The world of coding doesn’t need to be a mysterious place – there are plenty of places to learn for free, and once understood, it can open up a whole new job market…
Take a look at any job listing website, and the chances are high that you’ll see positions relevant to coding. With everyone and everything on the internet these days, being able to create and manipulate webpages is becoming more and more important. But the prospect of coding doesn’t have to conjure up images of unfathomable text and cryptic symbols. There are hundreds of free resources out there to explain the terms, and to help you at any step of the journey.
To begin with, we’re going to start by dividing web development up into two groups: Front end and Back end.
Front-end is the term for everything the visitor/browser/user experiences and interacts with. Their perception of the experience is based solely on this section of the design.
Back-end covers everything that is not seen – the system that runs the program, the server, the databases of information etc. These things are essential, but are less accessible to a beginner.
This article is going to focus on the front-end of a website, and how in no time at all you can become fluent in these new languages.
Things you will need to progress
A logical mind, and a little bit of patience – it doesn’t take long to understand how things fit together, but that doesn’t mean things will always be straightforward. Once you learn what each language is looking for, you can easily spot errors in what you’ve written.
The basic components of a webpage:
HTML – HyperText Markup Language – is often what people are most familiar with, if they’ve looked at how a web page is made. It is what links everything together, and contains all the text, image links and information of a website. It marks which pieces are headings, which are paragraphs, where links lead to and where pictures should be sourced from. What it doesn’t do is tell the browser how something should look. To know that, the browser looks at the CSS…
CSS – Cascading Style Sheets – describe how things should appear, and control the layout of the page. The HTML will identify which parts of the text are the headings, and the CSS will explain what the category of heading should look like.
Of course these are just the basics, but with a little bit of planning these three skills have huge potential!
Where to start…
(And all of these resources are free!)
Have something on the web and learn by editing it
Getting a blog online is probably the easiest way to get started, as someone else had already put all the framework and back-end in place, so all you need to do is add some text and pictures and you’ll have yourself a website.
Try WordPress or Weebly for simple and free examples. For each post on WordPress you can choose to view the HTML, and in Weebly you can directly edit your theme’s CSS. With a little experimentation, you’ll soon see the connections.
Start learning a particular language
Codecademy has a wealth of courses that are free, and it only takes a couple of hours to give a clear and concise explanation of how numerous front- and back-end languages work. Each course is broken down into modules with step-by-step instructions.
W3Schools.com and CSS-Tricks.com are other useful sites, which offer a more in-depth approach to learning, covering the huge range of variables available.
Find out what you did wrong and how to fix it
There are hundreds of places to find information and tips for the budding developer. Going back over the appropriate section on W3Schools or CSS-Tricks will show you what your code should look like.
If you’re still stuck, there are places like StackExchange.com where people can submit their faulty code and other users will suggest how to fix it. This kind of interaction not only answers your question, but often shows that there is more than one way to do something.
Learning how to code can open up many new opportunities for those with the enthusiasm to learn. It’s the kind of work that will become more and more popular over the next decade, and because of the globalised nature of the internet, the work can often be done from wherever you are. Don’t wait for the next high-paying job opportunity to pass you by, get out onto the internet and discover the free resources available. Maybe next year you’ll be building the next Facebook, instead of just browsing it.
Interviews with two Khmer coders – Kimhoun (23, Kandal province) and Samphors (24, Phnom Penh)
How long have you been coding for?
Kimhoun: 2 years.
Samphors: 3 years.
How and why did you get into coding?
S: I got a scholarship from PNC, where they teach both coding and network management skills. I love creating something which originated in my head and heart.
What do you enjoy about coding?
K: I enjoy making something that is helpful to everyone.
S: I like the problem-solving aspects.
Has learning coding made an impact to your career?
K: Yes, it made it much easier to find a job with a high salary.
What do you want to do with your skills in the future?
S: I want to create a big learning and information-sharing website for Khmer people who are living abroad.
What skills do you want to learn next?
K: I wish to learn more about project management and accounting, because I want to be an IT project manager. In the future I’d like to have my own company that provides services such as web design, system development, mobile app creation and more.
What advice would you give to people wanting to begin learning?
S: Study maths and English, and be patient while learning to code. Also concentrate on imagining what you want to create, and how you could go about achieving it.
K: Coding is not always easy, but you will enjoy it, because with it you can make even the most impossible ideas a reality.
BY: PETER OLDFIELD