Saturday, 25 January 2014

Class is in session: Learning to code

Originally written for Ingenious Britain...

Designing a website from scratch – learning how to code and how to get your site to work correctly – can seem like a daunting task. But if you're a small business with even smaller budgets, the luxury of paying a developer to get you online might be just out of reach. The good news is that there are a great number of ways you can learn the basics and create a web presence you can be proud of.

Small solutions: using a pre-existing platform.
The first thing you need to define before starting any web development project is what exactly you are trying to achieve. Do you need a full blown website from day one? Are you planning to go all out online? Is a website critical to your business or do you just need some form of online presence – somewhere to direct people to – that provides a little info about you along with some contact details?

If it’s the latter then you may find it easier to build on an existing platform, like an page or a simple Wordpress install. This will give you a quick and easy website that allows you to showcase your business, offer up contact details, and link together any other aspects of your business online. All without the need to write a single line of code. Job done.

Medium solutions: a simple site with basic code.
If you have a real desire to learn a little code and pull together a site of your own doing, there are tons of sites out there designed to help you do just that. Learning .html and .css will give you all the knowledge you need to get a basic site off of the ground. You can learn these two languages in a number of places but for the basics, start with W3Schools.

W3Schools will take you on a step-by-step journey, covering these languages in their entirety and explaining what every line of syntax means. It will also show you some best practice on how to write your code which will prove invaluable when it comes to editing line after line of the stuff.

Large solutions: learning all the knobs and whistles.
Once you have the basics down, you may be hankering for something a little more… exciting. Maybe you'd like to develop a sliding light-box that showcases your work. Or maybe you'd just like a slicker navigation with some animated functionality. If this is the case then you'll want to learn a little jQuery. Beautifully simple and relatively easy to use, jQuery can take your website from the flat to the fabulous.

The jQuery Learning Centre will give you all the information you need to learn this language and deploy some developments of your own onto your website. Still want more? To learn the bedrock of jQuery – JavaScript – you can look to Codecademy.  This is a beautifully interactive site that makes learning complex languages like JavaScript, Python and Ruby a playful, game-like experience.

This high-level overview of your options is designed to get you started but there are a myriad of other ways out that that can help you get to grips with code. Feel free to comment with your own ideas.