6 Fundamental Coding Concepts (With Tips to Improve)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 15, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

The process of coding involves creating instructions to direct the computer to perform a specific task. All software programs adhere to certain coding principles and concepts. A basic understanding of various coding concepts may be beneficial if you're new to coding or if you want to improve your coding skills. In this article, we discuss some fundamental coding concepts along with their definitions and examples and offer some tips for improving your coding skills.

What are fundamental coding concepts?

Fundamental coding concepts include a set of basic principles and related terminologies that programmers can follow to write code that is simple to understand, modular, and efficient. The basic coding concepts include variable declaration, basic control structures, data structures, object-oriented programming, troubleshooting and debugging, and various programming tools. These concepts are similar across different programming languages, such as C, C++, Python, and Java.

Related: 10 of the Most In-Demand Coding Languages for Your Career

6 fundamental coding concepts

The following are six basic coding concepts:

1. Variable declaration

Variables are containers for storing values. You can declare variables using variable names. Declaring a variable instructs the operating system to reserve a piece of memory with that variable name. You can define a variable with letters, digits, and underscores. Variables store standard data types, such as:

  • Number: Numbers store numerical values. The various numerical types include int, long, float, and complex used to store signed integers, long integers, floating-point real values, and complex numbers, respectively.

  • String: Strings store a set of characters enclosed either by single or double quotes.

  • List: Lists can store multiple items, such as integers, floats, strings, or other lists, in a single variable. The items stored in a list are changeable, ordered, and accessible via indexes.

  • Tuple: Tuples can store multiple items, such as integers, floats, strings, or other lists, in a single variable. The items stored in a tuple are unchangeable, ordered, and accessible via indexes.

  • Dictionary: Dictionaries store key-value pairs. The items stored in a tuple are unordered, unchangeable, and accessible using a key.

2. Control structures

A control structure specifies the flow of control in a program. Analyzing certain parameters and conditions determines the flow direction of a program. Control structures make it easier to understand a flow of logic when developing algorithms or writing programs. There are three basic types of control structures:

  • Sequential logic: The flow of a program executes in a specific order without skipping, jumping, or switching to another block of code.

  • Selection logic: A condition determines whether a block of code gets executed or skipped. Common examples include if and else-if.

  • Iteration logic: A block of code repeats a fixed number of times to achieve the desired result. Common examples include for and while loop.

Related: How to List Computer Programming Skills on Your Resume

3. Data structures

A data structure provides an effective way to store and retrieve data. There are various data structures that computer programmers can use to complete tasks and run applications. These are some commonly used data structures:

  • Arrays: Arrays organize data by storing similar elements together and using contiguous memory allocation. You can use arrays to store an ordered list of items.

  • Stacks: Stacks are linear structures that follow a last-in, first-out (LIFO) order for executing operations. You can use stacks to store data that get processed in a specific order.

  • Queues: The queue is a linear structure that follows a first-in, first-out (FIFO) order for executing operations. You can use queues to store data that don't require immediate processing.

  • Linked lists: Linked lists are linear data structures that use pointers to link elements instead of contiguous memory locations. You can use them to implement stacks, queues, and graphs.

  • Binary trees: Binary trees are non-linear structures containing nodes that have two possible values or directions. You can use binary trees to represent hierarchy and determine structural relationships in data.

  • Graphs: Graphs contain nodes and edges connected to one another. You can use these data structures to study maps, resource allocation in operating systems, and social media networks.

  • Hash-tables: Hash-tables, also known as maps, store key-value pairs. You can retrieve the value in the hash table by specifying its key where a key can store multiple values.

4. Object-oriented programming

Object-oriented programming is based on the concept of objects and classes where an object may contain data in the form of attributes and methods. Classes are user-defined blueprints or prototypes from which you can create objects. For example, consider a class that represents a car. The car class contains attributes such as colour, date of manufacture, weight, and mileage. You can then use this class as a blueprint to create objects where each object represents a different car with a unique set of attributes. Some important concepts in object-oriented programming include:

  • Encapsulation: Encapsulation is the binding of data elements, such as variables and properties and member methods, into one unit.

  • Abstraction: Abstraction enables you to hide specific details about a class and provide only essential information to the outside world. You can use the 'abstract' keyword to declare an abstract class.

  • Inheritance: Inheritance enables you to create a new class from an existing class. For example, you can create many child classes which inherit all the properties of their parent classes and have their own set of additional attributes and methods.

  • Polymorphism: Using polymorphism, you can access objects of different types using the same interface where each object provides its own implementation.

5. Debugging

Debugging is the process of removing errors from computer programs. The process allows software development and engineering teams to ensure that the software works as intended. You can encounter various coding errors throughout the development phase. Below is a list of possible errors:

Syntax error

Syntax errors arise when characters or tokens in the code don't follow the syntax of the programming language. These errors can be due to indentation errors, missing brackets, extra commas, or misspelled commands. An IDE detects such errors and displays the line number, error type, and description along with the error. After reviewing the error description, you can modify the code to follow the correct syntax.

Runtime errors

A runtime error occurs when there is a flaw in the algorithm or logic of the code. This results in the program producing unexpected results. You encounter logical errors only during runtime since there are no errors in the code's syntax, which results in a successful compilation. For instance, wrongly initializing a variable can cause a logical error in the code.

Latent errors

Latent errors, also known as hidden errors, arise when you use a specific set of data as input to the program. A program can fail or produce incorrect results if you fail to account for an outlier or edge case. You may have created a program that prompts users to enter their dates of birth but does not account for characters or negative numbers they may enter incorrectly. This could cause the program to crash or halt.

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6. Programming tools

The integrated development environment (IDE) provides developers with tools for writing, compiling, and executing code. The tools in IDEs facilitate code completion, code compilation, debugging, and syntax highlighting. You can also add plugins to IDEs that let you browse the framework codebase and add your own classes and features. IDEs can be used for the following:

  • Writing code: You can use IDEs to write and edit program code to complete a set of tasks.

  • Compiling code: IDEs compile code by translating human-readable code to a format that is understandable by the computer.

  • Debugging code: IDEs contain debugging tools to help you detect errors in a code and make fixes.

  • Deploying code: After compilation and execution, IDEs make the program consumable. This means that third-party users can run the code and obtain the results.

  • Auto-completion: Many new IDEs provide auto-complete suggestions for parts of code. This helps programmers save time and focus on other important aspects.

Some examples of IDEs include PyCharm, Android Studio, Visual Studio, and Eclipse.

Related: What Is an Integrated Development Environment? (With Jobs)

Tips to improve coding skills

Here are some tips to improve your programming skills:

  • Take additional courses. Take additional courses to enhance your coding skills and credentials. These courses offer practice tests, quizzes, and capstone projects that can help you improve your skills.

  • View source code. Reviewing the source code of various open-source applications is a good way to gain an understanding of their design structure and implementation procedure. You can then use this knowledge to develop your custom modules and scripts.

  • Work on mini-projects. By working on end-to-end projects, you get to learn the overall structure of a program, along with best coding practices and optimization techniques. This includes phases such as requirement gathering, data cleaning, data analysis, algorithm design, testing, and deployment.

  • Take part in coding competitions. Competitive coding can enhance your algorithmic skills and help you solve problems more efficiently. It also enhances your understanding of data structures, dynamic programming, and discrete mathematics.

  • Follow other programmers. You can also review the codebase of other programmers on various platforms, such as GitHub or Kaggle. This allows you to improve your programming skills and stay updated with the latest IT developments.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions, or organizations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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