For most people starting a new career in development, the most intimidating part is learning how to code. It’s easy to feel like coding is hard to learn and that, unless you have some born talent or at least a background in computer science, there’s very little hope of success.
We’re here to tell you that this is a myth. To be clear, learning to code will take time, patience, and discipline, but there’s nothing inherently hard about learning to code. No one is born understanding code, and people from all backgrounds have learned to code, from young librarians to experienced professors to mid-career professionals with no relevant background at all.
3 reasons why coding isn’t hard to learn
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the thought of learning how to code, here are three strategies you can use to make the process easier and less intimidating.
1. You don’t need to learn everything at once
A programming or markup language may include hundreds of commands, but chances are, you’ll only need a few to do basic, everyday tasks. In other words, you don’t need to worry about learning the entire list of coding commands and functions to get started on tasks and projects to build your portfolio. As you begin to specialize, you can then start learning the specific commands you need to perform more advanced tasks.
On that note, it’s worth keeping in mind that several of the popular programming languages use the same language for many basic commands. For example, an IF function will work the same way across many programming languages, even if the syntax varies slightly. This means that understanding basic commands in one coding language will give you a head start as you learn other languages.
2. Coding is forgiving
People who code make mistakes every day. Even the pros will mistype a variable name or forget to add in a parenthesis occasionally. The best part about coding is that there are plenty of ways to detect and pinpoint errors as they happen. So, instead of searching through your entire code for a single typo, you can hone in on a specific section or even a specific line.
When you code in a markup language like HTML, you’ll notice immediately which text doesn’t look right, and you can go back to that part of the code to fix it. If you’re using a programming language like Python, we recommend using an integrated development environment (IDE). That’s because an IDE will include a syntax-highlighting editor.
In other words, IDEs make it easier to distinguish commands, variables, and text strings by making these elements different colors within the code. Also, an IDE usually can tell where there’s a syntax mistake — like a missing parenthesis or open quote — and highlight the exact line that you need to correct.
3. Help is just a button or click away
With so many coding languages out there, it’s rare for one person to memorize how to use every function, syntax, and command available. Instead, people focus on the languages and functions they need. Still, people forget, and sometimes they need to learn about new parts of the language.
That’s why programming languages have tons of documentation. You can find documentation online or even sometimes using a special help command within the code itself.
Coding documentation is the best way to learn about different coding commands and functions — what they’re for, how they work, and what their limitations are. You can even find sample code within the documentation to help visualize how to use it in your own projects.
How to make coding even easier
With all that said, there are a few ways to make your learning experience even easier as you develop your coding skills. Here are three ways to help make learning to code as easy and stress-free as possible.
Every major programming language, such as Python and Java, includes a way to add comments within the code. These are lines of freeform, readable text that are not executed with the rest of the code. Comments allow you to quickly type in the purpose and assumptions of sections of your code, which makes it easier to code later on when you need to change something.
Comments also help other people follow and review your code when you’re collaborating on a large project. Get to know the comment syntax of your coding language and get into the good habit of leaving comments. Your future self will thank you.
If you’re stuck on a coding problem, the good news is that there are many others just like you who are going through (or have been through) the same thing. All of them are waiting for you within online communities and forums. Take advantage of these resources to figure out how to solve your coding problems and you’ll save hours of frustration and typing in circles.
On the flip side, remember that most of these communities are open and depend on people like you to help fellow members. So, if you run across someone with a problem that you know you can solve, don’t be shy about offering your knowledge and experience. You’ll improve your own skills by teaching, and you’ll be doing a good deed!
Tip: Keep your searches as general as possible to increase the chances of finding a solution. For example, instead of searching for how do I make hyperlink text hot pink? you might try how do I change the hyperlink text color?
Take a coding course
Using online communities and forums is great when you have specific questions about coding. But, when it comes to learning the fundamentals, the biggest favor you can do for yourself is to sign up for a course. Our courses are designed to make sure you understand the basics to have a strong foundation in coding.
A good course also includes exercises for practice and projects that will help you master the concepts you’re learning. Course instructors who make themselves available to answer questions when you’re struggling with a concept are a plus.
Repeat after us: coding isn’t hard to learn
Coding takes time, patience, and discipline to learn — but it isn’t hard, and there are plenty of ways to set yourself up for success as you learn to code and advance in your development career.
To get started, we recommend taking a few minutes to complete our sorting quiz, which will give you some recommendations on programming languages and courses that you might find most interesting based on your goals.
You can also take a look at our popular development Career Paths for information on which programming languages are used in specific fields. Then, start with a beginner’s course to get the fundamentals in a structured way and build good coding habits from the beginning.