How to teach yourself to code
Complete beginners, you could learn fast enough to have your own simple program in weeks. You’d be surprised how quickly you can pick up coding, so boot up your computer and get online (with our M500 broadband, if you’re lucky). Here’s what it takes…
What are your goals? Perhaps you’ll create your own website from scratch in your spare time. Maybe you’re aiming to go pro with a new career as a software developer. Only when you’ve had a think will you know what computer language to study first or the type of learning you’ll try, as you’ll have decided how much time and money you could commit to coding.
You’ll find loads are free. Start with a short course that’ll guide you through your first line of computer code and introduce you to the basics of your chosen computer language.
If you learn by doing, look for a class that’ll have you students writing and solving code in your browser. These tend to give you advice and feedback, so you’ll understand the answers and corrections.
If you hope to add coding skills to your CV, you might prefer a course that offers a certificate of completion. Either way, when you’re comfortable with the basics, you can move onto a more challenging course.
Want to learn faster? Repeat the lessons you find difficult. And always take a break if you get stuck – you’ll have a better chance of solving the problem with fresh eyes.
Learning a new computer language takes practice. After you’ve gotten to grips with the theory, start coding regularly to help remember what you’ve learnt and get better at problem-solving. Here’s how:
Type documents in Pages or Microsoft Word to practice your HTML and CSS skills, or any programming language written in plain text. Try to also build on what you’ve already learnt by picking up a new piece of syntax or way to write a line, and you’ll be on your way to being fluent.
Download a program or code file from GitHub and a code editor to open it. Checking someone else’s code, line by line, to see if you can understand it is a great way for a beginner to learn. Better yet, fix mistakes you find (debug the programme) or make improvements. When you upload your edited code, fellow techies can critique your handiwork and appreciate your ideas.
Create your own programs and projects or experiment with drag and drop website builders. If you get stuck, watch a YouTube tutorial or look it up, either in your coding reference book or on Google, and keep going so that one day you’ll be able to code your own projects from scratch. Even without templates.
Meet people like you, software engineers, data types, fellow students and complete beginners, by posting online on chat boards or coding forums. Ask questions. Share advice. And remember, everyone started from scratch so try not to feel intimidated.
Best coding apps for beginners
Prefer to learn on your mobile? Want more guidance and structure than a YouTube tutorial can give you? Download and give these apps a try, perfect for a beginner…
And that’s not all. Got a competitive streak? Try over 2,000 quizzes and tackle Code Coach challenges or go head to head with the community by challenging folks to coding battles.
2. Codecademy Go
Help and advice, if you need it, is also available from experts who're top in the industry. Take notes. And if you’re hooked, remember you can upgrade to Codecademy Pro for further study that could lead to or enhance your career.
Choosing your coding language
Special commands, abbreviations, ways of arranging a text – each computer language is unique and in just a few months, you could go from beginner to fluent. Some you need for web development, others for creating desktop software or mobile apps. But which should you start with?
Let’s look at the main languages and spot the difference...
Pretty much every web page on the internet is written in Hyper Text Mark-up Language (HTML) or else they’d be blocks of plain text. Words can be made bold to stand out or italics for emphasis using HTML tags, and you can label the structure of the page to create your title and subheadings. When you write your code, you’ll see instantly how you're changing your web page, which will help you learn this simple but important language when you’re starting out.
Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) is slightly harder to grasp than HTML but still simple enough for beginners. In fact, it’s well worth learning both languages at the same time – while HTML tells your web browser how your webpage should look, the appearance (font, colours, styles) is actually controlled by CSS.
Originally called Personal Home Page in the 90s, today PHP means Hypertext Pre-processer. And it’s hugely popular. Facebook, WordPress and Wikipedia all use this computer language because it’ll create your HTML files for you when you add a new page to your website. Plus, you can use PHP to make these pages more interactive or password protected.
Structured Query Language (SQL or sequel) is used to create, read, update or delete information in databases. Think articles, images, meta descriptions – those snippets of web pages that show up in your internet search results. It’s one of the easier, popular programming languages to learn because it uses common English words.