10 Mistakes All Beginner Programmers Make— And How To Avoid Them

Brian Zhang
4 min readMay 2, 2021

1. Watching too many tutorials

Although watching tutorials is a good method of learning the basics of coding, it’s often not a good idea to follow them too closely. The things you want to learn from tutorials are how the methods work, and what the methods do. Focus on how the methods are used to work together rather than the end result, and you’ll get much more value from each tutorial. Getting stuck on watching tutorials can also confuse new programmers due to overwhelming or conflicting information. Just focus on a goal and try to balance learning new material and practicing with what you’ve learned.

2. Not starting projects early

In a similar vein to mistake #1, many programmers don’t start their own projects for a while. Instead of following a tutorial on how to do something, consider trying to make the final product yourself, and then following the tutorial afterwards to see what you could’ve done differently.

3. Trying to be original

A big reason I didn’t start making projects as a beginner was because I thought the ideas weren’t good or original. You don’t need to come out of the gate making new, innovative programs — a lot of creative ideas come from knowing what you can do with code, and that type of critical thinking/problem solving comes with familiarity from making projects. If you have a new idea, go for it! But there’s no shame in making tic-tac-toe as your first project if it’s helping you get familiar with the language.

4. Not planning enough

When starting a new project, it’s important to plan out your finished idea first. This gives you a scope of how long the project will take and what you’ll need to figure out. Will the plan be solid all the way through? Probably not, but that’s okay. Even top programmers continuously modify their plans and have to make on-the-fly adjustments. But without a plan to start, it’s impossible to know where you want to go.

5. Being afraid of unprofessional looking sources

A big issue with code in general is that information is sometimes hard to come by, especially for niche problems. Because the scene moves so quickly, there often isn’t time nor a market for people to make professional-looking tutorials. Often, the best information you can get on a module is a small YouTube channel with 200 subscribers and 3 comments, or a StackOverflow comment thread. But as long as the information is good, it’s worth using that source. People are often averse to digging through bad quality tutorials, especially as they sometimes contain wrong information. However, I say it’s worth looking through 5 bad sources if you can find the information you need on the 6th.

6. Being afraid to Google

A popular joke in the developer community is how much we Google the answer to a problem we’re having. Beginner coders often feel a sense of uneasiness while working through projects if they’re constantly looking up things or copying code. Obviously, it’s better to understand the code fully and make it yourself. But if you find a solution on StackOverflow that works, it’s ok to just use it as long as you know how to. Often, it’s learning how to use the solution rather than how to make a solution that is important for coding.

7. Not using documentation for new modules

We’ve all wanted to start using a new library for a project and googled tutorials on the code, but it’s often better to just look at the documentation yourself. I myself wasted a lot of time looking at tutorials on how to build Chrome extensions before just looking at the documentation for the methods myself, and I found all the answers I needed in the documentation. The people who know the code best are the developers, so try to look there before you turn to other sources. Of course, sometimes code is documented poorly and you have no choice, which leads to…

8. Not commenting on code

Even if you’re a complete beginner and your code is super simple, try to add comments every so often explaining what the parts of your program do. It’s a good habit to get into, it’ll help if you lose motivation and then return to the project a few months later (happens more often than you’d think), and it helps others if you try asking for help.

9. Tunneling on one method

Problem-solving is an important part of coding, and you need a wide variety of tools to meet each issue. A jazz musician who only knows one type of scale would be much less desirable than one who knows a variety of techniques. Similarly, although one method may work for solving problems, it’s important to know alternatives, since there are often advantages to them.

10. Underestimating UI

When you begin making projects, the user interface is often not a concern. I’ve thought to myself, “The user can just enter these values and press these buttons to make the program go” and then left the user interface to the end. But creating a nice looking UI that gets the job done still takes a significant portion of time, and designing assets that you want to use is often a challenge. Make sure you’re ready to handle the design aspects of making a program as well as the code.

And that’s a list of 10 mistakes all beginner programmers do! Let me know if I missed any that you see.

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