Back in 2010, I had some outdated knowledge of web design (from back when people used <table> tags for layout), but I had an awesome project idea to help the non-profit I was working at. So, I started studying, searching the internet, and reading about how to develop web applications. I initially started with PHP, but I honestly hated it and, after reading Why’s Poignant Guide to Ruby, decided that Ruby was awesome and I’d learn that.
Over the course of that project, I learned how to find information on programming and made some mistakes I hope to help you avoid with these tips for beginner programmers.
Shoot for professionalism
Both in your own coding and when searching out information on the internet. The internet is full of tutorials, especially on web development. A lot of them are crap too. Search out resources and tutorials that have professional information. How will you know what’s professional? Here’s some ideas:
- The tutorial is from a reputable, trustworthy source. For example, the Mozilla Developer Network has great information on it, and you know it’s good because it’s from the makers of Firefox.
- The site the tutorial is on is well-made and well-designed. If a site is telling you how to do web design, and their site is broken and looks horrible, that could be a sign they aren’t very trustworthy.
- Does the tutorial explain why Method X is better than Method Y. Crap tutorials usually just tell you their information without explaining why it’s the right or wrong way to do it.
Have a purpose
Did you read the introduction? Then you know that I got started programming because I had a project idea I was passionate about. You should have a purpose in programming so that, when things get hard, you have a reason to continue. “Making money” is not a legitimate purpose. It needs to be something specific.
Having a specific project also helps give you practical knowledge. When you run into problems working on your project, you will find the solution, resolve it, and be that much more knowledgeable about programming. So, find tutorials/guides that lead you through the creation of a real project (like a blog, twitter clone, or something like that).
Don’t get involved in politics
When I was first learning Rails, I wasted a lot of time because I would read one tutorial and learn a certain method and then a couple days later read another article on how that method was bad and everyone should use this other method. Don’t worry about that yet. You focus on the basics. If you get to some point where there are multiple solutions, do a bit of research, pick one and stick with it at least until after your first project. After that, then you can explore other methods or options.
Make sure it’s up-to-date
Technology is constantly improving. When reading tutorials and searching google, take note of the date it was made. If something is more than a few years old, take what it says with a grain of salt. They could still be useful, but it depends a lot on what topic you’re researching. HTML/CSS, for example, has changed a lot in recent years and you’ll want to be learning the most up-to-date techniques so you aren’t behind before you even start. C++, on the other hand, while it’s been updated over the years can still have useful articles that are old.