The web and our phones are playing an increasingly vital part in our lives, and that isn’t going to stop any time soon. That means we’re more and more at the mercy of the people who design and code on these platforms.
If you want to be a creator rather than a consumer of apps and sites you can start your coding career for free with nothing but a web browser, a bit of spare time, and some determination. Here are five resources to get started with.
You might not rise to the top of the programming profession off the back of Codecademy alone, but it’s difficult to find a better starting point for beginners: It’s friendly, it focuses on the basics, and it’s free to use (a paid-for Pro upgrade is available with extra features).
All you need is a connection to the web and you can be coding in minutes. Understanding what you’re doing and getting familiar with the tools of the trade takes longer, but for dipping your toes into coding, Codecademy remains one of the best options for dabbling in the business of making websites, and will get you a long way down the road to learning to build your own sites.
You get started by building a personal website, then you move on to a responsive blog theme, and then there’s a tutorial on putting together a website for a small business. At each stage you get step-by-step instructions shown on screen, so it’s perfect for beginners who’ve never put together a line of code before.
As with Codecademy, you need more than just Dash on its own to become a competent coder, but it’s an excellent starting point for dabbling in the business of making websites, and will get you a long way down the road to learning to build your own sites.
The Learn Enough portal covers a host of different topics from the very ground up, starting with the command line, text editors and Git, before moving on to HTML, CSS, Ruby on Rails, and more advanced subjects.
Without paying anything you’re essentially getting access to a series of free ebooks that take you through the basics of what you need to know to be a coder. There isn’t the same kind of hands-on, step-by-step, demo-style approach as some other sites take, but you get a much better understanding of the fundamentals of programming and how coders need to think to succeed.
In other words its more theory than practice, though there are still exercises to try at the end of each chapter. Sign up to be a member for a monthly fee and you get enhanced online tutorials and extra screencasts to help with your learning.
As far as the coding components go, you get to work with “talk-throughs”—basically step-by-step demos with audio narration that you can interact with and pause at any time. As you make edits in your browser, the results are processed instantly, so it’s a very hands-on way of learning your chosen programming language. To go further, you can attempt some projects, which are evaluated by other users.
Khan Academy is run as a non-profit organization, and while it won’t get you all that far towards becoming an employable programmer, it is a fun and free way of getting to grips with the basics, at which point you can tackle something more advanced.
Compared with some of the other options we’ve mentioned, Code School is fairly restrictive in terms of what it gives free users, but the site is polished and comprehensive, and can grow along with you (if you’ve got the cash).
While you can’t go all that far with Code School before spending some money, the other way to look at it is that you can find out if coding’s for you first and then invest some cash when you’re happy to take the whole endeavor more seriously.