Technology (particularly the internet) is taking over our lives.

Regardless of our current or desired career paths, understanding basic coding can be an invaluable skill to bring to the workplace. Our bosses may want to start a company blog, spruce up the existing one, or add some features to the company website. If we can help with the task, we’ll set ourselves apart.

And for those of us who are unemployed, displaying our resumes, portfolios and/or industry knowledge cleanly and crisply with HTML and CSS styling will increase our chances at getting an interview.

We all know this, yet many of us still find it difficult to adapt our skillsets to meet the rapidly changing www landscape. Others of us worry that learning computer and web-related skills will be too costly and time-consuming. Even worse, there are so many different languages involved in coding and programming (CSS, Javascript, HTML, Python, Ruby, sheesh…) that things get real confusing, real fast.

As someone who knew absolutely zilch about coding and programming about a month ago (and still has a long way to go), I’ve compiled some tips that have helped make my journey in learning to code a little breezier:

1. To get started, you’ll want a canvas for practice (i.e. a blank web page). If you’re a college student, your school may offer free web space to its students to blog, post portfolios, etc. Email your IT department or technology help center to find out.

2. If this isn’t your case, use a free site like WordPress, Tumblr (although I believe Tumblr uses a different language), Weebly or Wix. These sites are “user-friendly” but offer options to go beyond the basics using code.

3. To begin practicing on your webpage, a very simple option is to Google search the code for different things you want to include. If you want to create a background image, you can search “code for background image.” This, of course, is hit or miss and your results may not be for the specific language you want. (HTML5 is the most updated language for typical HTML coding, which is the base language in web design.) I’ve found that generally has accurate results for various HTML5 coding values.

4. Use free online tools (a much easier option than #1-3). The following are the most popular and easy to use:

  • Dash: This is the tool I’m using, and it is outstanding. It provides step-by-step lessons and allows you to enter your code and see what it looks like on the actual test website in real time. It teaches general HTML, CSS and Javascript; enough to design pretty websites, blogs and even simple animations.
  • Codecademy: Offers interactive online tutorials for everything from the very basics to more advanced programming languages. It also allows you to take lessons with your friends. I’ve never used it, but it appears similar to Dash.
  • Khan Academy: Offers free programming and computer science tutorial videos, in a variety of world languages.

5. For Dummies books: There are lots of these books out there, including Beginning Programming for Dummies and more language-specific ones, like Beginning Programming with Java for Dummies. They cost money, but you can find them reasonably priced on Amazon, and you’ll always have pages and pages of information at your fingertips if you purchase one.

6. Want to really dig in and become a pro? It may be worth paid lessons:

  • Community colleges: They likely offer beginner courses that won’t totally break the bank. A great resource and will come with an instructor and, usually, in-person instruction.
  • Training programs: These are offered by companies like General Assembly, which is the company that offers Dash. Offerings include in-depth courses on a variety of design, programming and coding functions. The courses can get pricey (upwards of $10,000 for advanced, full-time) but there are slightly cheaper night and weekend courses (around $3,000), offered in many major cities. They also offer workshops and one-time classes starting around $100.

Do you have any tips or tools for learning to code and program? Share them below!

Image: infocux technologies, Flickr


If I could go back in time and change a couple of the classes I took in college, I would add computer science to my schedule. It wasn’t until senior year that I realized how interested I was in coding and web development, but by then it was too late for me to add any more classes during spring semester. While it may have been too late in college, it is never too late in life. I discovered an awesome organization that teaches programs to women who want to learn software development called Girl Develop It. Last week, I attended a night class that taught the basics of web development, because I knew, well…basically nothing. I’ve blogged for years, but I have not spent much time coding. During the 2-hour class, I learned so much. There were a lot of terms and technologies, and while I wasn’t an expert when the class ended, I knew way more than I did 2 hours earlier. I left the Introduction to Web Development class feeling inspired and somewhat accomplished. It will be a while before I can successfully code my own (simple) website, but with the right tools, time, patience, and drive, I will get there. Have you ever been interested in coding or taken a programming class?

I want to share 5 of the long list of terms that I learned last week…these are common terms that you might have heard in passing:


There are great resources available if you are interested in learning how to code. Here are some programs that you might want to check out:

1. Girl Develop It – This organization promotes mentorship and hands-on experience for women interested in learning how to code.

2. Codecademy – Learn to code online by following Codecademy’s step-by-step instructions. Choose which code language you want to learn: Python, Ruby, JavaScript, APIs, HTML/CSS, or PHP.

3. Girls Who Code – Spend your summer learning all you can about coding and computer fields that may interest you.

4. Black Girls Code – Dedicate one day or one summer to learning programming. Workshops and events are offered for young girls of color (target demographic: African American, Latino, Native America) every month.

5. Udacity – Born out of Stanford University, Udacity offers online, higher education classes, which include Web Development, Design of a Computer Program, and HTML5 Game Development.

6. Code Racer – Using HTML and CSS, Code Racer teaches newcomers how to code a basic website through a multi-player live coding game.