Posted by: mindyrappoport | 01/05/2012

Learn to code (for free!)

As a student at the University of Colorado at Boulder, one of the smartest decisions I made was to get involved in the Technology, Arts and Media (TAM) program, which teaches students such digital media skills as how to design your own website, among others. Although I have a basic knowledge of HTML—hypertext markup language, which is used in basic web design—I’ll be learning it more in depth this semester in the final TAM class I’ll take before I graduate.

But what about that nifty window that pops up, displays a question, and makes you press, “Ok” or “Cancel”? How the heck do I make one of those things?

That, my friends, is a confirmation window, and while it’s surprisingly easy to make one, you have to design it using a different code than HTML. Yup, I’m talking about JavaScript.

First, a down and dirty explanation of some things you can add to a website using JavaScript: confirmation windows, alert windows (similar to confirmation windows, but they only have an “Ok” button), forms for people to submit information, anything involving date/time (for example, a clock), and mouseovers (for example, right now, when you hover your mouse over someone’s name on Facebook, a box with their name, profile picture, “Add Friend,” and “Subscribe” shows up).

If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that as technology evolves, so too does the the demand for knowledgable individuals who can code and design websites, Facebook apps, and other computer programs. People who know how to code are in high demand in the workplace, so if you’re about to apply for a particular job, having even a basic knowledge of how to design a website could help you set yourself apart from other candidates.

In discussions with friends and family ages 18 through 60 over the last few months, many of them told me that wanted to learn how to code, but didn’t know where they could pick the skills up in their spare time. While I strongly suggest enrolling in a college or community college course that teaches you these skills, you can also pick them up on your own. I gained a basic knowledge of HTML coding back back in middle and high school when I was learning how to edit my MySpace background to make it sparkle, and adding line breaks and changing font sizes in blog posts on LiveJournal. I had no clue what I was doing at the time, but by Google-ing, “HTML and font size,” I was able to find free guides online that had all of the answers.

That being said, if you’re interested in learning JavaScript, there’s a great, free program a friend of mine just told me about called Code Year, launched by Code Academy. After entering your email address, you’re sent coding lessons every week to complete. The best part is that you can sign up to learn with a friend so that you can keep each other in check on your lessons, and you can post your goal to learn to code on your Facebook wall.

Intimidated by the thought of coding? Check out Code Academy’s website, where you can learn JavaScript basics in a quick, easy-to-understand format before signing up for Code Year.

Happy coding!

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