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6 Mistakes New Programmers Make and How to Avoid Them

“I don’t always test my code, but when I do, I do it in production”. That’s a HUGE MISTAKE! In this article and video above, I’m going to share with you, the six mistakes new programmers make when learning to code and how you can avoid them.

I’m Joel creator of this website PixemWeb and the PixemWeb YouTube Channel. If this is your first time here, then I hope you find this article helpful. When you’re done with this article, checkout my 10 Year Journey to Becoming a Full Stack Developer

Coding Ain’t Easy!

Learning to code isn’t an easy task, especially in the beginning. At first, it can be very exciting, you’re ready to jump in, headfirst in the code that you want to learn. You’re not dipping your toes, you’re getting ready to take the leap, jump in, and do a cannonball. But then out of nowhere, the obstacles start popping up left and right, and your excitement fades away. This is when you must dig down deep to overcome any obstacles that might try to hold you back.

The Six Common Mistakes that slow you down from Learning to Code

Everyone makes mistakes, especially when learning something new. As a new coder, you will make mistakes. It’s part of the process and you shouldn’t feel ashamed about it. Even highly skilled programmers, with years of development experience, make mistakes.

#1 – Not Preparing Your Operating System

If you’re working with a language that requires more than a text editor and browser, you need to download software or packages to get started with that code. It doesn’t matter if you’re using Windows, Linux, or macOS. Each operating system will need to be prepped for the language you’re looking to learn.

Linux & macOS Already come Configured for Development

I know, Linux and macOS do come with extra packages that Windows might not have out of the box, but those packages are often outdated, and you’re still going to need to sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade, followed by sudo apt install whatever package it is that you need for your development environment.

Make sure you set up your development environment and the tools you’re going to need to get started with code. Look at the documentation pages of the programming language you’re looking to learn, and make sure you configure your operating system.

#2 – You’re Way too Distracted, we all are!

We live in a hyper-connected world, spend more time on social media, checking email, responding to text messages, and talking on the phone (if that is how you communicate with others). We spend more time on those activities than on any other activity. When we’re not on social media, we are binge-watching Netflix, Amazon Prime, HULU, Apple TV Plus, Disney Plus, and regular cable.

Life Gets in the Way while Learning to Code

Then there’s life in general. We get sidetracked by anything that comes before us, and what life throws in front of us. From our family, to our significant other, friends, work, school, getting to and from work or school, getting sick, working out, eating, and of course sleep. The list can go on and on, but in general, we live very distracted lives.

Make Time to Learn Code

With all that, it is no wonder learning how to code can be such a challenge. So, what can you do? You must take back control of your time. Easier said than done right? Make a daily schedule and stick to it. Dedicate time for the things you must do, and then dedicate time for the things you want to do. You must dedicate time to learning how to code and stick with it. The key is you must stop multitasking.

#3 – Learning from Outdated Tutorials

This can be one of the biggest issues you run into. Programming languages are always being refactored, libraries, frameworks, and CMSs are being updated. Developer tools that we work with are also often changing. How it was done before, might not be the best way to get it done now.

What can you do? Try to use recent tutorials for the programming language you’re learning. Make sure you get familiar with the documentation pages of the languages you want to learn. Some of the documentation pages will have a changelog section that will show if there are any breaking changes or code that has been deprecated. That’s one of the most important pages you can view.

#4 – Spending too much Time on Basic Tutorials

When you first start learning to code, I recommend spending enough time learning the fundamentals, learn the basics of code syntax, and how to work with the flow of code. Make sure you understand the concepts of variables, functions, arrays, operators, conditionals, loops, classes, objects, and other fundamentals of the language you’re learning.

Learn to Debug Code

Most languages have a way to debug your code. Learn how to use any debugging features for your language. Learning to debug code and programs, is a vital skill that often gets overlooked.

Level up your Coding Training

Once you’re comfortable with the basics, then it’ll be time to challenge yourself by trying more complex tutorials. You might be ready before you even realize it.

The beauty of developing locally in a controlled environment is, you can afford to make mistakes and correct them before you go live with your program or website.

What is Cowboy Coding

Cowboy Coding is when you make changes to code directly in a Production Environment without first testing and debugging the code in a Development Environment. There are some additional definitions for Cowboy Coding but in general, it’s a coder who doesn’t follow best development practices. Being a Cowboy Coder is one of the common mistakes beginner developers make.

Don’t be that developer, the cowboy coder, (I don’t always test my code but when I do, I do it in production) that’s not a good thing.

Refactor the Code

After each tutorial you take, whether it’s a basic, intermediate, or advanced tutorial, try to refactor the code and make it do something different, or make it do the same thing in a different way. The goal is to understand the tutorial by making it your own.

Quick Tip for Stress Free Coding

I like working in Virtualized Environments, it ensures that my development process is completely sandboxed from everything else that might be running on my operating system. You’ll be surprised how one program on your computer might affect the performance of another program. I like using VirtualBox, it’s free, open-source, and it’s well documented.

#5 – Copying Code without understanding how it works

There’s a stigma in the development community when it comes to copying code that you find online. Some developers think it’s not coding, and others think it’s cheating, the reality is every developer has copied code at some point within their career. In my eyes, the problem is copying code without understanding what that code is doing, how it’s doing it, and how you can make it your own.

Learn from other Developers Code

It’s one of the best things you could do to advance your coding skills. Find code snippets online, make sure they’re recent, and up to date, dissect the code, break it down to the most basic components, figure out how it works. Then you can either use it as is, or you can completely refactor it to accomplish your goal. But make sure to always focus on security, performance, and does it accomplish what you need it to do.

Every Developer has Copied Code

Every developer has copied code while learning to code, whether it’s from books, documentation pages, developer blogs, videos, GitHub or Stack Overflow, all developers have done it.

#6 – Starting at the Finish Line

Let’s face it, we live in an instant gratification society. We want what we want, right now, we’re not willing to wait for it, and sometimes we’re not even willing to work for it. We love fast food, same-day delivery and we microwave everything.

Overconfidence in Programming

Often people get overconfident, they believe they can start with the most advanced tutorials when they don’t even know how to set up a development environment. Or, they casually watch a tutorial and then think they can create the next great app. This can be one of the worst things you can do. It can destroy your confidence and your motivation when you realize how much you don’t know. You must respect the process.

Learning anything worth learning will take time. The best shortcut in the learning process is to focus on using the best resources and not skipping steps. There are a lot of people out there that want to learn how to code, but few will put in the work.

Recap of the 6 Mistakes New Programmers Make

To recap, these are six mistakes new programmers make when learning how to code and how you can avoid them.

Number one, not prepping their operating system. You must make sure your development environment is properly configured.

Number two, not being 100% focus on learning to code. We live in an extremely distracting society. We must take back control of our time.

Number three, learning from outdated tutorials. Remember, over time, code changes, our developer tools change, so always try to use recent tutorials and get familiar with the documentation pages of the language you want to learn.

Number four, getting stuck on the basics. Not leveling up once you have a good understanding of the basic tutorials. It’s time for you to move on to the next one.

Number five, copying and pasting code, without comprehending what it does and how it does it. Take the code snippets that you find online, break them down to their most basic components, refactor them, and figure out how the code works.

Number six, starting at the finish line. Respect the process of learning how to code. It’ll take time, but in the long run, it’s worth it, and remember, don’t be that developer who says “I don’t always test my code, but when I do, I do it in production” that’s not a good idea. Always develop locally, then push your tested code to production.

Before you leave, checkout my 10 Year Journey to Becoming a Full Stack Developer

Hopefully, you found this article and video helpful, if you did, share them with others. As always, thanks for reading and watching. I’ll see you in the next one, happy coding.

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