How Theory Can Trump Practice

Anyone can learn how to code, but not everyone becomes an expert.

There is a major difference between knowing how to do something and knowing why you should do something, and that difference matters when it comes to job performance.

Every web developer needs practice, but having a deeper understanding of the “why” behind why you place a certain lines of code where you do – essentially, code theory – is important for a number of reasons.

Here’s why taking the time to learn theory can actually do more for your career than simply practicing how to code…

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Theory Helps You Problem Solve

Group of cartoon business people holding gears

Like we said, anyone can learn how to code. There are plenty of books out there that will show you how to build a website from scratch, or how to get your site to perform a specific function.

But books won’t tell you how to think strategically to solve unique problems. And trust us, unique problems happen with every project.

Steve Jobs once said, “I think everybody in this country should learn how to program a computer because it teaches you how to think.”

Knowing code is kind of like owning a car. Your Average Joe – or a basic developer – knows how to fill up the gas tank, put air in the tires, and hopefully check the oil and swap out a spare tire if needed.

But someone who cares about cars and has a deeper understanding of how they work may even know how to do minor repairs and bodywork, change their own oil, or swap out a spark plug or two. And then, of course, you have mechanics that have spent countless hours becoming experts that can do everything from A to Z.

Having a basic knowledge of coding will make you an Average Joe. You’ll know how to customize the CSS of your WordPress site or maybe even build an HTML site from scratch, but it won’t help you when you run into a complex error or when you want to add a function that you were never taught.

Coders who study theory, on the other hand, have a knowledgebase that allows them to experiment with code and try new things without having to waste countless hours on forums trying to find an expert that understands what they want to do.

Theory Gives Life to Your Imagination


Speaking of being able to do what you want to do, another benefit of understanding code theory is the freedom to not only implement creative strategies but also to come up with your own functionality and designs.

In this way, coding is less like a car and more like poetry: the programmer has a set of rules that should be followed, but the creative expression is virtually limitless.

As Jake Levine says, “Programming is a means to an end, not an end in itself. You should be trying to do as little of it as possible to make the thing that you want.”

He explains that at the end of the day, it’s not just about learning the code, it’s about equipping yourself with a tool that allows you to build anything that you can imagine as easily as possible, whether it’s a simple website, a complicated social network, or a web app.

This level of fluidity happens by understanding the theory behind what you do, so when you have a brilliant idea for something, you can build it without wasting too much time. Code theory gives you more control over the creative process.

You can also use your knowledge of code to automate tasks, allowing you to focus on high-level achievements, like building a successful business.

Theory Makes You an Expert


And when it comes to business, coding has quickly become a core skill to successfully growing almost any kind of business – especially one where development is the primary goal.

As technology advances, the world will become more dependent on programmers to help sort through messy code and build software that gets things done.

First, that means that the number of programming jobs will increase, giving greater flexibility to those seeking to remain in the field for the next 5 to 10 years. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 913,000 computer programmer jobs in 2010. That number is expected to jump 30% from 2010 to 2020. Meanwhile, the average growth of all other U.S. jobs is predicted to be just 14%.

But learning code theory is important not just for getting jobs, but for creating your own business and setting yourself apart from your competitors as an expert in the field.

Whether you end up working as a freelancer or you decide to run an agency, learning code will help you better understand the people you work with – clients or team members alike.

Code theory gives you the ability to understand and explain things like cost to clients because you know how much work is involved. Code theory helps you know whether or not a piece of software is high quality or not.

Code theory will help you become an expert, which means you can run an expert-level (read: highly profitable) business.

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Final Thoughts

So, why does learning code theory matter?

Having a deeper understanding of the “why” behind what you do not only helps you become a better developer for building websites or other projects, but allows you to expand your thinking, take the lead on complicated project, and solve problems that are otherwise unsolvable.

Code theory also makes you an expert, and whether or not you use that expertise to run a successful freelance business, develop your own software to sell, or run a creative agency, you’ll be able to improve your profit margin and set yourself apart from your competitors in big ways.

And before you know it, you’ll be the one all the newbie coders are coming to for help.

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