How To Learn Code The Right Way

Freelance Technical Writer

While modern web development is by no means easy, nowadays there are numerous public code repositories on sites such as GitHub. It is far more practical – and quicker – to cut and paste code from code library sites instead of creating a site from nothing. For the majority of coders, it appears that real coding is becoming a lost art. Lately, it seems that nearly every website uses libraries or frameworks containing ready-made plugins.

Technical Writing

This article is intended to help improve your coding skills. It is unlikely that these tips will be used for client projects, as time and budget are huge factors. However, improving our problem-solving skills and coding abilities in personal projects can only be a good thing. Having said that, this guide may not always be feasible for practical purposes but it will certainly help you to become a much stronger coder.

Avoid Developer Tools

Most people instantly use web developer tools such as Web Developer Extension, Firebug or Google Chrome’s Developer Tools at the first sign of a scripting issue or selector specificity problem in CSS. This makes sense, as they provide invaluable assistance in finding and fixing coding problems. However, remember the web developers of the 1990’s? They did not have the features and tools we have today. Although their methods are considered archaic and slow, they really knew how to code and script better than many current developers.

Should you be able to debug a Javascript or CSS problem without relying on any tools, then you have a deep understanding of the components of CSS and Javascript. The problem will not be solved as quickly as when using web developer tools, but you will definitely learn and understand more, and be able to avoid the same mistake in the future.

Avoid Code Generators

When learning the tricks of CSS3, this tip is particularly useful. There are plenty of CSS3 gradient generators, button makers and other tools that are helpful, particularly when faced with a deadline. However, they will hamper your learning of style sheet concepts. Taking the time to manually type in CSS lines will force you to learn the various syntaxes and the different parts they are composed of. A code generator can easily spit codes out for you, but you will take longer to understand what those values actually mean. If you type it manually you will have to check it against references and even use the CSS3 W3C specification draft. What a great way to better understand how code works.

Write the Framework

Nobody builds frameworks from scratch anymore. They all use a code base or boilerplate. WordPress and JQuery frameworks are popular for good reason. However, they teach you little more than nothing. Rather write your code base and modify it to your own needs. This is likely to take you a very long time, possibly weeks or months. Maybe you will even scrap the whole project and never use it on a website, but it will force you to learn how to actually do it yourself.

Real coders are more marketable, able to offer unique solutions to enhance their design.

Even though it might be a rather daunting task, the rewards will be yours. Your problem-solving skills will improve, the syntax language will be better understood and the concepts will become clearer to you. Creating a small Javascript library with a handful of modules will be well worth the effort. It is advisable to make this an indefinite personal project, which you can continuously return to, improve, add new features and learn new lessons from. It is unlikely to ever be as good as the frameworks out there, but you will definitely learn more than you would otherwise.

Avoid Using a Browser

Ordinarily, when developing CSS layouts or Javascript functionality, it is common to jump back and forth between editor and browser in order to check your stuff as you work. Challenge yourself by coding an entire web page layout without checking it in the browser until it is finished. This will help you keep focused throughout, and will ensure that every line is thoughtfully coded. The bonus is that you will be forced to visualize the code outcome. Being able to conceptualize the code results while you write it is possibly the most important part of understanding it. Thinking your code through, line by line, is the best way to learn it.

Manually Type Book Code Examples

It is so easy to download code archives from computer programming books, but what do you actually learn when copying and pasting code? Take the time to do a comprehensive book study by typing the material by hand, and then test it to see if it works. This will benefit you enormously as you are bound to make mistakes, which lead to error messages. You will be forced to compare the book code to your own to find the problem.

You will be debugging code immediately after learning it, which is the best way to learn important coding lessons. The book might even have coding errors, which is a fantastic opportunity for gaining a stronger insight into coding concepts. Try the same thing with online articles and tutorials. You will reap the same benefits.

While these tips are not intended for regular use on client projects, they will help you to develop your own style of code. Last but not least, you will have a deep understanding of the underlying concepts of the code you are working with. You will have the skills to be truly creative, ensuring your work is unique and stands out from generic templates.