There’s no way around it. Programming is one of these things that takes time, effort, dedication and lots of headaches to get good at. There are plenty of ‘gurus’ out there willing to sell you the secret of learning to code in x amount of minutes. But the truth is this; there is no one ‘big’ secret. You can’t cheat, because anyone who’s done it the hard, slow way will spot your inelegant code in seconds. There are, however, several little tricks you can try to kick start your learning, become more efficient with your coding, and pick up the fundamentals easily.
Tip #1: Slow Down!
Ignore the title of this article for a second, and listen to this one foolproof way to get better at programming fast: Take. Your. Time. Sure, you can collect all the shortcuts and learn pidgin code in an hour or less, but a) that won’t get you very far and b) it’s guaranteed to stop other programmers from taking you seriously. If you take time to get things right from the get-go, your learning time will speed up exponentially once you’ve got the basics down. Already know most of the basic stuff? That’s great, but it doesn’t mean you can skip to the more complex parts. Think long term – going slow now means you can go fast later.
Tip #2: Code by Hand
Yeah, we know. We live in a world where we do pretty much everything on a computer. Nobody writes anything by hand anymore. And this is also not exactly a ‘get rich quick’ trick for learning to code (emphasis on the ‘quick’ part). But coding by hand is hands down (excuse the pun) the best way to improve your accuracy, reduce unnecessary syntax errors, and train you in the art of thinking things through rather than hoping for the best. You can’t just run your code to see if it works when you’ve scrawled it on paper. Plus, a written coding exam is usually an essential part of every programming job interview – not to mention college classes.
Tip #3: Improve your English
Another borderline abstract idea, but hear us out on this one. At the most basic level, learning to code is learning a language. English is a language, and despite what all the colons and brackets would have you think, it’s actually very similar to many programming languages. While you’re learning to code, you should also work on improving your English grammar – you’d be surprised how helpful it is (and how bad your everyday grammar really is). Soon enough you’ll be writing perfect code and perfect sentences, so it’s win-win.
Tip #4: Ask for Help
You can only teach yourself so much code. There will come a time when you’ll end up desperately googling a solution to the problem you haven’t been able figure out, and you’ll get more and more frustrated when you can’t find an answer. Oh, and it will happen soon than you think. The solution? Ask for help! There are endless resources out there where programmers communicate and collaborate with each other in situations just like the above. Get involved with GitHub, participate in coding discussions, connect to a network of like-minded people and then simply ask them to help you out. They’ll be happy to.
Tip #5: Learn to De-Bug
This is a slippery slop of sorts. Once you learn debugging, it’s very easily to fall into a rabbit hole and spend hours untangling needless little details of your code. However, learning some debugging techniques makes it infinitely easier to learn to program and gives you a whole new insight into how coding works. Choose your favoured debugger and step through your code line by line, looking at values, executions and more. You’ll understand your code on a much deeper level, and writing out lines will become a doddle. Obviously, so will figuring out what went wrong – which means you’re less likely to make mistakes.
Tip #6: Write, Write, Write!
This last tip is by far the most important. The quickest way to learn to code is to just dive in and start coding! Of course you should study example code and learn everything you can about the fundamentals of coding. But you should also play with that example code instead of just reading it, and write your own code even if you don’t know what you’re doing, and take on all kinds of (small) projects to challenge your skills. Basically, just take every opportunity you can find to actually code real things. Don’t worry about making mistakes – it’s all part of the process and brings us neatly back to Tip #1.
Have we inspired you to learn to code? Take a look at the many online coding courses we offer, or check out our Getting Started guide to find out which language is for you!