Learn how to code (for Free)

Published 2016-07-16T00:11:14 by Bryan Miller

Over the years, many people have told me that they want to get into web development and learn to code, especially with the recent popularity of  television shows and movies glorifying the tech boom in Silicon Valley. Unfortunately, the road to becoming the next “Richard Hendricks” isn’t as glorious as they portray it to be on HBO’s Silicon Valley.

Learning how to code is a long drawn-out, often tedious process of repetition and consistent practice to achieve what could be labeled as “acceptable proficiency”. I often refer people to online resources to gauge whether or not they actually want to pursue coding before offering assistance as most typically give up out of frustration when they see their first code block.

One thing I often stress is that you need to try not to attempt to understand everything, all at once. Learning how to code is, as previously mentioned, a long and arduous process — try to learn the coding language of your choice “piece by piece”. Trying to grasp the entire process right off the bat is often quite daunting and can immediately crush your dreams of becoming a web developer. When you aim to learn the language bit by bit, you have a much greater chance of success — as you start developing your skill and comprehension of these little snippets of code, you start to understand how they all work together which eventually will evolve into an understanding as a whole. Just as you would learn any other skill, you need to start with the basics, then build up your fundamental understanding until eventually you “get it”.

Below are some of the best methods for learning how to code, in my opinion, and if you really give it the time and attention it deserves, you’ll be coding away in no time!

What kind of web development code do you want to learn?

Differences between Front-end and Back-end Web Developers
Differences between Front-end and Back-end Web Developers


Learn to Code Reading Material

Learn Javascript & jQuery by Jon Duckett
Learn Javascript & jQuery by Jon Duckett

I definitely recommend that if you’re looking to get into web development or programming, you should start with technical books to give yourself a fundamental understanding of the code you’re interested in learning and what the idea is behind the structure and implementation of the code you are going to learn. Now of course this highly depends on your level of technical proficiency and how comfortable you are with coding languages, but it’s a good idea to get a “base level” of knowledge of the language for which you’re aiming to pursue. You don’t need to necessarily be a “code ninja” at this point, but it helps to understand the inner-workings and thought process behind certain languages to help your overall understanding moving forward.

For example, if you want to be a front-end web developer (working on the parts of the website on the “front-end”, or the part the user sees) and you’re thinking about learning some jQuery (a JavaScript library, offering JavaScript functionality with pre-defined JavaScript functions) to implement some interactivity into your website, you may want to read up and get an initial understanding of loops, variables, and arrays from JavaScript before you jump into jQuery. By doing so, you’ll know what you’re looking at when you import some jQuery code into your site — and hopefully understand how to manipulate the code to achieve the results you’re looking for. 

Following is a list of reading material that I’ve been through myself over the years and I highly recommend.

Some awesome reading material:

DIY Online Coding Classes

Learn to code at Codeacademy
Learn to code at Codeacademy

In my opinion, this is by far the best way to learn how to code. When you progress through these online courses, you’re typically engaging the content by writing the code yourself with an in-browser code editor and compiler. These “in-browser” web applications typically handle the more technical dependencies of the language/platform you’re learning and often help you understand the basics without worrying about the tedious (and often overwhelming) project setup process.

In particular, I enjoyed my time working with codeacademy.com in which you start with a very simple piece of code, and then expand this piece of code into a much larger project, understanding each part of the development process as your little snippet of code turns into a fully-functional web application!

The great thing about these schools is that they typically offer quite a bit of content for free (yes, completely free!) and their classes often span across any type of code/platform/idea you may be interested in. Below are some online resources that I’ve used in the past to learn and enhance my coding skills!

Online learn-to-code resources (mostly free!)

  • Codeacademy.com – Great for beginners and exploring new languages!
  • Lynda.com – Although it’s not free, can be an excellent resource with tons of information.
  • Codewars.org – Great for really challenging yourself with a new language.
  • Teamtreehouse.com – Great community, resources, and material for any budding developers who may need a little more guidance!

Coding Blogs, Forums, Social Media, etc.

SmashingMagazine.com code blog
SmashingMagazine.com code blog

Blogs are a great way to stay up to date with the latest in the industry, providing insights into the best practices and techniques used by coding professionals around the globe! I definitely recommend that you find a few blogs that you enjoy reading and once you get into the habit of following and engaging with the communities formed around these blogs, you’ll definitely be on your way to learning the best practices and techniques for your coding venture.

Forums may also be a great choice if you have already gotten your feet wet with some code, and have run into some errors. By posting your coding issue online for others to review, you can learn how others approach your issue and typically how they found a solution for your code.

Unfortunately, coding isn’t a black and white activity, there are often many different solutions for your issue — some more elegant than others. Try to always strive to produce clean, efficient, semantically awesome code and you’ll be on your way to landing that next programming gig!

Web development blogs, forums, & more!

  • Smashingmagazine.com – My favorite web blog for years now, always seems to offer the latest and greatest in the web dev world.
  • codereview.stackexchange.com – Great for quick fixes and discussion about actual code that you’ve written.
  • reddit.com/r/webdev – Always something new to read up on, great for general discussion and critique.

Podcasts & Audiobooks

ShopTalk coding podcast with Chris Coiyer
ShopTalk coding podcast with Chris Coiyer

I enjoy learning from podcasts and audiobooks as I can typically do something else (household chores, activities, etc.) while I still feel like I’m being productive. Every morning, I set up my phone with podcasts or audiobooks and I go for a morning jog, getting the much-needed exercise all hermit-dwelling professional coders desperately need while constantly learning new methods and techniques to enhance my skill set.

Since coding is a “written language”, you won’t find many podcasts that elaborate on syntax, structure, etc. but you will find a number of great resources to further your understanding of web and web application architecture and implementation. Over the years I’ve found many different podcasts that help round out my experience not only as a developer, but a designer, and an online marketing professional. These podcasts will give you insight into the world of web development, design, and marketing by introducing you to the tools and techniques that the professionals have at their disposal.

Not only will you be introduced to new technology, but web development and marketing podcasts are great for discussion on web design and marketing theory which may help you discover avenues of education and/or business that will further your understanding as a whole. Below is a list of podcasts and audiobooks that I really enjoyed and hopefully you will find value in as well!

Web development, theory, and marketing podcasts & audiobooks:

Think programming and learning to code is too difficult? Check this out!

A great video provided by the team over at Code.org explaining how/why everyone should learn to code:


Have anything to add? Questions? Comments? Leave your feedback below or contact us!


Bryan Miller

Bryan Miller

Bryt Designs

Bryan Miller is an entrepreneur and web tech enthusiast specializing in web design, development and digital marketing. Bryan is a recent graduate of the MBA program at the University of California, Irvine and continues to pursue tools and technologies to find success for clients across a varieties of industries.

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