As a visual person, I’m not that good at learning code. Writing code itself is not a visual process to me, and it can be challenging for me to understand quickly. It’s full of letters, numbers and weird characters like semi-colons and quote marks needing to be arranged at just the right placements. And I always feel behind in keeping up with the never-ending languages and frameworks that seem to grow by the day. Can anyone relate?
I have a love-hate relationship with code. It frustrates me often when I’m troubleshooting issues, but I absolutely love using it to create amazing things. Code is interesting and challenging. It’s flexible and creative. We use products every day that have been coded from idea to reality. It’s remarkable to think about this and be observant of how our tech lives are surrounded by code.
I’ve learned code in many ways. I’ve taken credit and non-credit courses. I’ve been to meetup groups, joined online community forums, had long twitter threads with other developers and spent many hours of my life on YouTube. Here are a few tips that have helped me learn code a little bit easier.
1. Don’t Just Copy from Code Exercises
It’s great to learn from tutorials that walk you through a demo example. This is good for learning concepts, but it’s not always the best method for learning how to think like a coder. The best way to really learn how code works is to write your own code for your own project. This forces you into making real-time mistakes and gain troubleshooting experience from solving errors rather than proofreading an example for resolve.
2. Code Something You Enjoy
It’s really hard to learn something when it’s not interesting to you. Make a commitment to yourself to work on a project idea that interests you, and code that. It doesn’t have to be some massive project that will turn into a product or startup venture, nor does it have to impress anyone. It can be something small, something simple. Don’t worry about how big your project is. When you enjoy what you’re doing, the time will fly by and you’ll be astounded at what learning you’ll gain in the process.
3. Draw a Sketch and Write an Outline
Programming is simply where you provide a set of instructions for the computer or browser to read and do. It’s like having a recipe for cooking. One of the best things that has helped me with code is to not jump into writing code right away. Write an outline and draw out what you need to build. This can look like drawing sketches of page layout. It can also look like writing sentences that describe what you want the code to do. Then you can translate these sentences into code language. It’s tempting to just start coding right away, but try resisting. Work on paper first so you then come into code with a plan.
4. Be Patient
Learning code can be hard. But like anything you learn for the first time, you need to work at it. You need to practice. You’re going to run into difficulties understanding how to read and write code. You’re going to run into frustrations realizing that your entire code block didn’t work because you forgot a semi-colon. You’re going to compare yourself to other coders and think that everyone has it all together and knows every language that exists or pops up suddenly into existence. It simply isn’t true. There are developers who are overwhelmed with the ever-changing landscape of code too, and they’re learning from new just like you. Be kind to yourself. Learning has no end point. It’s ongoing.
5. Code with Others
When you can, code with someone in team. This may look like pair programming, coding with a group, sharing your code project with an online community, or getting mentorship while coding a project. It’s good to get an extra set of eyes on your code, and it’s great to brainstorm and troubleshoot together. Whenever I get stuck on code, I have always found solutions by my working with and reaching out to others. By working with others you’ll learn to find patterns better, discover tricks that other coders do and feed off the positive energy of others and get excited about code instead of frustrated.
“Everybody in this country should learn to program a computer because it teaches you how to think.”Steve Jobs
Learning to code opens the door to create many exciting things. It also expands your ability to critically think and problem solve. There are many benefits to coding. Don’t let your first frustration block you from learning. With these tips, I hope you dive into code with excitement and creativity!