It’s the dawn of the new year and I can only imagine how many posts there are which are centered around the theme of learning to code. There are a few people who might think that New Year’s Resolutions are a total farce, I am not one of these people. In fact mine seem to be going pretty well this year, like not ordering Deliveroo four times a week and wondering where all my money was going. So, I figured I may as well apply myself and learn a real skill: Learning to Code.
"In my position at Marvel, I realised I have an awesome opportunity to do this from scratch and share my journey with you - a great community of creative people who may or may not have experience in it themselves."
In this ‘Dear Developers’ series, along with becoming a competent coder, my aim is to be totally honest - I am a beginner and I am really learning as I go. Maybe this will act as encouragement for my fellow wannabe developers to take the first step with me, or maybe the experts will tune in, help me out and hey, maybe even learn something new!
"I’m also hoping to bust some myths, like needing to be a total maths genius to code."
The reason being, if this is the case - you are all going to watch me fail horribly. So, here I am putting myself on a silver platter for you guys - a somewhat bold move but if done tastefully, it's something we can all learn from.
So, why now?
A true key player in my reasons why 2017 is the year I learn to code - is that for the first time, I am working alongside talented designers and developers daily. In all my previous jobs I was surrounded by wordy types, PR officers, copywriters, marketers and recruiters. (Mixed bag I know). So for me, code had always been something that existed in far away lands and stayed there - mythical and unattainable. Almost like a hand selected portion of people could do it.
"For me, code had always been something that existed in far away lands - mythical and unattainable."
Now, it’s everywhere. My inbox is genuinely bombarded with emails screaming the benefits of coding at me. It’s presented as something that will change my life with intros starting with “Stand out to tech employers”, stats like, “The demand for web developers is expected to grow between 20% and 30% by 2020” and a personal favourite, “What if you’re really good at coding?”.
All of these are targeted at career shifts, which I’m not looking at. I’m more intrigued about the possibilities of what you can make by learning how to code. Several of my colleagues at Marvel have created some awesome things on the side, and it’s super impressive and looks so rewarding. Maxime recently made TinyFaces, Oleg has Neue Products and Dean has created his own iOS game, Adventures of Kid.
Designing my own video game might be a little far down the line but who says I can’t make a sweet website?
"Why should I be confined to four bleak walls of WordPress themes?"
First up, which language do I start with?
"Like life, it’s going to be an interesting journey and I can safely say I have no idea what challenges will be in store but that’s the fun part, right?"
For my fellow beginners, here is the lowdown on each language:
- HTML/Hyper Text Markup Language: This is the core language of everything www, it’s used to define the structure and layout of web pages by using a series of tags and attributes. Although it’s a fundamental language of the web, HTML is static - content created with it does not change. HTML is used to specify the content a web page is going to contain but not how the page functions.
- CSS/Cascading Style Sheets: The language for describing the presentation of web pages, including colors, layout, and fonts. It allows you to adapt the presentation to different types of devices, such as large screens, small screens, or printers and is totally independent of HTML.
How exactly am I going to learn how to code?
We’ve all seen the courses advertised around the way that have an asking price of £300 and up. Well, it turns out there are so many places online to learn to code for free and they’re available to anyone at anytime.
Here’s a list of the best spots:
Codecademy host a range of interactive courses which are created by their community and cover the likes of CSS, Java and HTML. Over 25 million people around the world learn to code with Codecademy and they also have a cool spot to read some success stories about other learner’s experiences.
Udemy is an online learning and teaching marketplace which has over 42,000 courses and 14 million students. You can get your hands on a range of courses, both free and paid, from office productivity to development.
Udacity has a range of awesome courses which are pulled together by tech leaders, such as Salesforce and Google. There is something for everyone - whether you’re a beginner like myself or just trying to advance your skills. Whilst there don’t seem to be many tutorials on HTML and CSS, their introductory courses have a learning timeline of 3 weeks and approaches the tutorial from the different standpoint of design, rather than syntax.
Khan Academy was one of the first online education services on the block. Their courses range from maths, science, arts and of course computing. It’s introductory course to HTML and CSS covers detailed intros to both languages and then goes on to CSS text properties, web development tools, CSS layout, more CSS selectors and other ways to embed CSS.
Through a series of recommendations, I’ll be starting my journey with Codecademy. We all have different ways of working - some of us pick things up by simply reading, some taking notes and others by doing. Mine is very much the latter, and I am a lover of a write up - which coincidently works as I’ll be writing up my experiences and posting them right here.
I’m not going to lie, I’m intimidated. It’s been a good few years since I set aside some time to study, and when I was studying I was doing an English Degree which is a little far removed from this. Obviously, we learn every day from new experiences we have and mistakes that we make, may that be in the workplace or just our day to day lives. However, really getting your head down into learning a new skill and retaining it, is scary and is probably what holds a lot of people back.
To give you a little insight on my background, for those of you who I’m just meeting, I’m one of Marvel’s full time content writers. Outside of that, I have a fairly busy social life which I’m slowly starting to decrease as age kicks in and my disinterest in socialising increases. I have a personal ongoing project of writing a book which I aim to write four hours a week. So the time I’m setting aside from coding? Around the same - aiming for 4-5 hours each week.
Over the course of time, I have found it generally helps simply to not put too much pressure on yourself. This is just something we’d like to learn; there are no exams, no deadlines and we’re not behind on anything. This is just us moving at our own pace, and bloody enjoying it!