coding your-first-coding-project

Ready, set, CODE!

You’ve learned to code, but now what? You may have some basic skills, but you’re not sure what to do with them. Here’s how to choose and get started on your first real project…

Choosing Your First Project: Start Simple

Chances are you learned to code because you had a few ideas of things you wanted to accomplish, so it’s time to pull up that list of development dreams and see what might be feasible. While you can take on a rather complex and time-consuming project for your first—and you’ll definitely learn a lot—you probably don’t have a lot of time to devote and might find yourself giving up out of frustration too easily. I feel the best thing to start with, when you’re in the learning phase, is something you actually want to do that you can accomplish pretty quickly. That way you’re rewarded with something you made that actually works the way you’d always hoped in a very short amount of time. You can use that triumph as motivation for the next project, which can be a lot bigger.

Figuring Out What’s Simple and What’s Not

What you need to do with each of your ideas is break them down into as many little pieces as possible. In most cases, when companies are developing big pieces of software, they still break down development tasks into tiny digestible chunks and assign them to various members of the team. Those team members then write that specific code and move on to the next task until they’re done. Little bits and pieces are created until the software is formed. This is a simplistic, high-level picture of how things work but it’s no different from the approach you should be taking to your first and subsequent projects. You don’t have an entire development team, but you’re still going to need to tackle bits and pieces to form the whole. Large, sweeping tasks don’t work in any situation and especially not with software development. Breaking everything down into simple steps is what will tell you if a project is too big or too small to start with. It’ll show you what you need to learn in order to accomplish it and the pieces of code you’ll actually need to write. Let’s look at a couple of examples.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by even a small project, take your first task and figure out what you need to learn. That should give you an idea of the sort of reference materials you’re going to want to keep handy as you work your way through the entire project. What you’ll need will vary, but it’s very common for integrated development environments (IDEs) to have built-in reference you can check. This is the case for software like Panic Coda (which is a really awesome option on the Mac, by the way), Adobe Dreamweaver, and even Apple Xcode. If you don’t have built-in reference, however, you can generally find online resources that detail every class, function, method, and more for your given language. The PHP Manual is one excellent example.