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JLeslie's avatar

Should I take a computer programming course?

Asked by JLeslie (60483points) December 9th, 2011

I want to create a website, and I was thinking I would take a computer programming course to have some basic knowledge. I am terrible at learning from a book on my own, much better in a lecture or hands on. But, I don’t know if one class will really be very helpful? I don’t expect to program the site myself, but I want to understand what the programmer is talking about when he talks to me. Also, I was hoping to maybe find a brilliant student who would be happy to create the site, and maybe not charge a lot of money.

What do you think?

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11 Answers

gorillapaws's avatar

You only need to program if your site is interactive. So if you’re writing a site that displays information, images, videos, text etc, then you won’t be writing any programming code (HTML and CSS are sufficient). If you want your sites to accept input and do things with it (e.g. Fluther), then you’re you’re going to need some programming.

It would be easiest by far to hire a web designer, next would be using some pre-made templates, even more complex would be taking a class on web development/design, and by far the most involved would be learning a programming language. The basics of HTML and CSS are very straightforward. The idea is that you take a block of text that your page will display, and then you use special tags to indicate this chunck of text here is a headline, this chunk is a paragraph, this chunk is a link, and this is a link to an image to display. It’s a lot like writing an outline. CSS is all about formatting the text, so you say, every time we see a chunk of text marked as a paragraph, use black text, a 12-point, sans-serif font, on a plain background.

Real computer programming is very different. It’s all about creating complex behaviors and problem-solving and can take years to master. It’s almost certainly overkill for what your needs are, but it’s a very creative and rewarding mental challenge that can be a lot of fun. I don’t know if you’re a fan of logic puzzles, or things of that nature, but coding can give you a much more intense version of the satisfaction you get when you solve a tricky puzzle. When you’ve created something in code, it can feel similar to the achievement you feel when you produce a piece of art, or write a really good paper. It’s a thing in the world that was born from your mind, that others can enjoy and interact with, which is a special feeling. Also, we need more female programmers out there, so if you at all have the inclination, you should check it out. As a language that’s easy to learn, has a pleasant syntax, and is also very useful for most types of programming that has a lot of resources available to learn, I would highly recommend Python.

JLeslie's avatar

@gorillapaws I won’t be programming at all. I already maintain a website, so I know the basics of that sort of thing. I just thought I might want to understand the basics of how it is done. I have zero knowledge. Like how to even start from nothing? Is there a template?

gorillapaws's avatar

@JLeslie there are lots of pre-made packages out there that people will “plug into” their site if that’s what you mean. In other words, you can grab the code on Google’s site for it’s Google Analytics package, drop it into your site’s content and your site will have that functionality.

As far as learning goes This tutorial bight be a good place to walk through the basics. You can simply read through how it all works if you want a general idea, although I would suggest entering in the code on your own machine as you read along and try the exercises.

gorillapaws's avatar

@JLeslie happy to help! Let me know if you have any more related questions. I’m by no means an expert in Python programming, but I’m familiar with the basics of Python, and have a fairly solid understanding of programming concepts in general. I’ve taught myself how to code in Objective-C writing native Cocoa apps for the Mac as a serious hobby.

zensky's avatar

Talk to Ryan. But he doesn’t read PM’s much. Try him in a thread. Or “share” this with him.

Boogabooga1's avatar

Atari Basic fail

LostInParadise's avatar

What you need is a good overview. This is the ground that is so hard to find covered. Most explanations are either to broad or too detailed. The programmer you work with may be your best guide, provided that there is no concern that you are trying to take away his/her job.

Some topics to get you started:
Client side versus server side programming
cookie files
Memorylessnes of client side

phaedryx's avatar

I like to learn by interacting with other people.

In my area there are a lot of “user groups” and “meetups”. For example, I’m a member of a “javascript users group” and a “ruby users group”. I know of a “web UI meetup” that’s close by too. Generally, these groups are happy to help new members with their questions and teach them basic skills.

Try a google search for ”<your location> <an interest> user group” or ”<your location> <interest> meetup”.

halabihazem's avatar

The internet has a lot of high quality free web design tutorials. I suggest video tutrials. They’ll take you from start to finish in no time. Good luck!

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