I’m now 6 years into my professional software development career and I have been asked a version of “how can I get into coding?” many times. When I’m asked that, I always push people towards front end development which is, in a nutshell, the building of websites. It’s the “path” I started on and almost every lesson/project you do gives you visual confirmation of your work.
Still, every time I’ve responded to that question, my answer is a little different. So I’m going to use Medium to keep it all up to date and to have something really easy to send to anyone I can help.
Here is how you can get into front end development and thus how you can get into coding:
1. Start by learning about HTML and CSS.
I’d recommend going through the Treehouse course on it:
Go all the way until you finish “Enhancing Design with CSS”. After that, you can stop.
Treehouse is a slow, video-based way of learning code. It will be really good for the beginning but will start to feel fairly slow once you get the hang of it. They currently have a 7-day free trial. You should be able to get through “Enhancing Design with CSS” in the free trial.
2. Do the Odin Project’s course on The Front End
Definitely skip the GitHub Repository parts. And skip anything you already know or feel fine about. The most important part of this is the project (“Project: Google Homepage”). This will give you a chance to actually try and build something.
I really like The Odin Project. It boasts an impressive community of like-minded professionals serious about learning to code. And, thanks to the community-run forums for likely bugs and inevitable issues you’ll have as you start out, you’ll have access to all sorts of solutions throughout your journey.
3. Take a moment to ask yourself, “did I enjoy this?”
I didn’t do the exact steps above when I first got into front end development. Instead of building the Google Homepage, I built a portfolio. But it was at this point that I first felt pulled to coding. I really enjoyed making a portfolio. It was after creating my portfolio that I had a really good feeling this was for me.
So ask yourself if you enjoyed it. If the answer is yes, this might be for you. It will be an incredibly good sign if you enjoyed the process up to now. It’s not to say coding isn’t for you if you didn’t. It could mean that backend development could be your calling or just that my two actionables above weren’t a good fit for you.
Using “Did I enjoy this?” to determine if coding is a good fit for you might give a false negative but it won’t give a false positive. If the answer is yes, front end development and coding, in general, is probably for you.
4. Familiarize yourself with the command line
Now it’s time to do some boring but incredibly necessary things.
While the command line may not seem super useful to you right now, if you find yourself regularly writing code down the line, the little time it’ll take to familiarize yourself with it (about 2 hours is all you need) will be well worth it.
Then do this:
Then do this but skip the introduction and skip exercises 1, 7, 8, 9, 12, and 15:
Here is a wonderful cheatsheet for the command line:
Now back to the fun stuff.
Here’s how you get started with it:
From here, the instructions are quite simple. You’ll just do what The Odin Project tells you to do.
Start with the HTML and CSS course. Feel free to skip anything that you already feel like you know but do NOT skip the projects. Those are the most important.
Building things is going to be the best way to learn coding. I know when I first started, this concept didn’t quite feel right. I would ask myself, “how can I learn by building if I don’t have anyone to give me feedback on if I’m building it correctly?” But you DO have a feedback mechanism. And it’s an AMAZING one.
If it looks like it’s working or if it looks correct, then it is.
Later on, how you built it will become important. But right now, just getting it working, by whatever means possible, is what is important.
8. Finish the Odin Project’s Foundations course
There are sections on Git and the backend. Skip anything that doesn’t feel relevant.
It took me a while to really understand what was the point of Git. When I was where you were, I would think, “why do I need to learn this?” or “this makes no sense.”
The purpose of Git at this stage for you is mostly just to serve as file management. You want to do two things right now:
1. Store your code somewhere (GitHub).
2. Make changes to your code and see what those changes look like.
Git with GitHub allows the above. Think of Git that way.
Most importantly, all developers use Git so you’d eventually have to learn it anyways.
9. Build more websites
Just find sites that already exist and start building them from scratch on your own. Take Facebook and try and build it out on your own. Or try and build my portfolio. Or whatever! The world is your oyster.
If you’re looking for inspiration or want to join a community of project-building that will have feedback and solutions, checkout Codeacedemy’s Projects page:
I’m not the biggest fan of Codeacademy but they’re great once you’re past the basics (in my opinion). They provide you with a list of projects that contain other student solutions and some guides for getting started with that project.
And there you have it! Once you complete that last step, and you have found that you like coding, it might be beneficial to join a coding bootcamp to help you sharpen your skills and get a job as an actual software developer.
One last note: remember, struggling is good. It should be difficult. Coding is still hard for me to this day. I’ll try and code a feature and it’s almost always difficult and I have to sit there and think “WHY ISN’T THIS WORKING??”. But eventually, I figure it out or come up with a new solution or whatever. And I LOVE it. So if it’s hard now, don’t worry! That’s good! In fact, it’s more than good. It’s necessary.