Learning to Code - Where to Start and What You Should Know

If you’re running a small business, you can save a lot of time and money by learning some basic coding skills. Whether you’re making minor updates to your website, social media profiles or tweaking an email marketing campaign, if you take the time to learn to code, you’ll be surprised how much easier your life can be.

Take countries such as Estonia who were the first to introduce programming in primary schools back in 2012. The writing is on the wall. If you’re running a small business or working in a professional environment, being able to program is set to become a skill most of us will be expected to have by the time the next generation of workers begin entering the workforce.

So what are you going to do?

When you consider the effort being put into our education sector to ensure basic learning of coding in our schools, and the comments being made from senior Government officials surrounding the importance of coding in our society, there’s no avoiding it. You’re going to have to learn to code.

In the article we’ll walk you through the sorts of programming skills you should look to develop and where you can get started. From setting up a basic website, to changing the look and feel of your site, to improving your skills set; we'll provide you with some handy resources you can use to get started on your coding journey.

The fundamental coding skills you're going to want to learn

A great place to start learning to code is by building your first website. To do so we recommend learning the following coding skills to build a website that you'll be able to add to over time:

HTML

If you’re going to build a website, you can’t avoid learning to program in HTML. HTML stands for (Hypertext Markup Language), which basically means coding for the web. HTML is a really great fundamental programming language that will allow you to layout text, images, tables, and all other forms of content as you see fit on your website.

CSS

Everybody loves a cool looking website right? Well without CSS this is really tough. CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) is how you style your web pages making them look and feel exactly how you want. CSS is lots of fun, and let’s you personalise your web pages giving them the look and feel you're aiming to achieve.

JavaScript

Stepping things up a little, you’re going to want to learn JavaScript. JS is a client-side programming language most websites use to display dropdown menus, allow for smooth scrolling features and interactive media galleries. When learning JavaScript you’ll begin to increase your coding expertise by introducing concepts such as Object Orientated Programming (OOP) which teach you a different kind of way of structuring your code based on functions that execute when your users undertake specific actions on your site.

jQuery

jQuery is a JavaScript based plugin programmers use to execute smarter more visually appealing JavaScript-based code on their websites. jQuery is a universally popular scripting language which let’s you do all of things standard JavaScript does, but with an simpler scripting base and a whole bunch of cool features such as the ability to fade in and out content and select elements with greater precision for transformations.

PHP

Until now we’ve suggested you learn client-side programming languages such as HTML and JavaScript. Next you’re going to want to learn a server-side programming language such as PHP. Server-side languages allow you to perform calculations and access database content before your web pages load to determine what should be displayed to your users. PHP is a really great server-side programming language, with many of the world’s best known websites built using this language to output HTML-based content.

Learning to code online

If you fire up your Internet browser, you’ll soon discover that there are a number of great online resources you can use to learn to code at your dispoal. From paid subscription services, to free online communities, to language-based API’s, if you’re comfortable learning by yourself an online service may be for you.

Below we’ve provided some great online resources where you can learn to code. Each of these services are extremely helpful for those looking to develop their programming skills.

Codecademy

Codecademy is an interactive platform that offers free coding classes across an array of popular programming languages. With classes in Python, Java, PHP, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Ruby, SQL and many others, Codecademy is one of the best know and widely used online resources for learning to program.

In addition to their free service, Codecademy also provides a paid "Pro" option for those looking to take their skills to the next level. At $19.99 USD /month, the Codecademy Pro service gives you access to learning plans, quizzes, cool projects and advisors.

Codecademy - Learn to Code School

Hour of Code by Code.org

Code.org has launched an initiative their calling the ‘Hour of Code’. The aim of this initiative is to get as many people as possible across the world to try a one-hour coding tutorial to see if they like it.

This really neat initiative is pitched at those who fancy themselves building an app or website but may not know how to get started. By starting with a simple ‘hour of code’ designed to introduce you to the fundamentals of programming, Code.org is helping to demonstrate to a broad multi-cultural community how fun programming can be, offering their service in 45 different languages.

Following your first hour of code, Code.org also has plenty of online tutorials you can take to boost your coding expertise, each designed for different ages and competency levels making it extremely easy for you to select an appropriate place to start coding.

Code.org - Hour of Code

Treehouse for business customers

If your business is looking to invest in their employees by teaching them how to code, then TeamTreehouse.com may be an option worth considering.

Treehouses’ business service provides organisations with coding tutorials their staff can use to begin learning to code. From fundamental markup-based languages such as HTML and CSS, all the way though to object oriented languages such as Java, C# and PHP, Treehouse has a fantastic array of tutorials your business can sign up to for a monthly fee of $49 USD.

One of the great benefits of this service is that Treehouses' learning modules are accompanied by easy to follow videos tutorials making the learning experience that much simpler. This gives this services an interactive classroom feel each time you progress to a new module and is a lot of fun.

Team Treehouse Business Coding School

Code School

Similar to Treehouse and Codecademy, Code School let’s you learn to code from the comfort of your browser.

Offering learning modules across the majority of the major programming languages used by the development community of today, Code School is for those who are looking to understand how to program properly using best-practice recommendations from an experienced team of developers.

Code School comes with a reputation of not only being a great service for beginners, but for more experienced programmers who are looking to brush up on their skills and eliminate any bad habits from their day to day implementations.

Code School

Where it all began – The W3Schools

Just like the tagline says, the W3Schools is the "world’s largest web developer site".

This site has been around for as long as I can remember and provides the most up to date and best-practice tutorials on the net.Not only is the W3Schools site the world’s largest developer site, but most developers will agree that it is the most respected and least commercial site on offer. Pretty much any programming language that is worth learning is extensively documented on the W3Schools with detailed interactive examples accompanying each feature making learning a breeze.

The OSE web development team use this site on a regular basis to check the technical capabilities of various languages we use to build websites and apps, and is a fantastic resource second to none in our opinion.

If you’re interested in learning more about a particular language and are comfortable learning on a feature by feature basis, this site is for you.

W3Schools coding school

Language-specific API documentation sites

If you’re set on learning a specific programming language, why not go straight to the source.

For each of the programming languages we’ve mentioned above, each language has its own dedicated site that you can visit to start building your knowledge base.

For example, when our team needs to look up a jQuery function, we’ll often visit the jQuery.com documentation for examples and an explanation on how to implement a given function. This is standard practice for developers who already have a solid base in programming, but need to refresh their memory on a specific function or check whether the language they’re using includes a function similar to another language they may have used in the past.

Sites such as PHP.net, jQuery.com and ASP.net all offer full and extensive documentation of their programming languages with downloads of those languages that can be installed for free on your server if not already included as part of your cloud hosting package.

jQuery documentation

Start your career with a degree in IT, Programming or Multimedia

If you’re looking to study for a career in programming, then the University route is certainly an excellent and extremely well recognised means of doing so that in many cases can result in you landing your dream job.

When enrolling in a major University you’ll be given a fantastic grounding in OO programming skills, how to work with project managers, designers, and what’s expected of you as an IT professional.

Although a lot of this is common sense, being in an environment with like-minded individuals at a young age and learning to work towards a challenging goal is a great way to start you career, network, and develop a portfolio you can use to show potential employers.

Another great benefit of enrolling in a University level IT program is that the majority of courses at the Undergraduate level offer industry placement programs. In many cases these programs lead to direct employment, and are a great way to see how a real agency or organisation with an IT department works.

Griffith University IT/Multimedia degree summary

Learning to code at Hackathons

If you haven’t heard of a Hackathon before, that’s OK it’s an industry term.

Hackathons are essentially events where talented coders and digital professionals are either invited to attend or sign up to help solve challenging real-world problems. Sometimes these events occur within companies, other times they're publicly accessible events such as the one's organised by Unearthed.

If you’re looking to learn to code, it can be really helpful to see how the real pros go about it whilst pinging your imagination. Sure you’re still going to have to do the time learning the basics, but Hackathons can be exciting events to attend, and you don’t even have to be a programmer to participate, you can contribute in many other ways.

So next time you hear about a Hackathon, why not get a few of your work mates together, register and try one out. It can be a great way to learn some new tricks and make some handy new connections.

Unearthed Hackathons

Conclusion

Coding is a really great skill to have and a lot of fun too. There’s really no limit to how much knowledge you can have in the space, and there’s always a new language, feature or function to learn.

I’ve been programming for nearly 18 years now and every day I learn something new. As time has gone on it’s amazing how good you get at picking up new languages, identifying bugs, and producing new and useful content for clients.

Programming for many is a passion, for some a career, and for others a passing interest, but I encourage you to give it a try, you might just find your next hobby or make a few dollars online selling your skills!