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Start programming avoiding common mistakes

To start programming you just need patience and dedication. But you also have to avoid these common mistakes. Find out what they are.

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Once you decide to learn how to program you will encounter many obstacles. Writing code is not easy although it is an area of work that increasingly attracts more people. There are plenty of tutorials, courses, and sites that can help you start programming, but they sure won’t save you from these mistakes. Get to know them and avoid them with this beginner’s guide.

Memorizing instead of understanding

Long lines of colorful code

Memorizing snippets of code can be helpful, but it’s not critical at first. It happens with some people who are learning to program. They spend a lot of energy learning by heart fragments of code. So when they’re writing code, what they do is reproduce the codes that they know.

What’s wrong with that? That many times knowing the snippets does not result in a functional program. It may be that you know the code that does one or the other thing but when inserting it does not work as you expected. Without understanding how each part of the code works, you won’t know what to modify.

It’s normal when you start programming to forget the usual snippets and have to look for them. There’s nothing wrong with that. With practice, you will learn them by heart. From using and manipulating them you will remember them, but give yourself time. It’s much more important to understand what each thing is for.

Remember that you are not the first person to program. There are many resources to have code at hand. You don’t need to know it by heart, you can always consult libraries or other tools. You can find some in my post 10 Amazing Tools for Web Developers and in Useful Google Chrome Extensions. It’s much more important that you study the functions of the code and understand them in depth. That’s what will give you mastery.

Not practicing enough

Binary code

Programming is a practical skill. It takes time, patience, and consistency. At first, it may seem like you’re not making much progress, but you have to get over that feeling to keep getting better. Although not all forms of study are optimal.

First, when you start programming it is not advisable to do long and spaced study sessions. For example, it is not enough to study only on Saturdays for seven hours at a time. You will spend a good part of that time trying to remember what you have learned the week before because you have already given up too much time. At the same time, such long sessions will cause you to become saturated and get annoyed. It’s much better to practice a little each day. And really practice.

You might want to read a lot of lines of code. It’s not bad to familiarize yourself with a language but it’s not enough. Just doing this or watching someone do it won’t make you grow. You can convince yourself that you have understood everything, but if you try to use those skills you will surely run into a lot of problems. That is why it is important to try to put the code into practice in personal projects.

Depending too much on tutorials

YouTube page

Just as reading code doesn’t help, and tutorials aren’t always the best thing. They’re fine when you start programming. But there is a point when tutorials become a comfort zone. It’s very nice to have someone take you by the hand, step by step, to complete a task. But how do you bring that knowledge to your own project? That’s the part of the learning process where people get stuck.

It’s like when in school it was easy to solve math problems with the teacher. but when it came to homework, it was very difficult to apply knowledge to a different problem. It is exactly the same. With the tutorial is easy, we go hand in hand with an expert to solve a particular problem. But extracting the knowledge to put it into practice in anything else is a different process. It can be intimidating.

So how do we make the tutorials more useful? One idea is to play a little with the solution that has been presented to us. If we are following a tutorial to make an animation that moves from right to left, how do we make it move from left to right? Play a little bit with the code resulting from the tutorial even if it is a simple change. This will help you to really understand how the code works. We return to point number one, it is better to understand than to memorize and it is better to understand than to reproduce.

Doing what you love

On the other hand, I take this point to say that it is always better to practice on one’s own and small projects. It is very good to do tutorials or dream of working on the next big social network. Everything is very valid. However, at first, it is best to have personal projects that you like without needing them to be very useful or productive. Your main purpose must be doing something you love. At the same time, these projects must be within your reach, it is impossible to jump from HTML to artificial intelligence. Go step by step, with passion towards your projects, and eventually, you will go far.

Start programming without a plan

CSS code

The above points have to do with problems when studying. This point is specifically dedicated to programming. At first, with tutorials, without tutorials, with guides or not, with your own projects or not… You will make mistakes when writing code. It’s inevitable. But there are two things to consider to make it easier to fix.

Having a plan

Many times, when you’re starting to program, you feel the urge to start writing code. If this happens to you, you have the right motivation but not the planning. Starting to program and relying on testing and going back to correcting errors can be very frustrating.

That is why it is important, before writing, to have a plan. For any problem, challenge, or programming task it is important to cover some steps to plan.

  • Understanding the problem: No solution will be optimal if you don’t know what to solve. It seems obvious, but analyzing the problem can save you a lot of time you might have spent rambling on issues that aren’t crucial to the solution.
  • Research and experiment with some possible solutions: Before writing, you can investigate what solutions others have given to the problem. I will say it again: you are not the first person to program. Investigate the problem and the solutions, so you will not start from scratch and won’t get lost.
  • Design the program and sketch it: Before writing, you can make a draft. In all activities that require creativity, this is customary. Why jump straight into the masterpiece without knowing what we want in it?
  • Choosing the right data structure for your problem: There are many ways to accommodate data. The variety serves to accommodate different needs. Explore to choose the one that will make your job easier. You can use this guide.

Here are some suggestions that can help you plan ahead before writing the code. You may want to add steps, such as splitting the problem into parts or making critical notes about your solution suggestion… It will depend on your process.

Writing clear code

If your code works but no one can read it, you’re forgetting half of it. Programming also has to be functional and not just for you, but for others as well. If only you can understand your code, it will be difficult for you to create something that will help more people. How is someone going to benefit from your program if they can’t edit the code? In fact, if you don’t understand what you wrote yourself after a while, how are you going to maintain it? When you start programming, you may overlook practical issues. Maybe you used labels that don’t relate to what each variant does or you wrote everything in one line… This will make it less readable.

The code should be clean, readable, and sustainable. Keep it in mind when writing it. If you do, you will contribute to the community and will make your work easier.

Diversifying too much

Programmer set up with several screens

In a curriculum, it looks great knowing different programming languages and having many skills. However, on second thought, it may not be the best and many employers know it. If a person knows too many topics, chances are they only have a superficial knowledge of each one, rather than being an expert.

When you are learning to program it can be very tempting to move from one course to another in different areas. One week learning Python, another week learning CSS, another week with Java Script… The range of possibilities is immense. But it would be best if you spent several weeks on the same subject. You may take a course and do some tutorials in addition to developing your own project. Even after this, there will be a lot to learn.

It is very bad to believe that you already know everything. Especially when it comes to programming, there is always something new to learn. Stay up-to-date with new programming and motivate yourself to challenge your skills. In my article How to Learn Web Development? I list courses and pages with challenges to improve your skills. Review it, you may use some of them to refine your knowledge.

Comparing yourself to others

It’s normal to compare yourself with others. It happens on social media and in the workplace. When you start programming, you might think you’re too old to be the new genius of programming. You may feel intimidated by your colleagues’ skills and feel that you don’t have the talent or intelligence to be a programmer. None of this is true.

Programming is a skill, like anything else, it can be learned by anyone. All you need is time and determination. Comparing yourself to others is useless. You need to put aside destructive criticism and instead understand that everyone’s circumstances are different. There will be those who are incredible in a certain language or who are very resourceful with their solutions or who have had other privileges at the time of learning. Remember this and look at your own virtues.

Also, learn to look at the work of others as an opportunity to discover new things. If we stop competing with others and start collaborating with them and gain new knowledge of the teachings that leave us, we will grow much more.

I hope these tips will help you a lot as a programmer. What have been some of your mistakes when you started programming? Tell me in the comments.

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- About Me

I am Giovani Rodriguez, a self-taught full-stack developer currently residing in Nuevo Leon, México. I started my journey as a freelancer in this field four years ago. All these years of hard work have rewarded me with quite an expertise in developing business applications and structuring business models that are efficient and applicable.

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