For most webmasters, we get to a point where preconfigured templates and point-and-click website builders can’t meet the needs of our website. When that time comes, the only way to improve the website is through manual coding.
Website-creation tools are great, but even the best website builders have limitations. And what happens if you decide to use a platform that doesn’t offer a website builder, or if you need a feature that isn’t provided in a template? That’s when knowledge of web coding becomes invaluable.
I decided to check out the CSS course. If you’re planning on using website builders such as WordPress or Squarespace, then knowing CSS is very helpful. What I like about Codecademy’s training is that each lesson also involves a hands-on element, though you must complete it before you can move forward. There are hints available for when you get stuck.
However, I did find that more examples were needed to help introduce new concepts. For instance, they didn’t fully explain formatting in Inline Styles. For those with a little experience in coding other languages, this isn’t a big hurdle, but more inexperienced coders may get a bit confused.
Codewars isn’t your standard “learning website” so much as it is a way for you to improve your skills in a particular area. Rather than walk you through a bunch of lessons, Codewars presents you with various challenges called “katas” that you can use to develop your skills.
You can improve your skills in many areas, including:
- C and C++
One thing that makes Codewars unique is that you can’t just sign up and use their platform. You must pass a test question on one of the coding languages they offer. I answered the Shell question and was able to gain access.
The free version of Codewars is ads-driven, so if you want to bypass ads, you’ll have to pay a monthly subscription fee. If you’re looking for step-by-step instructions on how to learn a language, you won’t find that here. Instead, you’re given tasks to perform in one or more languages, and you work to find a solution. The more katas you complete, the more rank and honor you earn.
If you already know the basics of a language and want to find a way to improve your code through hands-on practice, this is a decent option. However, if you need to learn a language from scratch, this won’t work for you.
Ever wanted to take college-level courses but don’t want to spend $1,500 or more on a single class? Coursera allows you to take college-style courses online to learn new skills or improve your current ones. The courses on Coursera are styled just like online courses you’d see from top universities, and some universities even offer online degree programs through Coursera.
Some of the available courses through Coursera include Ruby on Rails Web Development, Object Oriented Java Programming, Python for Everybody, and more. Also, Coursera releases courses on a regular basis, and you can either subscribe to a specific class or the entire catalog of courses for a low monthly fee.
Yes, you’ll have to pay to access Coursera long term, as their free trial is only seven days, and you must submit a payment method to take advantage of the free trial. However, this is one free trial that’s worth test-driving.
The courses are set up just like an online college course, with video instructors from actual professors and experts in the industries. I test-drove their Introduction to HTML5 course taught by University of Michigan School of Information professor Colleen Van Lent. For those of you who prefer lecture-style education, then Coursera is for you.
The downside is that you don’t get much in the way of hands-on training like you do with other websites, so hands-on learners will be at a disadvantage. However, the university quality of this website is definitely for those wanting training from actual lecturers and experts in their field.
freeCodeCamp takes a different approach to teaching coding. Rather than just help you build basic skills, they provide structured certification programs for the most desired skills in web design and programming, along with the opportunity to gain experience by coding for nonprofit organizations.
Some of the skills you can learn as a result of freeCodeCamp include:
- Git and GitHub
With freeCodeCamp, you don’t just take courses, but you work toward career certifications, with over 300 hours of training necessary to complete each certification.
There are six certifications you can earn through freeCodeCamp:
- Responsive Web Design Certification
- Front End Libraries Certification
- Data Visualization Certification
- Apis and Microservices Certification
- Information Security and Quality Assurance Certification
In addition to the certifications, there’s a Coding Interview Prep section with thousands of hours of challenges. There’s also a community forum available with additional help, including a forum dedicated to helping you find your next job utilizing your new skills.
While you can learn basic skills with freeCodeCamp, this website is more for those looking to become experts in web design and any of the areas covered by the website. The instruction reminds me of web courses I took when I was working toward my Computer Science degree.
Each lesson covers a new concept but also includes a technical application side where you must create code based on the topics covered. If you get stuck, there are additional hints available. What I really like about these courses is you aren’t forced to plod through every lesson to advance. If you already know basic HTML, you can move on to the HTML5 lessons.
One area that could use improvement is the overall design. It’s almost too simplistic, and when I first loaded the curriculum, I had flashbacks of some of my programming classes in college. This won’t be an issue for some, but others may find the layout a little too sterile.
This platform is ideal for those with zero coding experience, as it starts you out learning the bare basics of HTML and moves up from there. Each lesson teaches you new concepts by having you create websites, themes, a CSS robot, and even a game similar to Mad Libs.
One remarkable thing about this service is that there are no fees whatsoever. There’s no upgrading to a Pro service or the like. Once you sign up with your email account, you unlock all the courses.
There are 82 skills you can unlock. Each lesson is slideshow-based and has multiple checkpoints along the way that you have to pass correctly for the lesson to proceed.
The only thing I don’t like about this platform is you can’t skip around in a lesson. You have to go through each checkpoint to unlock the controls for the rest of the presentation. However, once checkpoints are unlocked, you can easily skip around in the lesson if you need to review.
Free Coding Websites Will Help You Take Your Website to the Next Level
Whether you’re looking to learn the basics of HTML5 programming to improve your mobile functionality, or you’re looking to start coding in Python, there are numerous tools online to help you learn or enhance your skills.
Once you start learning how to code, you’ll open up your website to a world of possibilities and expand beyond basic website builders and templates. Learning how to code will help you take your website to the next level and will also save you money on future website maintenance. You never know, it may even lead you into a new career as a professional web developer.
Still not sure where to get started? Read our Online Course Platform Comparison for some in-depth information.