Tips for Learning to Code

Posted on 24th May 2020 by Mark Tiddy.

For over 10 years I’d been familiar with HTML & CSS and able to get by when I’d needed to and was even able occasionally able to hack about PHP in WordPress without (completely) breaking it but I’d always wanted to learn to code properly…but I’d tried…and it was hard, and I didn’t get it!

My previous attempts (up until 3 years ago) had included downloading a book on creating iOS apps in Objective-C (back before Apple released Swift) and finding myself more and more confused the more I followed the instructions.

Then a couple of years ago I started a Udemy course on iOS Development and the rest is history…I’ve got a few apps in the App Store, have (nearly) completed a remote Full Stack Web Development bootcamp and I’m really quite comfortable writing JavaScript (and using libraries/frameworks), creating iOS apps and HTML and CSS feel relatively easy…I can even dive into new frameworks/libraries and begin to get a grip on them from their documentation.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not expert and I’ve got a lot to learn however I wanted to share some of the things I’ve found have helped me during the learning process because learning to code is tough.

1. Come at it from many directions
Whilst working through my bootcamp content I’ve also been working through the freeCodeCamp curriculum (at a different pace). This has meant that I’ve revisited things a month or so later and this has been great for really embedding my knowledge.

I’ve also found YouTube and Medium really helpful places when I didn’t understand something…there was a point where I got really stuck on React-Redux…my bootcamp introduced both at once and it left me utterly confused…so I went in search of answers. Through articles, walkthroughs and videos I built a couple of really simple redux then react-redux apps to really embed my knowledge…then I went back to my bootcamp task and it all made sense!

Reading something from more than one perspective is really helpful.

2. Listen to those ‘I wonder…’ questions
There have been numerous times when as I’ve been coding something I’ve found myself thinking ‘I wonder if you could…’ and so I’ve gone off and Googled it, read up and given it ago.

If you wonder if something is possible when doing a project then why not have a look and have a go? It’s all great learning…but be careful, if you’re on limited study time make sure you keep an eye on the clock…it’s easy to fall down a rabbit hole.

3. Have a project (or two!)
When I was working through my iOS Udemy course I took a break to work on creating an app for an idea I had…and I managed to put it together and get it out there. This was great because it embedded my learning, caused me to learn more and creating something from scratch without a step-by-step is a lot of fun! (Google is your best friend!!!)

Currently I am working through my bootcamp stuff but also have a couple of side projects which I am messing around with for fun.

4. Give yourself space and time off…
Try not to overload your brain or put too much pressure on yourself. It’s important to keep some kind of work-life-code balance.

I’ve found downtime has been when my head has really worked through a bug in my code or understood a coding issue…running and driving have been particularly useful things to do to help think things through.

5. You will forget things…and that’s ok
If you’re on a bootcamp path then the chances are that you’re learning a lot of new things…you’re probably jumping from HTML to Express to React and back to HTML again.

You might have spent months writing something in React and then come back to Vanilla JavaScript only to realise you’ve forgotten how to do some things…and that’s ok!

I picked up Swift again recently after not writing it in ages and found that it took a little while to get my head back into it but, once I’d written some code and watched a video or two I was back in the zone.

Finally…
remember that it’s ok to Google, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask questions and that ‘getting stuck’ is part of the process.

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© Mark Tiddy 2020