For 48% of people, website design is the most important factor in determining whether or not a business is credible. Translation: Coders can have a sizable impact on a client’s online success.
Coding can have a big learning curve. As long as you avoid these beginner programmer mistakes, you can make your clients–and yourself–happier with your work.
In this guide, we’ll show you 8 of these mistakes, and what you should do to give them a wide berth.
Beginner Programmer Mistakes
Many of the mistakes below share something in common: They tend to come from a lack of patience. Patience with your work and with yourself is necessary to go from beginner programmer to pro programmer. Keep this in mind as you read through this list.
Mistake #1: You Charge Ahead Without Any Planning
You’re excited to work on your first coding problem, and that’s great. Passion for your work is going to carry you a long way. But you can’t afford to just charge in without knowing what you’re going to do.
You should make a habit of following this workflow:
- Think it through
- Research other codes
- Plan your solution
- Validate your solution
- Modify your code
If you’re impatient and skip the thinking, research, and planning stages, you can trigger huge and negative effects in your solution. We recommend you spend about 10% of your time actually writing lines of code. The rest should be spent reading and researching.
Mistake #2: You Plan All Day and Never Actually Code Anything
The bottom line is if you never write a line of code, you’re not a programmer. Stop searching for a perfect plan. For one thing, you’re not going to find one. For another, you’re going to waste your time.
Instead, look for a plan you can work with. Also, don’t let yourself be tempted to plan every single feature before you get started. This is called the waterfall approach and it won’t help you.
Programming is responsive. You need to work with a solution, test it, and modify as needed. You need to exercise agility.
Mistake #3: You Plan for the Unknowns
If you spend time planning for situations that might crop up, you’re wasting time. Those solutions may never be needed so why devote your efforts to them? When coding, you should think like a minimalist:
Only write the code you need for your present solution.
Mistake #4: You Run with the First Solution
Just because you find a particular solution first doesn’t mean it’s the best one to work with. This is where patience really comes in. Research several solutions before you choose one.
There’s a difference between working with the first solution and working with the best. It may turn out, of course, that the first is the best, so remember mistake #2. There’s a balance to strike with tie management.
Keep in mind the right solution will:
- Perform efficiently
- Solve the problem
- Be readable
- Be maintainable
Question your first solution, and some others as well, and you’ll discover the best solution to work with.
Mistake #5: You Refuse to Quit
Wait, what did we say? Isn’t quitting bad? We don’t mean you refuse to quit programming, but rather you refuse to quit a solution that just isn’t working. Many beginner coders don’t like to throw in the towel on a solution they’ve worked hard on.
There is no A for Effort in programming.
If a solution is creating doubt in your mind, it’s time to step back and rethink the problem. If you’re nervous about throwing away work, you can use GIT, a tool that allows you to experiment with a variety of solutions.
Mistake #6: You Use the Wrong Data Structures
Have you ever heard this saying: “Use the right tool for the job”? If not, now you have. It’s a saying–trust us.
And it applies to programming. Using the wrong data structure is like trying to change a tire with a hammer. There’s no way it’ll work.
The best programmers memorize various data structures and their strengths and weaknesses. This will be more worth your efforts than memorizing algorithms. If you want to shake off the newbie label, use the right data structure.
Mistake #7: You Avoid Encapsulation
Encapsulation does a lot of great things for your code. For one thing, it makes it easier to maintain. Remember, you’re creating a solution which needs to last–not just a quick fix.
Encapsulation also allows you to safely adapt your code in internals of:
Best of all, you don’t have to worry about messing up your code on a larger scale when you implement encapsulation. This leads to our final, and perhaps most important, mistake to avoid.
Mistake #8: You Misunderstand How Important High-Quality Code Is
This is another mistake that touches on the idea of patience. A high-quality code can make the difference between a beginner coder a more experienced programmer. We’ll take you through how to write high-quality code in this last major section of our guide.
Remember to be clear and concise. You want your code to be readable. Keep your lines of code to 80 characters or less.
Also, don’t use too many lines of code per function. Ten lines is a good maximum to keep in mind. Your indentation and capitalization should be consistent too to keep a reader’s eye from bouncing all over the place.
You want them reading your code, not trying to decipher what you wrote. You can use listing and formatting tools to help here.
Avoid double negatives. They just muddle your code. You should also steer clear of giving variables names that are:
Specificity is the bedfellow of clarity.
As much as conditional logic can be useful, don’t overuse it. Also, avoid any kind of shortcut which keeps you from adequately solving a problem. These are often sloppy.
Why Do You Want to Be a Programmer?
Computer programmers earn a median annual salary of $82,240. Programmers don’t typically struggle to make ends meet, but they’re not usually raking in millions. However, if you’re passionate about solving problems with coding, then programming is a great choice.
Everyone has to start somewhere, which means everyone faces these and other beginner programmer mistakes at some point in their career.