Common Problems New Programmers Face When Learning To Code

Here is a list of the common problems new programmers face when developing their coding skills.

Not Understanding the User

One of the most common problems that new programmers face is a lack of understanding of the end-user. Without a strong grasp on the user’s needs, preferences, and abilities, a programmer can develop code that may work perfectly but fails to resonate with the target user. Programmers should not only focus on the technical aspects but also evaluate how accessible and user-friendly their application is. Novice programmers often focus too much on the mechanics of the program and learning the coding language that they overlook the fact that software exists to solve real-world problems for real people. Understanding the user requires empathy, strong communication skills, and a careful study of user behavior and feedback. This requires a shift from thinking as a programmer to thinking as a user, and making this transition can be quite challenging for newcomers to the field. Consequently, not understanding the user hinders the creation of efficient and effective software, leading to a significant disconnect between the programmer’s intent and the user’s experience.

Working with Another Person’s Code

One of the most common problems that new software developers face is working with another person’s code. This task can be quite daunting for several reasons. Firstly, coding styles and conventions can greatly vary between programmers. Everyone has their preferential way of doing things, which can make it difficult for a newcomer to understand and navigate through someone else’s code. Secondly, the lack of comprehensive documentation is another significant hurdle. Without proper comments and explanations, it can be overly time-consuming and frustrating to determine what each section of the code does. Additionally, the complexity of the code also poses a challenge. More experienced developers might utilize sophisticated techniques and advanced functions that a novice might not have encountered before. Thus, understanding and modifying another person’s code can be a steep learning curve for new programmers, who often find it harder than writing code from scratch. The solution involves not just improving coding and debugging skills, but also communication and collaboration.

Not Planning your Code

One of the most common problems that new programmers encounter is not adequately planning out their code before they begin to write it. Coding is a meticulous process that requires a significant amount of strategizing and organization. Many beginner coders dive headfirst into coding without sketching out a proper plan or understanding the overall design structure. Consequently, they often find themselves mired in tangled, inefficient code that is difficult to debug, understand or modify later. Poorly planned code also tends to be more prone to errors, making troubleshooting a strenuous task. Moreover, without a proper sketch of classes, interfaces, and functions, the code can turn into an unmanageable mess, which can lead to inefficient programs and cause missed deadlines. In essence, a lack of preparatory planning not only escalates the complexity of programs but significantly reduces reusability, flexibility, and readability too. Hence, planning is an integral part of programming that should not be skipped in the haste to start coding.


One of the most common problems that new programmers face is understanding and correctly using syntax. The syntax in programming is similar to grammar in a spoken language. It is a set of rules that specify how programs in a particular programming language should be written. Each programming language has its unique syntax, which can often lead to confusion. Syntax errors or “bugs” are a frequent issue for beginners, and these occur when the programmer formulates their code in a way that the computer does not comprehend. This can lead to misinterpretation or error messages. Syntax errors might include missing punctuation, incorrect commands or typos. Professional programmers are proficient not only because they understand the language’s structure, but also because they are familiar with the semantics or the meaning of the language’s syntax. For new developers, mastering syntax can be a challenging task involving constant learning, testing, and debugging. Therefore, familiarity with syntax is crucial for every programmer at the outset of their coding journey.

No Debugging Strategies

One of the most common challenges faced by new software developers pertains to the lack of concrete debugging strategies. Debugging forms a crucial backdrop of programming, as it primarily involves identifying, isolating, and fixing errors or ‘bugs’ that deter the smooth operation of a software application. Newbie programmers exhibit a general tendency of writing extensive lines of code without incorporating sufficient pauses to evaluate their work critically. This implies that they are not effectively leveraging or understanding the debugging processes that are fundamental to the enhancement and optimization of their codes. Without adequate debugging strategies, programmers could often find themselves engulfed in a web of complex problems which could drastically reduce their efficiency and productivity. Such a situation typically arises due to the absence of logical reasoning and analytical thinking, causing them to overlook issues related to data anomalies, system crashes, and inefficient coding practices. Thus, it is vital for new programmers to develop their debugging skills, which would enable them to rectify errors in a more systematic and time-efficient manner, thereby contributing significantly to their coding competency.

Methods For Improvement

Software development skills do not improve overnight. A new developer should be prepared to  sharpen their skills with the many resources available to them. Whether this means going back to old notes or learning a topic that is unfamiliar to them, a developer should do whatever it takes to master a new concept. Some of these methods are surefire ways to learn new skills in programming:

  • One of the best ways to get help at programming is to make it known to your veteran programmer collogues that you want to improve your technical skills at the workplace. Whether it be over lunch or a cup of coffee, find a coworker and ask them if they can help you learn something new. Your peers share the same passion at work as you do and can help you keep track of whatever goals you have in mind.
  • In addition to your coworkers there are other resources like Codecademy and Stack Overflow that would work to test your skills and build upon new desired abilities. These sources are great as they will both provide the ability for problem-solving challenges, inspiration for new strategies, and improved workflow.
  • If you were ever a Computer Science student, there is still learning that can be done from time spent reading your old college text books. There is a wealth of knowledge in those books that are likely to jog your memory if you need help. If it has been a few years since graduation, it wouldn’t hurt to find an updated version of the book at your local library.
  • An underrated way to get better at programming concepts is to write a program from scratch that incorporates the concepts you want to learn. From here you can take time to write your ideas on paper, reproduce a bug, and take a more manageable approach when solving code errors. This is a programming challenge that you can utilize to learn how to use your skills without the worry of a deadline, code failures, or what users want since you will be in a controlled, low pressure environment.