I don’t remember exactly when I first started developing websites, although it was over ten years ago and I was still in school; just to give a rough indication of my age now! When I started, I didn’t know anything about the industry and what it was really like to code as a career. My first project was a forum using phpBB 2, a piece of software used for bulletin boards that I setup online so I could talk to friends after school. Texting wasn’t my thing.
It was then that I realised the software didn’t do everything that I wanted it to do. I felt it needed extending and improving but without anyone to turn to, I decided to give it a try myself. When you learn to code, you can teach yourself in a few different ways, but generally, only one way works for each person. It seems to be that some people can learn from books, whilst others learn better from guides or videos, and then there are others that learn best from looking into the source code of software and breaking it and then fixing it.
Why should you learn to code?
An increasing number of things now rely on software and people are needed to build those things for the wider population. For example, a car used to be made by an engineer and then it’d be on the road. Nowadays, you still need an engineer, but you also need a developer to program all of the inner features, like the built in satellite navigation or the climate control. Soon that will also include the navigation and safety aspects of driverless cars.
Not only will you be at the forefront of technology, it’s an incredibly rewarding job to have, being able to problem solve and provide solutions. It gives you a real sense of accomplishment when you figure out the answer to something or find a bug (an error in software).
What’s the industry like?
Overall, the industry is very competitive which is down to a number of reasons. Firstly, anyone of any age can learn to code in a matter of hours. If you are able to get setup with a tutorial or a guide and follow it through, within an hour or two you’ll have the basics of any coding language covered, it’s that simple. For that reason, you need to make sure you have a passion for the job and be eager to push yourself to learn more and more.
Thirdly, nothing ever stays the same for more than a week or two. In some other industries, you will find that things don’t progress too regularly and once you’ve learnt enough, there’s no more challenges. The web has changed so drastically over the last five years alone, meaning that technology which was considered the best thing just a year ago is already out dated and replaced with something new. It’s very fast paced so you have to keep on learning new things.
What challenges should I look out for?
It is likely that different challenges will present themselves to different people. For example, one challenge I faced early on in my career was not learning to write code the proper way. In some instances you can write something in multiple ways, but only one way is technically correct. Make sure you follow industry coding standards and guidelines, so the code you write is clean and efficient. This is something you’re likely to face if you are learning from older material that is out of date.
By now there is an answer to nearly every single issue you could possibly face. Learn to explain your issue properly and you will be able to find an answer very quickly with a simple Google search. Don’t over explain problems, get to the point quickly and concisely.
Lastly, don’t forget to document your code. There is no such thing as over documenting code and it serves as a very useful skill, being able to explain what something does and why. As an added bonus, if someone takes over your code, they know what it does!
How can I get started?
Getting started is easy, all you need to do is find resources that you can learn from which compliment your learning style. There are a multitude to choose from, offering different things. For example, StackOverflow is an industry leading question and answer site which will most likely be the website of choice when you have a problem. The Tuts+ network has lots of guides available for all sorts of topics, from web development to web design (even animation!). Finally, CSS-Tricks is a popular website which has lots of articles about the various aspects of front-end web development.
If you’d like to know more about our process when developing a new website, you might be interested in our free guide: How To Make Your Next Website A Success.