The internet became widely available in the early 1990s. Since then, it’s spawned a new way of connecting, doing business, and learning.
Small wonder that web designers and developers are valuable people in the workplace. On average, an entry-level web developer can make $54,379 a year.
If you’d like to hit those figures, you might be wondering how to learn to code.
Plenty of websites offer expensive courses. Are they worth it?
One of the advantages of paying for a course is you attach more value to the content. You’ll invest more time if you’ve also invested money.
But you can learn to code for free. Read on to find out how and why you should!
You Need Motivation
You thought we’d start with websites to visit, didn’t you? Well, we have to start with your mindset first.
Not investing money in a course can sometimes make it harder to invest effort. But that’s not to say it can’t be done.
Work out why you want to learn to code. Use that as your motivation every day.
Do you hear yourself saying things like “I could try out new code but I need to catch up with friends tonight?”
Remember your ‘why’. Hone in on your motivation and get learning.
Buying a new laptop to practice your new coding skills is a great motivator. Click here to find ways to get money for a computer today.
Make a Learning Plan
Another way to get started is to make a learning plan. Saying “I’m going to learn to code” is admirable. But it’s also too big.
Which language? Where are you going to learn? What are you going to do with your new skills?
Deciding all this in advance will help you choose which websites to learn from. It also breaks down the mammoth world of ‘code’ into something more tangible.
For example. You might decide you want to learn PHP so you can work with WordPress. You want to build a side hustle selling WordPress themes online.
You’ve got your chosen language and you’ve got an end goal in mind. So you choose a short-term target. You’ll build your own child theme from scratch within six months.
Great! Now you have a specific goal to aim for.
How Do You Learn?
The other thing you need to know in advance is how you learn. Do you prefer following instructions until the thing makes sense? Step-by-step tutorials might be a better bet.
Do you learn better by reading tons about the subject and then experimenting? Check out books and websites to absorb the information before you practice.
The problem with tutorials is they’re a one-way conduit of information. They have no way of knowing if you understand the information or not. You can’t ask a tutorial questions.
Thankfully, it’s pretty clear if a piece of code doesn’t work. Being able to dismantle what you’ve done to pinpoint the broken part is vital to your career as a web developer.
Learning those skills early on is just as important as learning the code.
Where Can I Learn to Code for Free?
Now we’re onto the meaty stuff. We’ll give you a range of options so you can decide what suits your learning style and goals.
Some of these options offer free and paid resources. But you’ll be able to make a good start with all the free tutorials.
Static Resources and Tutorials
Prefer absorbing information and putting it into practice later? ‘Static’ resources are the best choice. These are websites and tutorials that you work through at your own pace.
For absolute beginners, try the Hour of Code resource at Khan Academy. The tutorials are aimed at ages 8+ so don’t expect anything too ambitious.
But it’s a good way to build your confidence.
Mozilla, the company behind the Firefox browser, run the Mozilla Developer Network. There’s a dedicated learning section for those new to code.
If you already have some coding knowledge, check out the guides on CSS Tricks. It’s not ideal for complete beginners. But it’s a great place to move onto.
Interactive Learning Resources
These are resources that give you some level of feedback as you go. If you’re a person who prefers to try things out as you go along? Use these resources.
They’re a good way to measure your progress. You’ll internalize the principles the more often you use them.
Sites like Codecademy are a great place to start. They offer a ‘learn by doing’ approach and you test your code as you go.
Codecademy also offers a ‘pro’ membership. This gives you access to projects to build and community support. But it’s not essential to use the site.
FreeCodeCamp offers a community alongside its library of tutorials. It also gives you the chance to work towards free certifications.
Or try CodePen. You can copy an existing website on the site and pick apart its code to see how it works.
Your code lives in their environment so you can’t ‘break’ anything as you experiment.
Are you learning code to improve your job prospects? Then you’ll need to build a portfolio to show a potential employer.
They’d prefer to see a working example of your code. The results of an online tutorial are fine. But all that proves is you know how to follow instructions.
Creating your own website, app, or interactive tool shows you understand how to make code work for you.
We’re only adding this as extra advice. Because figuring out where to learn is only half the battle. You also need to check that what you’ll learn will help you meet your long term goals.
Learn to Code and Change Your Career
Now you know how and where to learn to code for free. Only you know how you learn best, which affects where you should go to find resources.
It’s up to you to decide what you want to learn and why. Keep that ‘why’ handy. Remind yourself of your motivation whenever you feel your interest slipping.
You can find gentle support among the developer community on Twitter. And enlist a few accountability buddies to keep you on track.
While you’re here, why not check out our sample code library for ideas?