Why Is Programming So Hard?

Why Is Programming So Hard?

Programming can be hard for some people to pick up, but it doesn’t have to be. Without a plan or some structured approach, learning anything is difficult. There are many reasons why people think programming is difficult. It could be because they think it is going to require a lot of maths. Or they might think that coding is technically difficult.

First, lower your expectations and start simple. Secondly, the amount of maths required for programming varies wildly depending on the type of applications you want to build. For example, I’ve worked many roles that have required little to no mathematics above high school level knowledge.

If you implement a plan on what you want to learn and go about it methodically (and slowly), programming shouldn’t be too difficult to learn. If you try to build a complex app on your first go-round, you will only get in trouble.

The key is understanding what each field of computer programming looks like. Then you make a conscious decision to learn the basics of that field. For example, you wanted to be a mobile app developer. In that case, you should focus on one platform (iOS or Android). You could start building simple apps that display text before trying to integrate authentication and web services into the app.

No matter how complex, every application starts with static text and images being displayed and, over time, evolves into the final complex product. So it’s important to remember that these complex applications are just a series of non-complex additions. 

Where Should I Begin To Learn Programming?

There are many sources for learning how to program on the internet today. I have a few favourites in learning programming. This list would differ greatly based on the technology I want to learn.

Visit the documentation pages for any technology you want to learn. Take ReactJs as an example. The documentation on reactjs.org is fantastic and will take you from not knowing React through to more advanced topics.

Once you’ve become acquainted with the documentation, you should look for courses that build the kind of software you are interested in. This could be building a small game using one of the leading gaming engines or setting up a simple website that allows users to enter information. 

Whatever it is, there will be a course somewhere that will hold your hand through the build process. Doing one of these courses from start to finish is invaluable in learning programming. A good place to look for these kinds of courses, and more, is on Pluralsight. They have a vast array of courses in most software development areas.

Once you see all the steps required to build a finished application, you will better understand the programming life cycle in all its glory. You can retrace the steps of the build and alter to your needs to quickly turn your concept into reality.

How Do You Determine The Technology To Use?

After you’ve done a brief amount of research and found that certain technologies and languages are geared towards certain use cases, selecting one to work with can be difficult. 

I’ve found the following helpful when selecting technology to work with:

  • Does it solve my problem?
  • Is there documentation, and is it any good?
  • Is there a large active community?
  • What prior knowledge is required?
  • Are there any licensing issues?
  • How easy is it to deploy?

Does It Solve My Problem?

First and foremost, can the technology you’re reviewing do the job? That is the first requirement. This isn’t always easy to tell as requirements change over a product’s life, but as long as you have determined the initial requirements, you should be OK.

Is There Documentation, And Is It Any Good?

I’ve discussed documentation earlier, but I will reiterate how necessary good documentation is. The documentation for Swift can be lacking for a lot of developers. If you compared the Swift documentation to the PHP documentation, you would see how detailed the PHP documentation is and how minimal the Swift documentation is. 

One of the greatest things about PHP documentation is that it includes user examples. These examples are invaluable to understanding how a certain API call should be used.

Is There A Large And Active Community?

You will want a large community to help you do the job when you learn to program. If you are creating something with a bespoke technology that is either too old, too new or not adopted by many people, you will need help when you undoubtedly get stuck (we all get stuck and need external help sometimes). 

What Prior Knowledge Is Required?

This is important. Some tech requires a great deal of prior knowledge. If you want to work with ReactJs, you will need to know the basics of JavaScript, and you will also need to know a little bit about general web development.

The biggest takeaway from this is that learning programming is a slow process. With the basics mastered, you can build quality software in frameworks like Angular or libraries like ReactJs. If you understand these basic concepts well, you will more easily understand what problems these technologies were trying to overcome.

 Are There Any Licensing Issues?

Many free technologies allow you to build almost any software, but you have to be sure that you are not liable for copyright infringement when you finish your product. This can be quite difficult as any application will rely on third-party packages. It is up to you to ensure that these third-party packages don’t have any restrictive licensing requirements. You can usually find the licensing instructions in the readme files.

It Is Hard To Keep Up To Date With Programming

Like many careers, you need to keep up with current trends. In programming, this just means being aware of when a tech stack you are working with might be getting too old or some new technology has come out to help you solve your problems more easily.

A great example of this was the advent of cloud computing. Until cloud computing became more reasonable regarding financial commitments, most companies would have on-site servers for file storage, email exchanges and more. 

Now with cloud computing, we can hand the management tasks of these servers over. This allows us to focus more on the applications we’re building. Going further, we can move our entire databases over to managed cloud services. Again, allowing us to spend more time focusing on the user experience and quality of our applications.

Imposter Syndrome

This is almost inevitable for software developers. At some point in your career, you will wonder whether or not you are good enough to be doing the job you’re doing. This is OK. It happens to everyone. It is hard not to think this when you get stumped by a problem, and a co-worker solves it in 2 minutes, or you can’t seem to grok a concept as quickly as others on your team. 

The key here is to remember where you started and are today. You may not think you’ve made any progress but believe me, as each month passes, you will start to become a better programmer without even knowing it. It is important not to shy away from not understanding a problem and to talk about it with other knowledgeable programmers.

Toxic Community

One of the biggest negatives in computer programming is that there are toxic communities and people on the internet who have nothing better to do than to knock others down. But this is no different than any other profession.

You need to find good groups (and there are many) of programmers who are willing to share their knowledge and wisdom with you. The key is to be polite and think through your problems before you post online, asking for help or solutions. Doing this shows respect for your peers and also helps people to understand why you are having the trouble you are having.

Computer Science and Programming

Programming can be difficult in some regards when you are dealing with problems that require you to use computer science principles to solve. For instance, if you are trying to understand why your code is running slowly, it may require you to calculate your algorithm’s time or space complexity.

You can get by without even understanding some of the basic computer science fundamentals. You can just start coding and learn these as you need to. Most computer programming jobs run that course, where you learn as you go. If you were to understand big O notation before you started coding, you wouldn’t be able to see why it’s helpful as you won’t have encountered a problem worthwhile knowing this. 

Programming is a learning journey. By this, they likely pick up a new piece of knowledge daily in a programmer’s job. This could be something to do with the IDE they are writing their code in, a design pattern they didn’t know about that helps them solve their problem, or just understanding another piece of the problem domain they are working in.


Overall, programming isn’t the most difficult thing to learn. You can start with basic applications and then learn the different design patterns and concepts as you move along. As long as you put the time and effort into studying and coding, you should have no trouble learning how to code.

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