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Beginner's Guide: How to Start Learning Coding from Scratch

Beginner's Guide: How to Start Learning Coding from Scratch
Nimrod Kramer
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Learn how to start coding from scratch with this beginner's guide. Set realistic goals, utilize free resources, and engage with online communities for continuous growth.

Learning to code can seem daunting for total beginners with no prior experience.

However, anyone can start learning coding from scratch by setting realistic goals, utilizing free coding resources, and engaging with helpful online communities for continuous growth.

This beginner's guide will explore the foundational steps to start coding as a novice - from deciding which language to learn first to hands-on practice building projects. You'll discover the many free platforms and materials available and how to leverage communities like Stack Overflow for help when stuck.

Introduction to Coding Fundamentals

Coding is the process of using programming languages to give instructions to computers. As our world grows increasingly digital, coding skills are becoming more and more valuable across industries. Learning coding from scratch opens up new career opportunities, strengthens problem-solving abilities, and enables you to build custom solutions.

Understanding the Coding Landscape

Coding encompasses everything from simple website development using HTML and CSS to complex software engineering with languages like Python and Java. There are hundreds of programming languages, each with their own strengths. As a beginner, it's best to start with easier, versatile languages before specializing.

Some top languages for beginners include:

  • HTML & CSS: The building blocks of web development
  • JavaScript: Adds interactivity to websites
  • Python: General-purpose language great for beginners
  • SQL: Retrieves and organizes data from databases

The best part about learning coding basics is that most of the resources out there are completely free. Structured courses, tutorials, documentation, and communities exist online to support your learning journey.

The Benefits of Learning Coding from Scratch

Here are some of the main advantages of starting from the basics:

  • Builds logical thinking and problem-solving skills
  • Lays a solid technical foundation to advance upon
  • Allows you to customize software to meet your own needs
  • Opens doors to lucrative tech careers with lots of flexibility

Learning coding from scratch, and not just specific tools, enables you to adapt more readily to new languages. It also makes your skills more transferable across industries.

Setting Realistic Goals for Your Coding Journey

When setting out to learn coding from scratch, it's important to chunk your learning into achievable milestones:

  • Start small: Focus on learning language basics before tackling big projects
  • Set timed goals: "I will spend 1 hour a day on coding basics for the next 3 months"
  • Focus your learning: Choose one language instead of jumping randomly between them

It's completely normal to feel overwhelmed as a coding beginner. Break your journey down into smaller steps and celebrate small wins along the way. The most important thing is to keep making progress through consistency and commitment.

How do I start coding for beginners?


  • Step 1: Ask Yourself, โ€œWhy Should I Learn to Code?โ€ Take some time to reflect on your motivations for learning to code. Understanding your goals and aspirations will help guide your learning journey.
  • Step 2: Choose the Right Coding Tools and Software to Get Started. Select beginner-friendly, free coding apps and programs like GitHub, Stack Overflow, HTML/CSS, JavaScript, Python, SQL, etc. Leverage online coding platforms to simplify getting started.
  • Step 3: Pick the Right Programming Language to Start Learning. Consider your interests, career goals, and preferred project types when selecting an intro coding language like Python, JavaScript, C++, Java, etc. Focus on one language at a time.
  • Step 4: Start Your First Coding Project. Apply what you learn by beginning a simple coding project. Start small by building a basic website, app, or game to bring concepts to life.
  • Step 5: Write Comments in Your Code. Document your code with comments explaining each section. This builds understanding and sets good coding habits from the start.

Learning to code takes patience, practice, and persistence. But by following these key steps, you'll establish critical foundations for programming success as a beginner.

Can I self teach myself coding?

Yes, it is absolutely possible to self-teach coding. With the wealth of high-quality online resources available today, you can gain coding skills through self-directed learning. Here are some tips to get started:

Set Clear Goals

Define what you want to achieve. Do you want to build websites, mobile apps, games? Identify a coding language to focus on first like Python, JavaScript, etc. Setting goals will help guide your learning path.

Find Online Courses

Platforms like Coursera, edX, Udemy offer beginner coding courses. Choose project-based courses that allow hands-on coding practice.

Use Free Resources

Websites like freeCodeCamp, Codecademy, W3Schools have free coding tutorials. YouTube has many coding tutorial videos. Identify resources relevant to your goals.

Build Practice Projects

After learning coding concepts, build real projects to apply your knowledge. Start with simple projects and gradually increase complexity as you progress.

Participate in Forums

Join developer forums like Stack Overflow to exchange knowledge. Learn from discussions with more experienced coders.

The key is to set clear learning goals, use high-quality learning resources consistently, build projects, and engage with coding communities. With determination and regular practice, you can absolutely self-teach yourself coding.

Can I learn to code with no computer experience?

Yes, you can absolutely learn to code without any prior computer experience. Here are some tips to get started:

  • Take an introductory coding course online. Platforms like freeCodeCamp, Codecademy, and Khan Academy offer great interactive courses for coding beginners. These teach you programming concepts without needing you to install anything on your computer.
  • Learn the basics. Start by getting familiar with essential terms and concepts like algorithms, variables, loops, conditionals, functions, etc. Free beginner coding books and tutorials are easily available online.
  • Join forums and communities. Reddit channels like r/learnprogramming connect you with other coding learners. You can ask questions and get advice on the best resources.
  • Use online code playgrounds. Sites like let you write and run code in the browser. Great for practicing languages like HTML, CSS, JavaScript without needing special software installed.
  • Develop logical thinking skills. Puzzles, word problems, and brainteasers flex mental muscles helpful for coding. Start small and work upwards in complexity.

The key is beginning with interactive tutorials that abstract away the code writing environment. Focus first on core logic and concepts. As you gain experience, you can then set up a proper coding workspace on a computer.

Deciding on the Best Coding Language to Learn First

Choosing your first programming language as a beginner can seem daunting, but it doesn't have to be! Here are some of the most popular and beginner-friendly options to consider.

The Simplicity of Python for Beginners

Python is often recommended as the best first language for new coders because of its simple, easy-to-read syntax. Key advantages include:

  • High-level language that reads similarly to English
  • Lots of built-in functionality so you can focus less on nitty-gritty details
  • Huge community support for beginners with extensive tutorials and documentation
  • Versatile for uses like data analysis, machine learning, web backends, and more

With Python, you can start building usable programs quicker than lower-level languages. This helps beginners gain confidence and progress to more complex coding concepts.

HTML and CSS: The Building Blocks of Web Development

While not programming languages per se, HTML and CSS are essential for web development. Learning them early allows you to:

  • Understand the structure and styling of web pages
  • Quickly build basic websites as you progress to other languages like JavaScript
  • Gain a solid foundation before diving into full stack development

With HTML providing the content structure and CSS the visual styling, they work hand-in-hand for web presentation. Many coding apps and courses use projects like designing websites to teach programming basics to beginners.

JavaScript: A Versatile Language for Web and Beyond

JavaScript may have a confusing name, but it's an extremely versatile scripting language that runs practically everywhere - especially in web browsers. With JavaScript you can:

  • Add dynamic interactivity to websites
  • Build full stack web apps by combining with HTML/CSS
  • Use it for mobile development, databases, servers, and more

As one of the core languages of web development, JavaScript is a must-learn for aspiring coders. The prevalence of browser-based coding apps makes JavaScript readily accessible for beginners getting started with programming concepts.

Exploring Other Languages: C++ and SQL

While less common for absolute beginners, C++ is powerful for system-level programming like operating systems and games. And to store/access data, SQL provides the foundations for database management used in dynamic websites.

The best first language depends on your goals - web development, software engineering, data science, etc. But popular beginner-friendly picks like Python, HTML/CSS, and JavaScript open lots of doors.


Programming Basics: Starting with Core Concepts

Programming languages all have fundamental building blocks in common that form the foundation for writing code. Mastering these core concepts is essential for coding beginners looking to gain competency.

Variables and Data Types: Storing Information

When learning to program, one of the first things you need to understand is how to store, reference, and manipulate data. This is done using variables.

  • A variable acts as a container for information that can be referenced and updated in a program.

  • You give each variable a custom name to represent what kind of data it holds, like userName, age, or totalCost.

  • Variables have an associated data type that determines what type of data they can store, like numbers, text, or true/false values. Common data types include:

  • int - whole numbers

  • double - decimal numbers

  • string - text

  • boolean - true/false logical values

  • When you want to work with a variable's data, you simply reference it by name. For example, you'd write userName = "Mary" to store the text "Mary" in the userName variable.

Understanding how to declare, initialize, and manipulate variables is essential to storing, accessing and modifying data in any program you write as a coding beginner.

Control Structures: Directing the Flow

The order in which statements execute in a program is called control flow. Control structures give you greater control over this flow to conditionally execute code or repeat blocks of code.

The two most common control structures are:

  • Conditional statements - These allow you to check logical conditions and execute different code blocks based on the outcome. For example:
if (score > 10) {
  print("You won!"); 
} else {
  print("Try again");
  • Loops - These allow you to repeat a block of code multiple times. For example:
for (int i = 0; i < 5; i++) { 

This prints the numbers 0 to 4.

Mastering control structures is key to directing how programs execute and dynamically responding to different conditions.

Functions and Modular Coding

A function is a reusable block of code that can be "called" from multiple places in a program. Functions promote modular code by allowing you to break complex tasks down into smaller, named steps.

For example, you can encapsulate the logic to calculate sales tax in a calculateTax() function instead of repeating the same tax formula everywhere.

Benefits of using functions:

  • DRY code - Don't Repeat Yourself
  • Reusability - Functions can be called anywhere
  • Readability - Gives names to steps
  • Encapsulation - Hides complex details

As programs get more advanced, functions become critical for managing complexity.

Understanding Syntax and Semantics

When learning a programming language, you need to understand both its syntax and semantics:

  • Syntax refers strictly to the structural rules of the language - the proper way to write code so the computer can interpret it. Mismatched braces or incorrect punctuation will lead to syntax errors.
  • Semantics refers to what your code instructions actually mean and how they are interpreted to influence program behavior. Two syntactically correct statements may produce different results based on their semantic meanings.

Gaining an understanding of both syntax rules as well as the semantics of keywords, data types, functions, etc. is crucial to writing code that functions as expected.

Starting out, focus first on writing syntactically correct code and then learn how language semantics impact resulting values, state changes, and program flow.

How to Learn Coding for Free: Utilizing Free Coding Resources

Leveraging Free Coding for Beginners Platforms

There are many great free online platforms that offer interactive coding lessons for beginners, allowing you to start learning coding without any financial investment. Some top recommendations include:

  • Codecademy: Offers free courses across multiple languages like Python, Java, JavaScript, SQL, and more. The interactive browser-based interface makes it easy to get hands-on practice.
  • Khan Academy: Provides free coding courses for beginners focused on web development basics using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. The courses teach programming concepts through video tutorials and challenges.
  • freeCodeCamp: An open-source community with free self-paced coding courses and projects. You can earn certifications as you progress through the extensive curriculum focused on full stack web development.
  • Scrimba: Interactive screencast tutorials allow you to code alongside the instructor. The free plan includes front-end web development courses using HTML, CSS and JavaScript.

These platforms remove financial barriers to coding education through their free tier of courses. Their interactive, project-based format helps beginners grasp concepts effectively.

Exploring Documentation and Tutorials on W3Schools

W3Schools is a comprehensive resource for learning web development online. It offers beginner-friendly documentation and tutorials for languages like:

  • HTML
  • CSS
  • JavaScript
  • SQL
  • Python

With detailed explanations of concepts and syntax, annotated code examples to experiment with, and tests to reinforce your knowledge - it's one of the best free coding resources for self-directed learning.

As you're starting out, W3Schools lets you build foundational web dev skills at your own pace for free.

Engaging with Online Communities on Stack Overflow and Reddit

Online communities like Stack Overflow and how to start learning coding from scratch Reddit threads offer great peer support when you're learning to code.

As a beginner, don't be afraid to:

  • Ask questions: Creating detailed posts about coding problems you face allows the community to provide helpful solutions.
  • Answer questions within your skill level: Giving back to the community builds your skills and confidence.
  • Participate in discussions: Joining conversations relevant to what you're learning connects you with like-minded peers.

Actively engaging with these coding communities gives you access to a wealth of collective knowledge that can unblock your progress.

Finding Coding for Beginners PDFs and eBooks

Search online for free coding PDFs and eBooks to use as extra study material. For example, Raspberry Pi's 'Coding Essentials Guidebook for Developers' covers programming basics in an easy-to-follow format.

Leafing through such beginner-focused coding references helps reinforce what you learn through online courses and communities. They summarize key concepts and best practices in a downloadable format for convenient offline access.

With abundant free online courses, documentation, communities and books - you can definitely start grasping coding fundamentals without spending any money.

Hands-On Practice: Building Projects and Using Coding Apps

Hands-on practice is essential for beginners to apply coding concepts learned in a practical, real-world setting. This section provides guidance on starting simple coding projects, using beginner-friendly coding apps, contributing to open source projects, and practicing with online coding challenges.

Starting with Simple Coding Projects

When first starting out, focus on small, manageable projects to get comfortable with writing and running code:

  • Build a personal website or blog using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. This allows you to showcase your progress. Free hosting options include GitHub Pages or Netlify.
  • Create simple games like tic-tac-toe or a text adventure game with Python or JavaScript. These projects let you practice coding logic and algorithms.
  • Build web or mobile apps that solve real problems, even if basic in scope. Identify issues in your daily life that apps could solve.
  • Start with projects that excite you! Passion will motivate you to persist through the challenges of building something new.

Utilizing Coding Apps for Beginners on PC

Interactive coding apps provide a great way to learn programming basics. Here are some top recommendations for PC:

  • - All-in-one platform to code in browsers. Supports dozens of languages with video lessons available.
  • Sololearn - Fun way to grasp core concepts with quizzes and challenges across popular languages.
  • Grasshopper - Code by playing mini-games using JavaScript. Great for total beginners.
  • Codecademy - One of the best online places to learn coding interactively across various languages.

These apps emphasize hands-on coding over lectures. Test your skills by building real projects with the tools provided.

Contributing to Open Source Projects on GitHub

Contributing to open source allows you to:

  • Improve software tools you use daily
  • Solve real issues that impact developers
  • Build a portfolio to showcase coding skills
  • Learn from reviewing others' code
  • Expand your professional network

Follow these steps to start:

  • Set up a GitHub account
  • Find projects seeking first-time contributors - Many label entry-level issues
  • Review project guides on how to contribute
  • Submit improvements like bug fixes, updates, or documentation

Start small by fixing typos and bugs. Ramp up contributions as you gain experience.

Practicing with Online Coding Challenges

Online platforms like HackerRank offer coding challenges to hone your skills:

  • Code challenges improve programming techniques - practice data structures, algorithms, math, machine learning problems and more across multiple languages.
  • Compete in contests to challenge yourself and benchmark skills against peers. These range from college-level coding competitions to global hackathons.
  • Develop portfolio-worthy projects by solving real-world problems posed on these platforms.
  • Prepare for interviews - many companies use similar online assessments during hiring, so these platforms help ready candidates.

Start easy, tracking your progress and performance over time. Persist through failures - some of the most valuable lessons come from debugging errors!

Continuous Learning and Improvement

Improving coding skills requires dedication and consistent effort. Here are some strategies to help you continue learning and become a better developer:

Mastering Advanced Coding Techniques

  • Don't stop at the basics - continue learning advanced concepts like data structures, algorithms, design patterns, and architecture principles
  • Pick a specific language or framework and aim to master it completely
  • Learn techniques like debugging, profiling, and optimization to write better code
  • Work through coding challenges on platforms like LeetCode and HackerRank

Keeping Skills Sharp with LinkedIn Learning and Other Platforms

  • LinkedIn Learning has excellent advanced coding courses taught by industry experts
  • Other MOOC platforms like Coursera, edX, and Udemy also have great content
  • Learn new languages, frameworks, and concepts through these courses
  • Apply the skills by building personal projects

Engaging with Communities for Growth

  • Join online developer communities like GitHub and Stack Overflow
  • Attend local meetups and conferences to connect with other coders
  • Stay updated on the latest news and trends through dev blogs and podcasts
  • Contribute to open source projects for hands-on learning

Exploring Full Stack Web Development

  • Consider expanding beyond front-end or back-end to become a full stack developer
  • This allows you to understand the entire architecture of a web application
  • Learn skills like database design, server configuration, API development etc.
  • Undertaking full stack projects greatly improves overall abilities

The key is to never stop learning. Consume coding content daily, experiment with new technologies, challenge yourself with projects, and engage with the community. This will help you continuously improve and stay relevant as a developer.

Conclusion: Your Path Forward in Coding

Recap of Key Steps to Start Learning Coding from Scratch

Here are the key steps covered in this guide to help you start learning coding from scratch:

  • Set realistic goals based on your skills, interests, and time commitments
  • Leverage free online coding courses like Codecademy, freeCodeCamp, and W3Schools
  • Join online developer communities like GitHub, Stack Overflow, and Reddit to connect with other coders
  • Choose a beginner-friendly programming language like Python, JavaScript, or Ruby
  • Practice coding daily through tutorials, sample projects, and coding challenges
  • Don't get discouraged - learning to code takes time and dedication

The key is to start small, leverage free resources, and engage with helpful communities to guide you on your coding journey.

Final Thoughts on Setting Realistic Goals and Engaging with Communities

As you embark on learning to code, remember to set achievable goals instead of trying to master everything at once. Focus on small, incremental wins like finishing a tutorial or solving a coding challenge. Over time, these small steps will build fundamental programming knowledge.

Also, don't isolate yourself. Engage with developer communities to get feedback, troubleshoot issues, and stay motivated. These communities can provide invaluable support and advice at every stage of your journey.

Encouragement to Begin Your Coding Adventure

Learning to code opens up new career opportunities and allows you to build cool apps and programs. With the abundance of free resources out there, anyone can start learning. So set aside time each day, stick to it, leverage communities, and you'll be on your way to developing coding skills before you know it! Believe in yourself and take that first step into the exciting world of coding.

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