Why Everyone Should Learn a Little Bit of Code

In my freelance days, I remember sitting on the worn leather seats of my Panera office, listening to the cries of small business owners tell me about how much money they had wasted on the programmers before me. Like a bad couples counseling session, they would vent about how they felt taken advantage of–how they had spent hard earned money and the ten mockups they requested still weren’t right, or how the developer said he wouldn’t make it work in IE7 so that they could view it at their job. When I first began my “Bad Websites Anonymous” sessions, I would think “How could they take advantage of this person?!”

Later, I learned that the problem wasn’t always the developer; often it was a misunderstanding due to a client’s lack of code knowledge. After explaining that Microsoft doesn’t even support Windows XP and IE7, and that turning each mockup into a functional prototype could take at least five additional unpaid hours, the light would come on and the apologies would flow. If you’re a future website owner or prepping for an online rebrand, you don’t have to know how to build your own website, but you should at least know a little bit of code. Just in case you still don’t believe, here are a few reasons why everyone should:

 1) You will either own a website or use one…one day

Whether it’s a blog, e-commerce store, or app, you’ll use or own one of these. If you own a web property and it breaks, knowing a little code can help you communicate what’s going on to tech support, which in turn will resolve your issue sooner. It doesn’t mean that you have to know how to fix it, but you could at least communicate what’s going on. Just a few months ago, my electric company’s payment portal was down just in Google Chrome and they didn’t know it. My knowledge of code allowed me to screenshot, tweet them directly, and get things resolved. This is a real world example of how knowing code can help out…because without being able to show them what I saw, I couldn’t pay my bill.

2) Learning code helps you hire the right type of people

If you learn the difference between “front end” languages (such as CSS/HTML) and  “back end” or server based languages (such as PHP/Ruby on Rails), you’ll realize the type of person you need to hire for your next project. A lot of non-coders I’ve consulted with have no clue on what type of person they actually need to hire. So they hire an SEO guy (marketer who may dabble in code) when they needed a web developer (person who could build their prize winning app).

3) Learning code saves you money

Any person who has ever rented or owned a home knows that you don’t have to be an architect or general contractor to fix everything around your house. If you own a web property and aren’t paying for premium technical support, chances are you might be throwing away too much money on some tasks that you can fix yourself. You shouldn’t have to call the plumber every time your toilet is stopped up and you shouldn’t have to call your web developer to underline a single word.

Learning a little bit of code can help empower you to make better decisions for your business, and just generally help you navigate the increasingly online world. While a little bit of knowledge can be dangerous, having an understanding of the basics (and a dose of humility to go with it) can help you be your own best advocate.


2 thoughts on “Why Everyone Should Learn a Little Bit of Code

  1. I couldn’t agree more. I’m “somewhat” code-literate, but don’t actually code our own company website. Nevertheless, as excellent as our developer is (and he most certainly is excellent), he’s a human like the rest of us and can make a mistake. More than once I’ve had a question about how a link acts or what happens when ….. whatever. Sometimes I’ve answered the question myself based on the code and occasionally I’ve picked up an error. Also, we have a long testimonials page, of which we’re very proud. Then a new review comes in on Google or wherever, and I know enough code to be able to add that new review myself, without bothering my guru. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    1. Stephen, that’s awesome that you’ve been able to pick up enough code along the way! Kudos for taking the plunge to get more familiar with web development. It’s good to hear a testimony from a “non-coder” so Thank You!

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