21 Programmers & Coding Experts Share Their Top Tips for Learning Basic Coding
Whether you’re learning to code so you can code your own web pages or customize emails in your email marketing software, or you’re considering pursuing a career in programming, learning to code can seem daunting at first. While some programming languages are more complex than others, there are ample resources for many aspiring coders, from simple HTML and CSS cheat sheets to weeks-long courses you can take from the comfort of your home.
If you want to acquire the skills necessary to craft strings of code that transform into powerful aesthetics and impressive functionality, you might not know where to begin. To help aspiring coders get started on the right path to working their own coding magic, we reached out to a panel of programmers and coding experts and asked them to answer this question:
“What are your top tips for learning basic coding?”
Meet Our Panel of Programmers & Coding Experts:
Ready to start your coding journey? Read on to learn what our experts had to say about their top tips and recommendations for learning basic coding.
Ludovic (Ludo) Fourrage is an education industry veteran, named in 2017 as an Emerging Learning Technology Leader by Training Magazine. Before founding Nucamp, Ludo spent 15 years at Microsoft where he led multiple learning initiatives including Microsoft Certifications. With the belief that the right education for everyone is an achievable goal, Ludo leads the Nucamp Product and Learning teams in the quest to make quality education accessible.
“Look for a real classroom environment. Learning on your own takes a level of focus and discipline that, outside of a classroom environment, can be a difficult standard to hold yourself to while balancing other priorities. Without the guidance of an instructor and peers, it may be difficult for some aspiring students to stay motivated in a program that is so individualized.
Follow an existing path versus trying to create your own. With so many different – and free – online resources, it can also be difficult to know where to get started. Are you aware of what web development jobs you are interested in, and as a result, what coding languages you will need to learn to transition to those roles?
Find a community that is dedicated to supporting you. As you might expect with any learning experience, students are bound to have questions, and you’re sure to run into tough coding challenges that are difficult to solve if you’re going at it alone. In a community coding boot camp, students have virtual access to their course instructor and peers along with a weekly in-person workshop to collaborate and solve problems together.
Learn to code remotely. Learning to code remotely doesn’t have to mean learning to code alone. Many coding boot camps offer this same benefit. Coursework can be done primarily remotely, with weekly in-person workshops for instructors and students to meet in person and discuss coursework and projects. Most coding boot camps are located in large cities; however, some offer localized meetups so that students who live outside of these cities can attend these workshops without commuting or moving. This enables you to complete a majority of the coursework remotely with a once-a-week workshop session that is located near you.
Do not quit your job to learn to code. Another reason you may be considering coding coursework on your own is that you’re not financially ready to leave your current career – and that’s okay! Because of the remote nature of community coding boot camps, you can complete your coding coursework while working another job.
Evaluate your return on investment. When considering any coding program, it’s important to look at its return on investment (ROI), or the amount of return you get for the time and money you have spent learning to code. What is the program’s employment rate for students post-graduation? Is there data that shows any salary increases pre- and post-graduation? These are important statistics to measure as you consider the difference between learning to code on your own and a community coding boot camp.
Coding boot camps have an incredible ROI due to their reduced cost and time commitment as compared to a traditional computer science degree from a university. According to data from SwitchUp, on average, coding boot camp graduates saw a $19,485 (45.6%) salary increase in their jobs. The same data shows that, on average, 80.9% of graduates were employed, and 71% of employed graduates were working full-time. Boot camps such as these have an edge over self-teaching because they offer instructor-guided coursework at an equally low cost.”
Peter is the owner of one of the most data-driven review blogs. He has written 90+ articles on various products and services. On his blog, visitors can read unbiased reviews and learn useful information. Besides his blog, he is an AWS-certified solutions architect and a machine learning engineer with 6+ years of experience.
“Don’t be scared, and be patient. I am not going to lie. I was scared. I thought coding was only for those who are geniuses and excel at mathematics. But, all I needed at the beginning was patience.
All programming languages were invented by human beings. Nothing goes beyond our knowledge. Initially, it can be challenging to understand basic concepts, but if you keep exposing yourself to a programming language, you will become more familiar with it and find new concepts easier to understand.
You should also know what you want to do with coding, and choose the right language. What is your objective for learning coding? For example, if you want to build a website, you can start with Java, PHP, or C# (of course, there are more!). If you want to do some statistical or analytics work, you can learn Python or R.
Work in a group on a small project. You don’t have to be a master of coding to complete a project. Your skills will grow as you work with other developers. Coding in a team environment for a project is a whole different experience. When you think you are familiar with your language, you can venture out into the real world to show off your skills.”
Daniel Florido is a lead developer at Pixelstorm with 15 years of coding under his belt. He’s a passionate web developer for good clean code, and he teaches code to small businesses and individuals through in-person and online training.
CSS is the paint and layout of the HTML and what makes the website responsive, which means that it works across mobile devices and tablets, as well as on most screen sizes. If you are a beginner looking to learn from scratch, YouTube is good place to get a general overview. You can also learn by reading some basic and current books online, but I find most people learn best via visual guides and stories that you can find online.
Once you have a basic understanding of coding, you might consider taking a course on Udemy or another online learning platform. These courses tend to move a little faster, so having some basic knowledge before taking a course is ideal. From here, you will discover the specific type of code (coding language) that you’d like to learn, and you can find a course specific to that. If you prefer to learn in person, there are a lot of in-person coding schools and courses, ranging from one-day courses to postsecondary education courses. But a good fundamental understanding is always a good foundation to have before venturing into a more lengthy course.”
Saurabh Jindal is the Founder of Talk Travel.
“Based on my experience, the best tips for learning basic coding are:
1) Be disciplined. Learning how to code, like learning a new language, can get boring and disheartening, especially if you do not grasp concepts in the beginning. But don’t lose hope. Things may be tough initially, but they will gradually become easier.
2) Come up with a project. The best way to learn how to program is to come up with a project first. It could be a simple thing, but you should go for it so that you have a goal and know what to aim for.
3) There are many experienced and talented programmers out there who share tips on social media and other places around the web. Don’t confuse yourself by jumping the gun and trying to do things the way the experts and gurus are doing them. They have also learned the hard way, and they know a lot of stuff that shortens their development time and effort, but it may confuse you and you may get lost. Keep things simple, even if it may mean extra time and effort.
4) Finally, commit to proper documentation and commenting in your code. These are basic steps for good programming and can really help you should you need to revisit your code in the future. Also, your comments are a great aid in the event that you decide to revise your code later.”
Zach Sims is the Co-Founder and CEO of Codecademy, an online resource giving millions of learners the skills they need to upgrade their careers. Zach was named to Forbes and Inc. Magazine’s 30 Under 30 lists, voted as one of TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People, and selected as a Technology Pioneer by the World Economic Forum.
“The best way to learn how to code is to learn by doing – meaning, to actually code. A lot of people try learning with video or text-based courses and methods, and this is not anywhere near as effective as learning through actual practice. Another critical tip when learning to code is to ensure you have access to an expert support community that you can turn to for immediate feedback and help when you get stuck on a tough coding issue, which exponentially increases comprehension and eliminates barriers to progress.”
Laura Gurney, Ph.D.
Laura Gurney, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Integrated Technology at Husson University. She teaches computer/technology related courses including web design, programming, drones, 3-D printing, and computer repair. As a woman with expertise in computer science, Dr. Gurney frequently encourages and mentors women in the technology field.
“With all of the news coverage about learning to code, you may be wondering how to start. For adults, I recommend joining local computer groups. These include ethical hacking groups, users groups, and tech clubs. Many are listed on different social events sites. These get-togethers are often attended by professionals and hobbyists who are more than happy to help someone get started. Participating in a social media group where participants are willing to share their knowledge can also be helpful.
If you aren’t able to find a group to share resources with, taking extended learning classes from a local college or university is another great place to start. The ability to get face-to-face help from a teacher and share study time with other students can create a great social and learning environment. When you get stuck on a particular aspect of coding, a teacher from the class is there who can answer your questions. If you’d prefer online classes, these same colleges and local universities may offer online options.
You may also be able to find free tutorials online. YouTube is great for more than just learning crafts! If you want more structure, an online learning platform might be good. While free doesn’t always mean you’ll get the same support as a paid class, you can start learning the basics at places like Khan Academy and others.
If you’re a younger person, Code.org has a free and fun introduction to intermediate-level coding for games. These were first introduced for the “Hour of Code” activities for celebrating Computer Science Week, but they have grown so much that they are now available year-round. These activities make learning basic coding principles fun and encourage problem solving. My children and I have played these games at home just for fun.
Another option for kids is to join the school robot or gaming club. If your school doesn’t have one, approach a technology teacher or any teacher with an interest in technology (kids always know who loves tech) and ask if they’d be willing to set up a club. Librarians are a good option, also. Many local libraries are beginning to have 3D printers and would happy to host a coding night if there was interest. Overall, getting started with coding seems daunting, but once you find a class, an online activity, or a group of like-minded people, you’ll be on you way!”
Eliott Teissonniere serves as a Blockchain Architect for Nodle and focuses on building Nodle’s architecture and systems to make the next trillion things secure and privacy-centric. Prior to joining Nodle, Eliott was the CTO of BitNation and led the development of multiple smart contract based governance tools and released the world’s first smart contract for marriages on the Ethereum blockchain.
“Learning how to code, and most importantly learning how to code right, takes time and dedication. I would recommend that beginners spend some time following online guides in order to learn the basics.
“One error that most people make is that they start with things that are too simple or take on bigger projects without learning the fundamentals. For example, there are a lot of tutorials geared toward children such as learning C by making 3D games. For someone who is looking to start at a level that is more curated to learning career-focused skills, you should start by learning a higher-level language like Python and start creating basic scripts.
Once you have built something, you can continue to build on top of it as your skill set becomes more diverse and sophisticated. Sure, you have managed to make that single-page website, but what if you start adding menus, pages, and content? Make your project grow, always be experimenting, and once you get bored, start something new! The possibilities are infinite.
After some time, you will start understanding how coding works. Something that really helped me was to get involved with the open source community by contributing to various projects online. Open source makes it easy to read anyone’s code and learn from it, and you can learn why different coders did things in certain ways, what could you do differently, whether another coder’s work is better than what you could have done, etc. The possibility to learn from peers is an invaluable opportunity to hone and level-up your skills.”
Jess Dang is the founder of Cook Smarts, an online meal planning service. She started Cook Smarts in 2012 to help families live healthier lives and to lighten parents’ mental load. She’s a former Food Network cooking show contestant, mother of three, and host of the In the Kitchen With Cook Smarts podcast.
“The two keys to learning to code are discipline and practice. Coding is like learning any language – you’re not going to be fluent in one day, or even one year, so you just have to be disciplined about practicing every single day. Plus, the world of code is constantly changing, so you just have to focus on one exercise a day. Asking questions is a great way to learn, too. There are many great coding communities out there, especially Stack Overflow. Be mindful of the questions you are asking. Make sure you’ve done some searching and debugging first, but if you really can’t figure it out, then someone is sure to help you on Stack Overflow!
There are lots of free coding courses out there, but the best thing to do is to find a real-life project that you can apply what you’re learning to. In our case, it was something that really mattered and had people waiting, so we were on the hook to make something.”
Reuben Yonatan is the Founder and CEO of GetVoIP.
“You don’t have to be a full-time programmer to benefit from some basic code knowledge. For example, even as a CEO, there are times when I need to talk to web developers about some of our initiatives. Being able to see what they’re doing at a code level helps me make better decisions about what’s happening. You can learn the basics of coding on sites like Codeacademy, which has a number of beginner-level courses for free. If you want to go a little into the advanced coding courses, the cost is very affordable and can be a great help in your career, whatever your role. Don’t forget to check with your employer to see if they’ll cover the cost if you want to go past the basics.”
Gregory Golinski is the Head of Digital Marketing at YourParkingSpace.co.uk.
“My top tip to learn basic coding is to build something. Whether it’s a script to fetch data from the Internet, look for specific documents in your computer, or even a simple video game like tic tac toe. Just learning code by itself can be a bit boring, and it’s easy to lose motivation. Therefore, you should try to build something useful or fun. This will also make it much easier to learn.”
Bryan Truong is the Founder of GameCows.
“There are a ton of simple code games that teach fundamentals that are applicable to any language, and are really fun. I played around with Human Resource Machine and learned some basic concepts, and then I moved onto SCREEPS. SCREEPS is like an RTS (Real Time Strategy) game where you program every unit to perform a set of tasks. From gathering, building, and attacking, all actions are programmed by the user. I’ve learned quite a bit from coding games. I’m no expert, but I’m able to figure out what parts of my website’s code does what and fix some simple problems. If I had stuck with the traditional course-ware, I would have been out. Make it fun, or at the very least, take a break from the serious coding and program some killer robots.”
As a seasoned fintech innovator, Victor has multiple years of experience in the payment sector. He is currently CEO of Shufti Pro, an AI-based verification service provider, that focuses on providing reliable and smooth customer onboarding services to businesses worldwide.
“When I learned to code, I followed three useful pointers: Learn. Practice. Repeat.
It always helps to learn by doing after gaining basic theoretical knowledge. Unless you write the code yourself over and over, it is unlikely that you will master the concepts. A simple line of code when entered into an actual program will seem daunting at first, but running codes and tweaking them at will is how you will outsmart it.
Find a mentor. You are your best teacher, but it never hurts to find a guide who is willing to watch your progress and steer you in the right direction. You may be exceling at one type of code but may be blissfully unaware of the broader learning process. Online resources may also come in handy at this point.
Debug and clean. While writing long codes, you will often feel the need to stop and locate an error well before the program is complete. Decompress and take regular breaks to maintain a healthy lifestyle, including shutting off work apps.“
Jonathan Bennett is a Passionate Digital Marketing Manager for GlobalX, a legal tech scaleup.
“I started learning to code as a way to reduce my reliance on agencies to perform small tasks, freeing up some of my marketing budget. I began by searching Google for solutions to specific issues, and this worked well for quite a while until I just couldn’t figure out why things weren’t working. I was copying and pasting the code as it suggested online, but without a basic concept of coding, I didn’t realize that I was making syntactical errors or that it conflicted with other existing functions.
What really helped me was picking a specific language rather than trying to learn everything at once. I found video tutorials worked the best for me, as the narration helped explain the concepts behind the coding and that, in turn, then helped me understand other languages. I would also suggest that before testing out your new skills on a live project, you need to get your head around version control and debugging. Always make sure you test your code on an appropriate staging or local environment so you don’t break anything in production, as that could prove very costly.”
Raj Vardhman is a freelancer turned entrepreneur. He founded GoRemotely, a platform that strives to discover and present the hottest remote jobs out there and to help other people find happiness in the workplace.
“Joining a coding boot camp overseas is one of the best ways to learn coding, for all skill levels. Let’s face it: coding can be very tedious and time-consuming when you’re studying, so being in a place like Lisbon or Bali can make it more interesting. Imagine being able to go surfing on your lunch break or wine-tasting after work if you’re in France.
Coding boot camps are usually all-inclusive packages that compress a coding curriculum into programs that can last from a few months to a year. There are boot camps located all over the world that you can choose from. If you enjoy traveling and exploring new cultures, a coding boot camp might be the perfect fit for you.
Although they are not cheap, if you factor in all your travel expenses, a coding boot camp is a pretty good deal if you plan on visiting a particular continent or country anyway. Along the way, you can expand your network by meeting like-minded people at the boot camp destinations and build long-term connections in the industry.
So, by joining a coding boot camp, you can learn to code in some of the coolest cities and hotspots around the world, while indulging in the local amenities. Most importantly, the courses are accelerated, and you will be ready to start coding right away once you’ve completed the coursework. The most underrated benefit, though, is that you will make friends and build meaningful professional connections along the way.”
Jacob Quirke is a web developer at JC Social Media with work focusing on everything from full website builds, to online audits, to theh creation of social media-focused applications. He is entirely self-taught with a specialization in front end development using Bootstrap and Angular.
“Take full advantage of free resources. Many aspiring developers can feel tempted to hand over thousands of dollars to go all-in on a fast-track boot camp to become fully operational web developers. However, there are many sites and tools out there where anyone can learn the basics for free. Some of the best sites include freecodecamp, codecademy, and Khan Academy.
Lindsey Handley is a co-founder of a San Diego-based startup, ThoughtSTEM, which develops coding education technologies and teaches coding to K-12 students. She recently co-founded a non-profit with a mission to teach kids across the United States how to code: MetaCoders.
“Learn coding as if you were learning a foreign language! Although coding is a very different kind of language from the natural languages (like English and Sign Language), coding is processed in the same area of your brain as natural languages. Recent fMRI studies show the brains of expert programmers read code almost identically to reading English prose!
Just like you would if you were learning Spanish, while you’re taking an online course or reading a book about a programming language, make yourself flashcards! Repetition is key to becoming ‘fluent’ in a new language. On the front of the card, write yourself a prompt (e.g., sort a list of strings); on the back, write the bit of code you need to type into your computer to answer the prompt. Make sure you’re always typing the code before flipping the card over!
Once you start answering your flashcards successfully, start timing yourself. No one would call you fluent in Spanish if it took you two minutes to ask ‘dónde está el baño?’, right? You should treat coding the same way. Keep growing your flashcard deck each day and practicing them. It won’t be long until you’re confident in your coding skills and on your way to fluency!”
David started off in the engineering world, has a Master’s in electrical and computer engineering, and later transitioned into marketing. He’s the founder of RocLogic Marketing, LLC.
“One of the best ways to begin learning how to code is to start with a simple example that performs a function that you understand (like displaying a little bit of text, adding two numbers together, or counting). This function should be less than ~10 lines of code, so that it’s easy to follow.
Then, copy and rename the file and modify the code so that it does something just a little bit different (like changing the format of your displayed text or performing different arithmetic functions). Now you’re not only executing existing code; you’re modifying it to make it do what you want it to, and that’s a good feeling. This will start to help you see what it takes to code something.
Now, find other example code snippets and build on your foundation by combining functions to add complexity. It’s worth pointing out that there’s a huge difference between tinkering with code because you’re curious and creating complex elegant code that handles corner cases, exceptions, and other real-world scenarios gracefully. The latter takes years of learning and practice.”
Rahul originally started WPZA as a self-code-reference book for himself. Now, dozens of developers use it every single day, Rahul included.
“Document everything. It’s a very simple answer, but documenting everything really helps in the long run.”
Kyle Theil is the owner of Visual Realm, a small marketing and advertising company located in Florida.
“Although I went to school, I mainly claim that I was self taught by learning from different blogs and websites. The main place I went to learn the very basics was https://www.w3schools.com/. The beauty with their platform is that you can see how it’s done and then test it right then and there. And oddly enough, the other beginning resource was Coding for Dummies. That was almost 15 years ago, and I’m still coding to this day.”
Oksana Chyketa is the a marketer at Albacross.com, a B2B lead generation platform.
“My best tip for learning basic coding is to immediately use what you learned in your projects. If that isn’t possible, there is an awesome tool called Codepen. With Codepen, you can not only create your projects and practice new skills but also learn by browsing the many projects completed by other users and the code behind them.”
Shayne Sherman is the CEO of TechLoris.
Learning to code can be time-consuming and frustrating, but not everything has to be challenging! In fact, with our easy-to-use follow buttons, you can make it easy for your website visitors to follow you on their favorite social networks with just a single click. They’re free to use and simple to install on any blogging platform – you don’t have to know a single line of code!