exercises embedded in lessons are what education researchers call “near transfer exercises.” They relate directly to the concepts being taught in that lesson.

The exercises at the end of a chapter are “far transfer exercises.” You have to figure out what concepts from the chapter apply, before you can start working on one of those exercises.

If you choose, you can enter your solutions to exercises into CoreDogs. This gives you an…

Exercise portfolio

The portfolio collects all your exercise solutions together. It’s a good record of what you’ve done.

You can share your solutions with other people. You choose which ones to share. For example, you could email a URL to your cousin Jimmy. When he visits the URL, he’ll see Web pages you’ve made.

A great way to show off!

Informal writing

CoreDogs lessons do not read like a reference book. Reference books have their place, but not when you’re trying to learn something new.

CoreDogs is like a personal tutorial from master to apprentice. The expert – Kieran, that’s me – explains the tech, of course. But I also explain why things are being done the way they are.

Knowing why is important. It helps you figure out how to solve real-world problems.


CoreDogs does other things to help you learn. Lots of pictures, for people who learn best that way. Optional articles on more advanced topics. Links to Good Things.

You can write your own notes on lessons. You can make comments on lessons and exercises. You can get emails when there are new comments on your favorite exercises. You can…, well, lots of stuff.

I feel like that “But wait, there’s more!” guy.

There’s a FAQ for educators if you want more details. There’s also a paper on the learning theory behind CoreDogs.


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