Coding runs the world as we know it, but the vast majority of people aren’t even aware of its existence, let alone what it even is. Before we start, I want you to try to answer "What is Coding?" for yourself...
Now, right-click somewhere inside your browser window, and select ‘View Page Source’. Scroll through the window that pops up and see if you recognize or understand anything.
Now, in simple terms, let’s define coding as the basic act of writing – in a programming language – a script that a computer can understand. This script will tell the computer to behave in a certain way, to do a certain thing, and to, ultimately, perform the actions that you want it to – if your code is right.
- 1. Code As a ‘Translator’
- 2. Why Should I Learn Coding?
- 3. What Types Of Coders Are There?
- 3.1. Front-End Developer
- 3.2. Back-End Developer
- 3.3. Mobile App Developer
- 4. Coding vs Programming?
- 5. Popular Coding Languages
- 5.1. HTML
- 5.2. CSS
- 5.3. Python
- 5.4. Java
- 6. How Can I Fast-Track My Learning?
- 7. Time to Start Learning
Code As a ‘Translator’
What is coding? While we have defined coding as the act of writing a script in a language that your computer can understand, let’s get down and dirty and have a look at some coding background.
Computers don't understand human language and in order for us to see some results (like displaying a web page), we have to write it in a way that the computer would understand.
Coding 101 - Think of your code as a translator between English (or whatever language you speak) and Binary. If you can do this, it will suddenly become much easier to grasp the basics of what is coding.
So, think about it this way: your machine only really speaks Binary, but it understands different coding languages. In the same way, you only really speak your native language, but you understand the same coding languages (if you at least have the basics of some, of course).
The fact that both you and your computer share a common understanding of programming languages means that you can communicate with each other - just like you did when you clicked to come to this article!
Why Should I Learn Coding?
Now that we have touched on the basics of coding, it’s time to take a look at a few of the reasons why you should think seriously about learning to code.
Coding can have huge impacts on both your personal and your professional life. Some of the major reasons why everyone should learn to code or at least understand what is coding:
- It will increase your earning potential massively - Experienced coders and programmers can charge extremely high hourly rates, especially if they are working as freelance or contract developers.
Many coders won’t work for less than $100 per hour, which will give you an income to live up to all your wildest dreams. And the best thing? The fact that there is a shortage of coders out there means that people will happily pay you ridiculous amounts, especially once you have some experience.
- You could work for yourself - While many people who understand what is coding hold down traditional contracts at large companies, a huge percentage choose to work in freelance roles.
As a freelance coder, you will have the ability to work where you want to, when you want to, and how you want to. In reality, there is so much work out there for coders that you will be able to only work on projects that you enjoy.
- You can work on your projects - If you have an entrepreneurial streak, then learning how to code could be the trigger that results in you developing the next viral app or website. Knowing to go out there and create things that before you could only have dreamed of is a wonderful thing - believe me!
These are just a few of the reasons why you should learn to code and not only know what is coding. Doing so will also ensure that you are never out of work, that you will have the ability to understand the technology and the world around you as it develops, and that you will be able to say no to uninteresting job offers.
Don’t believe me? Get out there and have a go at coding 101 or learning coding basics today. What do you have to lose?
What Types Of Coders Are There?
To fully understand the coding background, you need to know that there is a wide range of different types of coders out there. Each of them specializes in a different thing, and each of them is required to learn different languages and techniques that allow them to specialize in these things.
Although we have explained what is coding and three of the most common types of coders below, there are many, many more. Some of the other types not touched on include systems engineers, game developers, and AI programmers - among others.
Some of the main responsibilities of a front-end web developer include:
- Taking design and turning it into a website by writing hundreds of lines of code (trust me, it’s more fun than it sounds!).
- Making sure that the website in question is functional and interactive as required. This includes doing things like inserting animations, creating hyperlinked buttons, and more.
- Minimizing page load speed times and maximizing page responsiveness. Things like this play a major role in a website’s search engine optimization (SEO) score, and it is important to get them right.
Unfortunately, front-end developers are probably among the lowest-paid specialists who know what is coding and programming - but don’t let this put you off!
Although a front-end developer is responsible for the major design and interactivity features of a website, the back-end developer is the person who builds the web apps that the website runs on.
Web apps are complex applications that are designed to do a certain thing and are built into a website’s underlying code.
Some of the things that web apps built by back-end developers allow you to do include:
- Log in and out of a website once you have created an account.
- Connect with friends and build a user profile. Social sites like Facebook and Twitter are great examples of this sort of thing.
- Create interactive apps that can be embedded on a website. Google Maps is a great example of this sort of app.
Back-end developers are in high demand, which means that they command higher salaries on average than front-end developers and that there is a lot of work available.
Mobile App Developer
Although you may think that this is pretty self-explanatory, it is still worth going over. Mobile app developers create apps for iOS and Android operating systems (surprise surprise!).
There is a huge demand for mobile apps. Apps like Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram have already taken the world by storm - who’s to say that you can’t create something similar?
But, before you do that, you will need to learn what is coding and also learn a mobile programming language. If you would like to program iOS apps, you will need to learn either Objective-C or Swift. Both of these languages are used alongside the development tool Xcode.
Android development is done primarily with Java, one of the most versatile languages in the world. To use Java to develop mobile apps you will need to learn how to use a tool called the Android Studio.
One of the newer programming languages, Kotlin, is beginning to take over from Java and gain a significant market share. However, Java looks set to remain the most popular for the foreseeable future.
Coding vs Programming?
Now that we have started to answer the question, ‘What is coding?’, it’s time to look at something else quickly. In the tech world, there is one debate that has been raging on for years, if not decades.
It is a debate of programming vs coding. Or do we mean coding vs programming? Either way, the debate is a largely pointless one, as we will go on to explain below.
In technical terms, coders and programmers are different. ‘Official’ definitions go something like this:
Coder - A coder is someone who takes what we want to say in one language, such as English, and translates it to another language, such as Python. In this sense, the action of coding is simply writing a script that will execute a specific action.
In official terms, a coder is a person who fully understands what is coding and ‘spits out bits of code’ which are then fed into a larger computer program and used to create a website, an app, or anything else which requires bits of code.
Programmer - a programmer also crafts bits of code that fit together to create a program. They oversee the development of an app or computer program and are responsible for tweaking the bits of code that it is composed of.
Either way, practically, it does not reflect reality, since coder is nowadays typically used as a slang for the programmer.
Anyone who writes bits of code to create a program is a programmer, while anyone who understands what is coding and how to fully operate it, who takes bits of code and puts them together into a program is a coder.
Final message - a coder and a programmer are the same things. Sure, the official definitions may differ, but really, they are two very similar, interchangeable words.
Popular Coding Languages
There are hundreds of different programming languages out there, most of which are designed for specific use cases. Most of these languages are only learned by a few specialized people because there isn’t that much demand for them.
However, there are a few programming languages that always seem to pop up in reply to the question of coding 101. They are widespread, are used everywhere - literally - and are quite simple for beginners to learn.
Some of the most popular coding languages that you should consider learning as a coding novice include:
HTML - or Hypertext Markup Language - is probably the most widespread coding language, and is probably the one that comes to the average person’s mind when they are asked the question “What is coding?”.
HTML is used in the front end of internet development, and it is found on pretty much every single website on the entire internet, making it an essential language for any front-end developer to use.
As far as learning a bit of coding background goes, HTML is a great place to start. It is a very simple language, it offers a quite basic syntax, and it is easy to understand.
When I asked you to take a look at the page source code at the start of this article, what most of what you saw was HTML. It tells your web browser where to put things, what those things are, and how those things should look - among other things.
If you want to start the journey to a front-end web developer, then you should start with HTML. You can always look for courses on HTML on Udacity!
CSS is the second of the front-end development languages, after HTML. It is also quite easy to learn for people who are still trying to figure out what is coding, although not as easy as HTML is. A lot of people choose to learn HTML and CSS at the same time, as you need both before you can do a whole lot.
Using CSS alongside HTML allows you to style your webpage by customizing things like fonts, colors, styles, and more. While the HTML tells your web browser what a certain part of your web page should look like, the CSS code is what controls it.
As we noted earlier, a lot of people choose to learn HTML and CSS alongside each other. They are both relatively simple, and they can both be used to style and manipulate a webpage.
Python is arguably the most well-known coding language out there, and would be the first thing that comes to a lot of people’s minds when asked ‘What is coding?’. As an extremely versatile language with relatively simple syntax and a lot of use cases, Python is a great language for beginners to learn.
It is the most common language taught in school, and it is also at the forefront of a range of up and coming technologies - including artificial intelligence and machine learning.
This means that there will be plenty of jobs for Python developers in the future, making it a good language to learn and become fluent in.
If you like the sound of Python, there are many, many resources out there to help you get started. It might be hard to choose one, so make sure to look around. Our best suggestions are edX, Coursera, and Udacity.
Along with Python, Java is up there with the most versatile and most widely used coding languages that define what is coding. It is mainly used for back-end web development and mobile app creation, but it is by no means limited to these.
Historically, the vast majority of native Android apps have been created using Java. Although this is slowly changing, there will be a lot of demand for developers going into the future to maintain and update apps that are already in existence, along with creating new apps.
One of the main benefits of Java is its scalability. This has led to it becoming one of the most favored languages among the world’s largest and most successful websites. It is also relatively easy to use, simple to learn, and its syntax reads similar to English, making it perfect for beginners.
How Can I Fast-Track My Learning?
Now that we have answered the question ‘What is coding?’, it is time to think about learning your first language. It is important to realize that learning a new programming language isn’t necessarily simple, even if you choose one of the easier languages like HTML or Python.
It will require a lot of time and commitment just to learn the syntax and conventions of the language while becoming fluent will need a lot of practice.
Along with the online courses mentioned throughout the article, there are plenty of resources out there to help you learn faster, including:
- Videos. Head to somewhere like YouTube for hundreds of videos outlining important features of your chosen language.
- Textbooks. If you’re serious about learning how to code, then you should consider getting your hands on a couple of decent textbooks that outline things like syntax and other tools.
- Games. With the rise of coding has come a rise in the number of different apps and games designed to teach you to program. While many of these are aimed at children, they can still be a great way to practice.
The most important thing when it comes to gaining fluency in a language is practice. It doesn’t matter how you practice - as long as you’re committing regular time to it, you will improve.
Time to Start Learning
What is coding? Before you started reading this article you may not have known the answer to this. You may have had some vague idea about different programming languages and that they are used to build websites and apps, but now you know a whole lot more!
If you are curious about coding and are interested in delving deeper, the next thing to do is to choose a language to learn.
Try and find one which interests you and which will let you work in a field that you want to - the languages outlined above are just a few of many, so make sure that you do plenty of research before settling on any one language.
Good luck, and have fun!