The best way to become a great coder is by putting your code to practice. If you are a new coder, web developer or you are in the process of becoming a programmer, you have probably been dreaming of creating your own code.

Just imagine how great it will feel when you create something new that makes thousands of lives easier?

Well, stop dreaming, because we’ll give you the steps on how you can bring your own little program of code to life.  We’ll explain how you can plan your own developing program, the type of information and questions you can ask to guide you and lastly where you can find the best help.

We know we make it sound easy, but it will take time, determination, a lot of problem-solving, some testing, debugging and buckets of patience.

Will you build a mobile app, a new website or create a little game?  The answer probably lies in your interests, your current experience in coding or a problem you’ve been wondering about during your studies. The beginning of your coding project is all about the questions and how your code might solve a problem.

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Explore and Research to Define Your Project Specifications

Whenever we start to work on a new idea, our mind tends to run into a hundred different directions.

What code will we use, how will it work, what do we need, and will you be able to do it?

All of these are important questions, but organising your thinking will not only help you to systematically work through it step-by-step, it will also help to clarify your goals, your needs and the required specifications to ensure your idea is practically applicable and possible.

Application development
Make a list of your ideas. You never know when they may come in handy. Image by markus-winkler on unsplash

Professional developers and coders will usually get a brief from a client. The ask would be something like developing a website, building an application or creating a bot to certain specifications. This will determine who will work on the project, the programming language requirements, the budget and the technology that must integrate with it, to mention a few.

The team might include client service, marketing and executives, and a lot of times the programmer or developer will lead the discussion around the brief, the planning phase, the research required and the roles and responsibilities. Remember that a specific client brief doesn’t limit you and you can still be creative within their parameters, contribute to their idea and create a game or application that makes their idea a living miracle.

If you are choosing your own project, you can ask yourself a couple of questions to simplify your thinking. Your answers might change during your research and exploration phase, but don’t be scared to dream when you ask the following while you define your coding, web or programming concept:

  • What do you want to create? A game, an app, a website or programming software.
  • What problem does it solve or what makes it unique?
  • What technology immediately comes to mind that you can use or investigate?
  • What features can and must be included?
  • What skills and type of programming will help and is needed?

Programming projects have to also consider the user experience, which is mapping out the user journey and how data and the user intersect. Yes, we are working with technology, but it's for humans and it will most probably go nowhere it’s not user-friendly.

Other considerations during the project planning phase, which might be part of the brief, include the following:

  • The project objectives
  • The timing plan and budget
  • The operating system, server, storage type and whether it’s a single or multi-platform
  • Whether there are any development software requirements?
  • The most effective programming languages i.e., CSS of BTML for a website and the need for JavaScript or Python integrations to contribute to required functionality.

As a programmer you will have to learn to fall in love with problem-solving, because most projects or ideas is about making the user’s life easier. In your research you might find YouTube Tutorials, advice or historical information about programming that might help. Google is your friend, as you probably know by now, and asking an experienced coder like a Superprof tutor can be a great addition during the initial stages of your project.

How do you create a project design brief?
The first step to any project is determining needs and establishing goals and what resources and skills are required. (Source: Pexels)

Chunk Your Project Down into Smaller Steps and Components

Project Managers learn exactly how break-down how complex IT projects into rational, cost-effective and practical processes to enable practical development. One of the most useful techniques is taking your project and breaking it down into smaller steps and components.  This is especially useful if you are working on the development of a new application or website.

Let’s use the example of building a new website. Developers will use the user interface, or how the user should see it on the web, to determine how you will navigate through the website and the various pages required. The pages will have different coding steps in it where a header, footer, side bars and body is created or developed. Chunking it even smaller down they will then look at the components in each of those, like a logo, image carousel, text or something that requires coding or actions to develop it.

The various steps and components will be assigned to those with the necessary skills and the developer will coordinate how it all comes together like the pieces of a puzzle.

Let’s assume you are a coder and working on a project that is orientated towards software development? Most of the process steps and components will be determined your developer, programmer or project manager, and your job as coder would then be to put code to screen.

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Writing Code

The programming language you’ll use to code will probably be evident at this stage due to the project scope and requirements. You’ll know whether you’ll require a low-level programming language or a high-level one like C++.  Some of the other programming languages used include:

  • Python, which is noted as one of the easier languages and is popularly used across platforms
  • HTML is used for building the structure of web pages
  • JavaScript is used for website builds in the back end
  • PHP is used for the creation of WordPress websites
  • Java is an object orientated language

It is important to be aware of the different programming languages and their uses.

How do you develop a program or app?
The development phase is when you'll write most of the code. (Source: Pexels)

To write the physical code you can use a simple text editor like Windows notepad or try one of the more advanced text editors like Atom, Textmate, Coda, Codeshare, IDE (Integrated Development Environment) and so forth. Sublime Text is one of the most popular ones as it allows you to colour code your text to distinguish keywords, numbers, punctuation and links.

Translation (Interpretation and Compilation) and Analysis

Your coding now needs to be translated into machine language so that different devices like smartphones, computers or tablets can understand it. Translations can either happen through Interpretation or Compilation.

Interpretation is a process where the system will run through the code, line-by-line, and if an error occur in a coding line it’ll stop and allow the interpreter to correct it.

Compilation on the other hand runs through all the code at once and the result is a report with a list of all the errors found. If you are interested in coding, or studying programming, you’ll learn that compilation will analyse the code through the following stages:

  • Lexical analysis
  • Syntax analysis
  • Semantic analysis
  • Code generation and optimisation

Editing Code, Debugging and Testing

Major programming projects have steps and processes where coders need to bring the source code or “source modules” together with the “object modules to create an executable program. This includes the linking phase and the assembly phase, complicated processes that any student of coding will come to know as they learn and become more experienced.

We’ve all heard of debugging, or software updates and app updates to debug a program. Without fail the programs we write will have issues and won’t always run the way we want to. Editing your code and going through debugging and testing is a process that we do right from the start, but it intensifies as we near the end of completed code.

During debugging you’ll have to break down the code and test it, probably using a debugging tool. You’ll have to adjust or fix it until the code results in the outcome you’d envisioned. This process of testing and debugging will continue until your code runs like a dream.

This process can be frustrating, but it’s important to know that you always have the internet, a community of helpful coders and Superprof programming tutors who can assist you when you get stuck.

How do you test code?
If you find any errors in your program or app, you'll need to work out which part of the code is causing them. (Source: lmonk72)

Coding Projects for Beginners

There are so many resources and programs on the internet that can help you if you are still learning how to code. One of the ideas that makes it easy for beginners to play around with code, is taking existing code and changing how it behaves or adding pieces of code together to create a new combined range of instructions.

You can also search the internet and learn how to build simple games like 'rock, paper, scissors', Hangman or Tic-Tac-Toe.

If you plan a career in coding, then the sooner you start to play the better. People study for years to become good at programming, so make time to research your options, try free courses or attend a tutorial. Understanding the needs of the South African Tech industry will be an important consideration for your future as a techie. This is what experts say on the programming languages and skills required in South Africa.

Contact one of our Superprof tutors in your area to get started, they can create a mini coding course or programming challenge that will suit your level.

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Mauritz

Writer and qualified yoga instructor, who is passionate about health and well-being.