There’s no doubt that programming is not the easiest way if you decide to change your career path, especially if you’re a complete beginner. No one is a genius right from the beginning and junior developers will certainly come to a dead end more than once, where the best solution seems to be throwing the laptop out of the window. Let’s be honest here, even experienced programmers often make mistakes while trying to build awesome apps or websites, but we’re all humans; it’s understandable and inevitable.
However, the difference between a junior and a skilled programmer is how they solve their errors and improve their coding skills in the process of learning. Failing while learning to code is natural and it’s better to fail more often in the beginning than later on. Starting with anything that takes specific skills is always hard. Even the most optimistic and motivated people will sometimes get frustrated when things don’t work how they should. That said, let’s have a look at some common beginner mistakes in programming, shall we?
1. Wanting to know everything at once
So you finally found out that you’re interested in programming and would love to start learning as soon as possible. You bought some nice, albeit a bit expensive books about coding and your enthusiasm is high. Some things seem more fun, some more complicated, but you successfully wrote your first simple code in Java. Bingo! You think you’re on the right track to becoming a Java master soon enough. „But there’s much more than Java, I might try other languages as well“, you say to yourself after some time. And here we go, that’s the first mistake beginner programmers make, which can confuse them and slow their learning process.
Of course, it’s not outright bad to be interested in many different things, but junior programmers should really think about specializing on one language or development area that they should learn properly in the beginning. To put it simply, it’s always better to be a specialist in one area than to know only the basics of ten different languages, not being able to work properly with any of them. This also concerns the choice of the language alone, but you will definitely feel more confident if you spend a few months or a year learning one language in-depth than just learning bits of everything. The interviewers will be more impressed with an example of one well-written code that works than three codes that don’t.
2. Being lazy and putting things off
Yes, let’s face the truth, laziness is a crucial factor for winners (or beginners) to become quitters. Putting things off in an „I can do that tomorrow“ manner in programming means that you will start to forget important details and coding principles. That means that you will have to go back after a few days of procrastination and learn the same things again because you’re not sure about them anymore. And that definitely takes some time and actually means going backwards instead of going forward.
Every action that we repeat regularly gradually changes into a habit. This is also important in programming, so your brain can stay in the groove and really retain the information you learned. Once you repeat and implement your knowledge into coding, it will become more natural. Therefore it’s important to know your priorities and come up with a learning routine that suits, rather than limits you. Many newbies don’t have any plan for their self-education, which can slow down the sharpening of those new skills they are learning. It’s not that hard, really. For example, set yourself a task to read one technical book every month and devote thirty minutes or an hour a day to coding and watching tutorials.
3. Low confidence and comparing yourself to others
It’s very common that beginners will eventually become anxious and start losing confidence quickly. This can probably be applied to any activity involving high concentration and patience, which you will need in programming. That’s why many juniors burn out and quit coding before they can overcome their amateur stage. Programming is challenging and giving up is not the answer if you’re really keen on learning something new. „I’ll never write codes like that guy,“ you might say, and that’s where you’re wrong.
Comparing yourself to other, more experienced or talented developers is not healthy. Just ask any of them and they will definitely tell you that they still make mistakes. Remember, there’s still a human being that sits in front of the screen. It’s certainly good to be encouraged and motivated by experienced programmers, but it’s only you who should be the critic of your work. You have to think about areas that you should improve. Listen to any good advice, but identify your weaknesses, and especially your strengths yourself and let those strengths push you forward.
4. Letting the bugs roam free
Bugs happen and will always happen in coding. The point is to keep them at bay as much as you can. Usually that means a lot of time spent debugging and correcting your errors. Be prepared that sometimes it means immense work, whether it’s a small typo that can be fixed in a few minutes or a hidden bug that will take days to fix. Again, as a newbie, you have to stay calm and patient and try to get to the root of the problem. Not testing the code repeatedly can result in frustration in the form of many bugs. And you don’t want that.
Writing more code means more places for bugs to hide. With a few lines it’s not that bad, but having more complex code means a greater risk of hidden errors. So remember: test your code as you go. It’s a habit every beginner should develop right from the start. It can save you many headaches and train you in spotting bugs and fixing the code. One strategy, for example, is to reproduce the bug again to learn where it all started from. However, if you’re still desperate after many hours of searching and trying, there’s always someone online you can ask for help. Just don’t run away from bugs and don’t let them roam free, because they will always come back.
5. Ignoring the end-user experience
Software that developers work on is usually aimed for wide audiences, or end-users. It’s only logical that it should be beneficial for them, and therefore it’s important for programmers to know what the users want. Maybe you don’t get to interact directly with the users as a beginner, but you can still interact with the people who do. The phrase „put yourself in your end-users’ shoes“ is therefore not just a saying, but an important part of your professional growth.
Experienced developers can foresee what particular feature users might need and they imagine how they will behave. Bear in mind that these features should be easy to find and use – for the maximum comfort of the users. Therefore you should always keep in mind the user experience while designing the new product and always test it as an end-user before the launch.
When in doubt, remember the KISS method: Keep It Stupid Simple. You can write great code if it’s simple to understand, simple to use and to expand on. Don’t overcomplicate things, otherwise you could get easily lost.
Starting to code and to learn programming brings not only these mistakes, but many others. But you have to begin somewhere and you should learn from your errors. The important thing is to focus on your mistakes and not ignore them, as many beginners sometimes do, so they can progress quickly. Debugging itself is a skill that’s valued in every company; your employer won’t be very satisfied with a programmer who makes apps that crash every few seconds.
As Samuel Beckett once wrote: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” That can apply pretty much to everything we do, and programming is no exception.