Blog >
Article

How to Get Started Writing Code

By Pluralsight    |    May 12, 2015

So, you’ve decided you want to start programming—you’re excited and ready to learn, and then you ask yourself, “How do I start writing code, and which language do I start with?” The answer to that question is a little tough, and it’s certainly something I struggled with when I was starting out. That’s why today I want to dig into straightforward, useful advice you can work off immediately. And by the end of this, you’ll be wiser, braver, and hopefully a few steps closer to some cold, hard programming.

What is Writing Code?

“Writing code,” “coding,” and “programming” are basically interchangeable terms. Broadly speaking, knowing how to write code is the process of creating instructions that tell a computer what to do, and how to do it. Codes are written in various languages, such as javascript, C#, Python, and much more.

Different programming languages are used for different functionalities, and it is most valuable to be familiar with several of them, as opposed to just one. Some languages are more closely related and connected to one another than others. For example, if you are interested in web development—creating websites—you will probably want to learn HTML, CSS, and Javascript, as well as related libraries and frameworks like jQuery or Angular. But, the million-dollar question, what should you start with?

How to Write Code

Learning how to write code will depend largely on what it is you wish to accomplish with this skill. For example, are you looking for a few simple tricks for your website, to create an app, or build a career? There are basic coding principles anyone can easily learn, but for more advanced activities, you will benefit the most from courses or an IT degree program.

  1. Decide why you want to learn how to code and what you hope to accomplish. Factor in the amount of time and money you are willing to invest in the process.

  2. Determine which coding language you will need to learn to achieve your goal or whether you want to learn multiple languages.

  3. Choose how and where you want to learn. Online courses from home? College degree? Just the basics from books, YouTube videos, and online articles?

  4. Choose and download a code editor so you can write code from home after completing your courses or during the home learning process.

  5. Start creating and practice, practice, practice!

  6. Join online communities, attend live workshops, or find something else that allows you to discuss ideas, ask questions, and get feedback on your work.

  7. Find other people’s code and study it to make sure you understand what each item is and how it works. Look for ways you would change or improve things and then share them in your online communities and ask others to comment, or critique your work.

  8. Continue the learning process and repeat steps if needed. Each new skill mastered can be added upon until you are comfortable completing whatever projects you are interested in.

 

What is the best language?

Typically, language is the number one thing I hear people worrying about when deciding to start programming. You might be concerned the language won’t be right for your chosen industry, that it won’t suit your projects, that it’s not fast enough, or that it’s not powerful enough. And yes, some languages are powerful, some are fast, and some are industry standards, but the honest truth is none of this matters when you’re just starting out. What does matter is starting to think like a programmer. Programmers are problem solvers, and the language itself is simply the tool you use to solve the problem. There really is no right or wrong programming language to pick when you’re starting—what’s much more important is getting used to thinking differently, being open, and being ready to learn from your mistakes.

My main advice for anyone wanting to know how to start writing code is to do exactly that—just start. As soon as you get your hands dirty and actually write some code and get it running, you will already have gained an enormous amount of knowledge. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes—some of the most important things I’ve learned have come from breaking my own code. It can be an extremely fun experience changing numbers and deleting lines to see what explodes and why. One piece of advice I’ll offer here is to keep your first few programs relatively simple. That way you don’t get overwhelmed when you’re debugging your code.

In the next section, I will show you some example snippets from a few common languages, which will clearly illustrate why the choice between languages really isn’t important when you are starting out.

How to Pick and Learn Your Desired Programming Language

There are a few types of programming languages, including functional languages, that are more suited to manipulating large amounts of data and procedural languages. They’re better used to perform low-level system tasks, but for now I’m going to focus on the more commonly used object-oriented programming (OOP) languages. While all languages have their best uses, I’m going to make the bold statement that, for now, I think object-oriented languages are kinder to beginners. Why? Because the basic principle of almost all object-oriented languages are the same—you’re making objects and doing stuff with those objects.

Here are a few OOP languages to help you get an idea of what each is generally used for and how it works.

  • Java - This language is used for uploading photos, interactive map features, playing games, and virtual tours. Java is not the same thing as Javascript.

  • Python - Python can be used for building websites, software, games, and desktop graphic user interfaces (GUIs), as well as providing database access. Python can be used on its own or as part of another framework, such as Django.

  • Objective C - This OOP language is based on C, which was created by Apple. It is used to develop apps for Apple products, but is not compatible with Android and other platforms.

  • C++ - C++ is used to develop software, games, and apps, but unlike C, it is compatible with multiple platforms, including both Apple and Android, as well as Windows and Blackberry.

Here’s a basic program written in a few different OOP languages—this example is the most basic program to write, called “Hello, World,” and it’s something programmers often use to get an idea of a language’s most basic features.

First, create a string and give it the value: “Hello, World”

Now, let’s do something with this value by writing it out onto the screen somewhere (NOTE: This isn’t about understanding all of the code, it’s just to take notice of their similarity).

While they all have their own way of expressing the same thing, we can quite clearly see they all use very similar patterns. The main benefit to this is if you know one of these languages, looking at another one shouldn’t (normally) be too hard to figure out. With a little reading, you can probably figure out what’s happening, even in a language you haven’t seen or used before.

The first language you learn might not be the one you stick with forever, but it’s important to just choose something and begin your journey into programming. Thanks to their similarities, you’ll find it easier to transition between languages, where you will be free to explore and enjoy all the perks and quirks of each.

More Tips For Teaching Yourself How to Write Code

If you are just starting out, it can be helpful to dip your toes in the water before diving in. Try out some online courses to see if coding is right for you. Javascript.com, which is owned by Pluralsight, offers multiple exciting course options to help you learn coding from home.

You can also practice learning the lingo and thinking like a computer. Work on developing pattern recognition skills, understanding algorithms, and solving basic computer problems.

Another great resource for learning to code is your local library or bookstore. There are dozens of books available with tips and instructions for learning about writing code, just aim for the most recently published ones, since the world of computers is constantly evolving. There are also ebooks you can download from GitHub and various other websites.

Finally, have fun with it! Did you know there are coding games you can play to help you develop your skills? Check out CodinGame, Hour of Code, Minecraft: Education Edition, or FreeCodeCamp. And don’t forget the wide range of YouTube videos out there, which you can watch on your lunch break or in your spare time.

Start teaching yourself how to write code with these tips and step-by-step instructions today!

About the author

Pluralsight is the technology skills platform. We enable individuals and teams to grow their skills, accelerate their careers and create the future.