Your Six Year Old Is Learning to Code. Shouldn’t You Be Too?

While ‘coding’ and ‘programming’ can seem like scary concepts, better left in the capable hands of developers and computer scientists, the truth is these activities are becoming more and more relevant for the general population. A recent blog post from Ali Askinas at Yashi highlights this growing trend. As a Millennial, Askinas grew up using computers for educational, entertainment and social purposes. Laptop, smartphone and social media use became second nature. She couldn’t grasp why her grandparents struggled so much with the computer, when it seemed so simple and intuitive to her. As she began to reflect on the technological habits of kids growing up today, she wondered what would seem inherent to them in the future that would stump current professionals. Her answer? Coding.

Children around the world are being exposed to coding principles starting as early as elementary school, using tools like Scratch to create their own interactive stories, games and animations. The recent grassroots campaign, The Hour of Code, encouraged tens of millions of students globally to try one hour of coding from December 8-14, 2014, in celebration of Computer Science Education Week. As future generations become increasingly fluent in these new languages, it’s time for marketers to take a look at what we’ve been missing.

Essentially, coding is the process of writing instructions to tell your computer what to do; it’s transforming data into a language that your computer can understand. The languages are numerous, from HTML, CSS and JavaScript on the front end, to Ruby, PHP and Python on the back-end, just to name a few. While it may feel overwhelming at first, anyone can learn the basics if they’re willing to carve out the time to make it happen. Resources like code.org, codecademy, Code School and w3schools.com  are all great places to start.

Most marketers will never write a full software program, and advanced coding should certainly be left to the professionals who live and breathe these complex languages. However, every marketer can benefit from learning the basics. Not convinced? Check out these 6 Practical Reasons Marketers Should Learn to Code:

  1. For SEO to be effective, marketers should be able to “read” a page’s skeleton in HTML
  2. To make a webpage look nice, marketers should understand HTML and CSS
  3. To embed, track, and understand analytics, marketers should understand HTML and basic JavaScript
  4. Effective email marketing is better without a template (aka changing the HTML and CSS)
  5. To A/B test, marketers should know HTML and CSS
  6. Knowledge of JavaScript can automate Google AdWords

More than anything, a basic knowledge of coding languages allows marketers to communicate more efficiently and effectively with the now-expanded team. Understanding the basic structure of a website, app or tool will open the door for understanding both opportunities and limitations in the digital space. It also allows marketers to make quick site adjustments internally, potentially saving both time and money. Finally, knowing what goes into building a site, creating a form, or tweaking an app allows for more informed discussions about cost and timeframes with clients and developers alike.

Looking for a place to start? Explore your most common interactions with code and set goals that are applicable to your daily tasks. This way, the process will be meaningful, relevant and productive.

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