Learning to code can be an interesting way to spend your time, which can of course also open up opportunities. Whether you want to become a professional developer, have an idea for a game, app or another piece of software you’d like to make a reality, or want to learn to code to allow you to do useful things to help you in your job, there are lots of reasons to get started.
Five Important Things to Decide Before You Start Learning to Code
It is also easier than ever now to become a self-taught programmer, thanks to the wealth of resources available online, many of them for free or at low cost, and the fact that many of us have more free time at home to do things like study new skills because of the pandemic.
But, before you start diving into learning a programming language or trying out some first coding projects, you do have to make some choices that will help you manage your learning and progress. Here are five things to research and decide on before you start learning how to code:
What Type of Projects do You Want to Work on?
The first thing you need to think about is what sort of technologies you want to work on. Are you learning to code because you want to make games? Do you want to work with AI and machine learning? Do you want to do data analysis? Do you want to build apps?
Not only do you need to know what type of projects you want to make, but you also need to know where you see yourself once you have gained the skills.
If you want to be a solo developer making things from beginning to end, then the skills you will need to focus on getting will be different than if you want to end up getting a job working on a large-scale development project, where you will probably be focused on one aspect of the technology, such as the front end or the database layer. Knowing the type of thing you’d ultimately like to be able to do will help you with the other choices on this list.
What Language do You Want to Start With?
There are a lot of popular languages that are used in different fields of development, and while you can often move easily from one to another when you have gotten used to the logic of coding and the processes involved in writing and debugging software, it is good to know at least what type of family of languages are best for the type of thing you want to do, as well as which languages tend to be good starting points within them.
Choose a language where there are plenty of resources available and a big programming community, so you will be able to get help easily during the early stages. Python is a very popular choice, as are C based languages like C#.
What Tools and Environment Will You Use?
Picking out which tools you want to use is the next thing to do once you know the type of coding you’ll be doing and the language. You don’t need complicated or expensive software for most things, and a lot of developers just use a basic text editor set up for writing code, like Notepad ++.
However, there are also software products and environments designed for specific types of development, and this is something you should explore in your research phase before you begin studying and writing code.
If you are going to be using a Mac, then it can be very different to if you are using Windows or Linux, as the tools and environments you can use will be different.
Using a Mac as your development computer is not a problem, and can be much better if you are looking to work on Apple technologies with your new coding skills, such as making iPhone apps, but you do need to bear in mind that you can’t just download Notepad ++ for Mac as you can with Windows, and so if you want to use the most commonly used text editor for coding, you will need to run it through an emulator, and it is generally better to find an alternative that you like using instead.
Setapp.com has plenty of helpful articles including the one about Notepad ++ alternatives for Mac that can help you figure out the tools you want to use. It is definitely a good site to bookmark while you are researching these things.
Researching the tools and software that you intend to use as you start practicing coding and making sure you have installed them and know how to use them before you begin will make things much easier for you as you start looking at completing your first beginner coding projects.
What is Your First Goal?
Setting goals is key to achieving anything when it comes to a long-term learning plan. Now you know the language and technologies you will be working with you can begin to set yourself a goal that you can get started on right away.
This could be something as simple as completing an online course that you found or working through a book about your chosen language, or it could be something more ambitious, like your first goal may be to build a specific type of simple app or game.
Give yourself a timeframe by which you’d like to complete the goal, and break down the tasks involved into smaller milestones, which you can also plan out.
What Learning Resources Will You Rely On?
Now you have a goal and know what the tasks involved in reaching it are, you can identify which resources you will use to get you there. You can try figuring things out just using reference materials about your chosen language and tools, or you can go with a more guided approach like following a tutorial in a video series or online course.
The important thing is to know where you will go to get all of the information that will be required for you to complete each part of your goal.
If you have a clear idea about all of these things, then there is nothing left to do but get started! Good luck with your coding journey!