Before you dive for cover in response to this article, hear me out. I’m not asking you to be fluent in C++ or Groovy, but we’re reaching a point where programming is an essential part of business, because so much of business takes place online.
Consider your website, which is an essential part of inbound marketing. Do you know how to insert snippets of code for analytics programs like Google Analytics? Do you know how to manipulate the structure of web pages to create customized landing pages for special offers to drive revenue? If you want to format text in a certain way, can you do that?
All of those things are important for a successful website and they all involve code. You may be working with a web developer, but what if your go to person is on vacation or can’t answer the phone?
Learning code is a matter of self-sufficiency in business as much as positioning yourself for success. Fortunately, the process can be much simpler than a lot of people expect.
1. Drop The “I’m Not The Programming Type” Attitude
This is the first and often most difficult hurdle for most people, and I can see why. Code is seen as this otherworldly mythical language only decipherable to computer geniuses or or machines. I’m here to tell you now, based on my own experience, that it’s not scary. Code is a skill. Just like learning English is a skill, or learning how to count. If you approach it methodically and from the right way, everyone can gain at least a cursory understanding of it. In short, yes you are the “programming type”, so believe it!
I can vouch for this holding you back. I had this mentality for years and it got me nowhere, and look at what I’m doing these days. If you don’t think you can learn it, of course you’re not going to! Just head into learning code as you would any other essential business skill. Sooner or later it will be considered one, so you might as well stay ahead of the curve.
2. Know the Difference Between Different Types of Languages
If you’re a total novice to any forms of code, the second thing to do is differentiate between different types of code, because not all code-based languages involve actual programming. Take this snippet of code, for example:
<div style=”color: #0000ff;”>
<h3>This is a heading</h3>
This is a paragraph.
If you looked at that and interpreted it as programming, you might be surprised to learn that while this (HTML) is code, it’s not programming. This isn’t just a semantic issue, since markup, styling, scripting, and programming languages all have immensely different applications (more on that in a minute). A lot of programming is principal and concept-driven to help ease you into the actual process of learning specific languages.
3. Download A Text Editor
Code best operates in a text editor and not a word processor or e-note service like Evernote. Notepad++ for Windows and Textmate for iOS are both free downloads and widely used for development purposes. Text editors will eventually allow you to test your work in ways that word processors don’t, among other advantages that you’ll learn about during your self-teachings.
4. Concepts Are Key
The bulk of learning code at a beginner level is going to conceptually involve what code is. It also helps to learn what different languages do and how they interact with one another to create a successful website or application. More importantly, you’re not going to be expected to memorize thousands of functions for any language. It’s perfectly okay to regularly look up or research pieces of code that you need in order to accomplish a certain task; professional developers and programmers do it all the time.
5. Find A Good Resource
The number of available resources on the Internet for learning code is staggering, and it’s all available from a quick Google search. You no longer have to pay thousands of dollars or spend time commuting to lengthy classes that cut into your schedule. I can vouch for W3C School and Code Academy, although if you can cough up $25 a month, Lynda.com offers fantastic and detailed tutorials from basic to advanced levels.
When searching for any resource, make sure what you’re learning is up to date, especially if you go hunting for how to guides on YouTube.
6. Start With What Everyone Needs: HTML
The usual “go to” for people interested in learning code is to tackle a widely used programming language like C or Java, but assuming you haven’t had any experience writing code, step back and start from square one. HTML is a markup language. Markup is a way of creating information displayed in a web browser and what just about every website uses, along with a lot of software and mobile applications.
There are significant applications for HTML for people who don’t work in development. If you’re writing a blog post in WordPress and want to space or align the content in a particular way, or wrap the text around images, HTML will help you do that more quickly and efficiently than WordPress’s internal tools. At the very least this lets you keep projects moving without having to ask the web team for help every few minutes over margin issues.
7. Get A Bit More Advanced, Designers: CSS
This one’s more for graphic designers and web designers, but it generally helps anyone. CSS is a styling language, meaning it creates the aesthetic look and feel of websites or applications that people want. Virtually every website you’ve ever visited, including this one, uses CSS. CSS places content in particular areas, defines color schemes, font families, and so forth. Business owners and marketers will be able to direct designers more efficiently by being aware of the type of work involved in styling.
Why Does Any Of This Matter?
It bears repeating that your website is an essential part of your business, and you need the ability to be involved with it if you want to leverage inbound marketing in the most effective ways. You need to be able to update and manipulate web pages, or work with the person who does. You need to be able to set up landing pages and E-commerce online store pages to drive revenue directly through your inbound marketing channel. You need to integrate snippets of code to tack advantage of analytics programs, and you need to know how website source code relates to search engine optimization.
Find those resources and get learning; you may be surprised at how much of a programming type you really are.