5 Steps to Getting Started with Programming

Programming can often be intimidating to newcomers so in this article I will try and offer you some insights and tips on how to structure and begin your journey, detailing 5 steps to find your path through the often confusing jungle that is programming, creative coding and web development.

Image by noshad ahmed from Pixabay
Step 1: What Do You Want to Create?

People often think you need to learn a specific programming language to become a good programmer, and whilst it is true that understanding a broad amount of languages is impressive, It’s also a good idea when you start to have a clear idea of what you want to be creating otherwise it can be overwhelming;

The first step is to know where you want to end up.

Want to create front end web applications? You’re going to want to learn JavaScript and React / Vue.js in that case, Machine Learning seems more your thing? Python is going to be your go to. Once you figure out what you want to create, you’ll be better positioned to research how to get there, and it will help to create a much clearer map of the tech stack you’ll need to learn.

CodeAcademy and similar sites are great places to learn with practical exercises and best of all many of them are free! This previous article on best practices also covers more about platforms.

Step 2: Think of Small Projects

Think of a few ideas for tools or creative coding projects – don’t overthink it, just brainstorm and then begin the process of creating it. These projects could be anything from a website about your favourite games to a community forum around a common interest. I’ve found myself if I can make a small side project based on something I am already passionate about I can get doubly passionate during the process of making it, and it really helps you to build a portfolio.

Step 3: Code, Fail, Refactor, Learn
Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

Sorry to break it to you but you are going to fail, and what’s more you are going to fail multiple times. It’s natural for us as human beings to want to avoid failure but programming is a discipline where it’s actually quite beneficial to fail, because by failing you are actually learning about why something doesn’t work.

Learning what an undefined error means in your web developer console when coding in JavaScript  will teach you a lot about variable scope and declaration. Learn to love the failures as much as when you get your code to run, it’s not easy but it is an essential part of the creative process that is programming.

Step 4: Find Your Community

This is a really important part of learning to code, often undervalued but it’s a great idea to get out there and meet others who can aid and help you on your journey. Meetup.com is a great place to start to find developer communities or groups, and finding a good peer support network is worthwhile to both learn and be inspired. It may be intimidating at first but most developers are eager and willing to share their knowledge, and tend to be fairly down to earth people at the end of the day.

Many groups are also geared towards beginners.

Image by Tim Gouw from Pixabay
Step 5: Be Humble and Realistic

Programming is not easy and if you are serious about learning to code you are going to have to be dedicated to it. This doesn’t however mean you should sacrifice your entire life and if you want to avoid burnout you should pace yourself and not expect miracles overnight. Start small building on your foundations and you will find with time that your confidence and creativity will grow, which in itself is incredibly rewarding. It is all about balance.

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