If you’re interested in learning how to code but you don’t have any experience with coding yet, where should you start? Learning programming is a long process, so you should take your time figuring out some fundamental thoughts before you head out there and start learning.
Being aware of a few important points will make your learning experience much easier. These points are the main focus of this post. If you follow these steps, I’m sure you will save a lot of time and nerves later on. You will have a clear plan and the right tools to get you where you want to be.
Thus, this post is all about getting you into the right mindset before you start learning coding. You will also find useful tips and resources here, but I’m mainly focusing on things you should consider before you start learning coding.
Let’s get started!
1: Figure out why you want to learn programming
This first point is by far the most important thing you need to consider.
Why are you interested in learning coding?
Try to be aware of and analytical about the reasons why you wish to learn programming. I don’t mean that you need to spend days or weeks figuring this out. But take some time and make sure you know what’s motivating you.
Once you figure out what your “mission” is, you will know what steps are necessary to achieve your goal.
Remember that learning programming is a process that will tie you up for a long time. And things will not always go the way you plan, trust me.
Hence, you need to be able to find your motivation over and over again. You will need at least several months or even years to reach your goals.
Nevertheless, the journey towards your goal will be amazing, I promise.
Let’s look at two different scenarios here. These two are the top reasons I’ve heard why people want to start learning coding.
Reason #1: I’m in it for the money
These days, becoming a developer can give a nice boost to your paycheck. Right now, skilled programmers are some of the most sought-after employees worldwide. And also some of the highest-paid ones!
Thus, using all the amazing resources out there to teach yourself how to code could really change your life. As an added bonus, working as a programmer or web developer could give you more freedom in life when it comes to working remotely, for instance.
And the best part is: it’s easier than ever to learn digital skills online nowadays, so your timing couldn’t be better!
Reason #2: I think coding is cool – I’m genuinely interested
If this is the case, then congratulations! You will most likely keep going even when times get rough and achieve your goals in the long run.
Perhaps you’re trying to learn how to automate stuff at work. Believe me, there’s a ton of things you can do to speed up your work with Excel, for instance.
Or maybe you’re using a simple mobile application and you’re not quite happy with its features. Learning how to program your own mobile app isn’t as difficult as you might think!
What sets this reason apart from the others is something called innate motivation. It’s the drive that keeps us going without much persuasion, rewards, or incentives. With innate motivation, we simply enjoy what we’re doing and we’re curious to see what’s headed our way next.
So whatever your reason is, just be aware of it. Having a clear idea of what is driving you to learn coding will help you stick to your learning routine. If you’re not quite sure about your long-term goals, it’s really easy to slip out of your practising schedule.
What matters the most is that you learn coding in a way that keeps you motivated. You will find the right way to achieve your goal once you know why you want to reach it in the first place.
2: Know what you want to create with coding
This step will mainly determine the skills you need to learn in order to achieve your goals. Therefore, give it some thought before you start choosing your first programming language to learn.
With seemingly endless possibilities, coding can be used to the most diverse projects. You can start by thinking about the following questions:
- Are you interested in creating websites?
- Or would you rather build mobile applications?
- How about some data analysis and visualization?
- Or developing games or software?
Whatever it is that you wish to create, just be mindful about it. Of course, you could simply start learning a programming language for the sheer fun of learning it. However, your approach to learning would be completely different.
When you already know what sorts of problems you wish to solve with programming, learning it will definitely be a lot easier. When you’re learning about a specific topic, you can already have an idea about what you’re going to need that skill for in the future. Therefore, you will be more focused and pay more attention to what you’re learning.
3: Choose the right programming language
Once you have a clear goal, you come to the next question: what do you need to learn to be able to reach it?
So knowing what you wish to create is a problem you need to solve. And a programming language offers you the tools to solve that problem.
If you’re interested in web development, for example, you would learn a selection of the following languages:
The latter three (Python, Ruby, PHP) are used in backend development. These languages are responsible for the logic and the different functionalities.
If you’re not familiar with the terminology just yet, you will find my previous post about back-end and front-end development quite helpful.
To help you choose a suitable language for whatever it is you wish to achieve and create with coding, I’ve written an entire post on how to choose your first programming language. Check it out!
For a good overview of what you can choose from, I’d recommend another post with 14 different programming languages and their uses.
4: Start small, track your learning
When you start learning coding, remember to be kind to yourself and set realistic targets for your projects. I know how it feels when you’re impatient about creating all sorts of cool stuff, but try to keep it cool.
As a beginner, you don’t need to aim for the stars. Just like a freshly-graduated engineer doesn’t know how to build the world’s tallest building, you don’t need to know how to create the next Google.
You don’t have to be the best coder in the world.
Therefore, try to come up with little motivations for yourself. Start with simple tasks, like writing a small program that only does one thing.
Then, while you’re writing one program, you will get an idea for the next one. This cycle is a learning process that is fueled by your curiosity alone.
Remember that innate motivation I was talking about above? That’s exactly what’s happening here, too. You simply keep going because you enjoy solving little problems with coding.
With each problem that you solve, you are growing your set of skills and tools in programming. By reaching small targets one by one, things will start to come together. Then, slowly you will develop a skillset that will allow you to tackle bigger projects and solve more complex problems with coding.
5: Understand Computer Science basics
How to start learning coding?
By learning Computer Science basics first!
When you learn how to code, you’re telling computers what to do for you. To get a better idea of what computers are capable of, I’d recommend learning the basics of Computer Science right away.
Understanding how computers work will make learning programming much easier for you. You can think of trying to drive a car but not knowing what will happen when you turn the steering wheel. That’s what it feels like to code your own programs and run them on a device you don’t understand.
The bottom line is that you will simply reach your goals faster when you’re familiar with the fundamentals of Computer Science.
To help you out, here are a couple of online courses I can recommend for learning the basics of Computer Science if you’re an absolute beginner:
- Computer Science 101 – this is a beginner-level course on Udemy that will teach you everything you need to know about Computer Science in order to see quicker results while learning how to code.
- Computer Basics – this course at Team Treehouse is excellent for getting to know what Computer Science is all about and how computers actually work under the hood. If you’re not familiar with Team Treehouse, try their FREE 7-day trial!
- Intro to Computer Science – learn the basics of Computer Science with this really well-structured and thorough course at Udacity. Throughout the course, you will code your very own simple search engine. As an added bonus, you will learn the basics of Python at the same time!
- Computer Science E-50 – this beginner-level course is taught at Harvard College. Needless to say, the professor does an amazing job with the course – and it’s free!
Simply browse through the courses and see which one seems interesting to you. They’re all absolutely great, so pick whichever you like and you’ll learn all you need to know for now!
6: Start an online coding course
Ok, now you got a clear goal in your mind, you’ve chosen a programming language to learn, and you know a bit about how computers work.
Next, it’s time to actually start learning coding, finally!
Luckily, you will not have difficulties in finding enough resources online to get you started. Quite the opposite: the Internet is so packed with coding tutorials, guides, and courses that it’s hard to find the best ones out there as a beginner.
My only suggestion is that if you’re interested in learning web development, choose one course that will cover several different programming languages and other tools.
The trick here is to find a course that actually does a good job at teaching you multiple languages. Many courses out there simply give you a brief introduction to a bunch or languages but you end up with knowing none of them well enough to create something.
Since I’m a nice guy, I wouldn’t like that to happen to you. Here’s my favourite web developer course for beginners that I keep recommending over and over again:
- The Complete Web Developer Course 2.0 at Udemy is an incredible all-in-one web development course that pretty much changed my life. It will not only introduce you to a wide array of different web dev languages and tools, but you will also build real projects throughout the course using each of the tools you learn!
You will basically learn all the tools you need to build all sorts of cool web projects just after this one course. Also, there are no prerequisites for starting these courses. If you know how to use a computer and a web browser, you’re good to go!
For other programming languages and tools, check out my guide for recommended coding courses for beginners. (Note: the guide is still under construction at the moment. If the programming language of your choice isn’t listed yet, please sign up for my newsletter and you’ll be the first to know when new content is released. Sorry for the inconvenience!)
Conclusion: How to start learning coding
Ok this was a long post, but I hope I managed to give you some helpful pointers on how to start learning coding as a total beginner.
The main point is: you’re not going to learn how to code by sitting down and saying that you want to learn programming.
Instead, your mindset should be more like this: you want to create something or solve a problem, and learning a programming language will be your tool for that.
Thus, coding itself is a journey, not a destination.
Just like a cook doesn’t learn how to prepare a dish simply for the fun of it, but instead in order to cook delicious meals for us hungry customers and offer us a great dining experience, for instance. Similarly, a taxi driver doesn’t learn driving just to cruise around town all day. Instead, they want to offer other people a service for getting from one place to another.
So try to be more aware of why you’re interested in learning programming. Simple as that. Once that’s done, you will find the right resources for learning and you will be well on your way towards becoming a developer.
Please share your thoughts and your tips on how to start learning coding in the comments below!