You don’t necessarily need years of experience as a coder to create an app-based startup. But if you’re a non-technical founder looking to play an active role in building your product, you’ll need to acquire some coding skills. So what are the best programming languages for startup founders to learn?

For those interested in actually developing a mobile app, a cross-platform framework like React Native will offer the tools you need. Founders who aren’t looking to get into the nuts and bolts of app development will be better off learning the basics of HTML and CSS for the web.

As a founder, you need to weigh any investment of your time against how close it gets you to your overall goals. It will take you a few months of committed work to learn a mobile app development language. If you’re going to do it, find a course that’s specific to the kind of program you’re trying to create, rather than trying to acquire a broad knowledge base first.

How to Choose a Programming Language For Mobile

When you’re first considering learning a programming language, it can be tough even to know the right questions to ask. There are a huge number of options available, all with their own strengths and weaknesses.

The key thing to remember is that you’re not looking to reinvent the wheel. You’re looking for a set of tools that will let you turn your idea into a functional, reliable app, with the smallest possible expenditure of your valuable time.

When considering a programming language, you need to consider:

1. Cross-platform functionality

Once upon a time, developers had to create apps for Android and iOS using separate frameworks. But now there are a number of languages that let you code a single app that will work on both platforms.

The efficiency advantage of learning one language as opposed to two is obvious. As a founder, you’ll be best served by learning a cross-platform language.

2. Community Support

A large, active user community is an important resource when you’re learning a coding language. The more people are working with a given tool, the more likely it is that someone’s already figured out how to do what you’re trying to do.

More users also means more people to ask for help when you make a mistake!

3. Performance

Efficiency and support won’t help you much if the language is so clunky that it makes your app perform poorly. Users will quickly lose patience with a program that’s too slow or constantly crashes.

So make sure you choose a framework that will interact smoothly with mobile devices.

The Advantages of React Native

We recommend React Native for non-technical founders looking to get technical in a hurry.

This framework started out as a hackathon by Facebook’s development team, but in a few short years, it’s grown into a massively popular language for app developers. Here’s why:

  • It’s based on the tried and true Javascript language
  • It’s functional across platforms
  • It compiles to native code on mobile devices, offering fast and smooth performance
  • It’s got lots of useful third-party plugins to expand your app’s functionality
  • It has a sizable open-source community full of talented developers

Other Options

There aren’t a ton of other cross-platform languages in the same league as React Native, but it does have a couple of competitors worth noting:

  • Flutter. Created by Google, Flutter has a fantastic unit testing framework, and it interfaces with native device components without needing a JavaScript bridge. That enhances app speed and performance considerably. However, it’s based on the Dart language, which doesn’t have as deep a talent pool as JavaScript.
  • Angular. With even more users than Flutter or ReactNative, Angular has a robust support base. It also offers fast and easy UI configuration. However, apps built in Angular tend to be a bit slower than comparable programs in the other two languages we’ve covered.

The Best Way to Learn

So let’s say you’ve settled on React Native as the framework you’re using to build your app. What’s the best way to go about learning it?

Once again, we’re going to emphasize the tradeoff between your time investment and the return you’re getting.

You’re learning a programming language because you have a great idea you want to execute. You don’t need to learn how to do everything your chosen language can do. You just need to use it to create one great solution.

So rather than trying to find a code school or boot camp that gives you a broad overview, look for a course teaching React Native through the lens of the kind of app you want to create.

Are you trying to create a hookup app? Do a Google search for “Learn React Native by building Tinder clone”. You’ll find plenty of examples.

Are you looking to make a new social platform? Try “Build an Instagram clone in React Native”.

That way, all the work you put into learning the language is also working towards your company’s finished product.

What If You Don’t Want to Become a Developer?

The languages outlined above are great if you want to have the skills of a developer in addition to the skills of a founder. But not everyone is looking for that level of involvement in the technical side of their company.

If you’re looking for a less intensive introduction to programming, then you’re probably better off learning the fundamentals of HTML and CSS for web coding.

It will take a lot less time and effort to learn some basic skills in these languages. That won’t be enough to build an entire website from scratch, but it will let you customize and enhance a site created from a template.

Themeforest.com is a great resource for finding some of these website builder templates. You can pick one you like, and practice your CSS and HTML skills by tweaking it to suit your brand.

The Bottom Line

Every second you spend learning to code is a second you’re not spending on all the other important aspects of running your startup. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it, though. It means you should make the time you spend count for as much as possible.

Choose a robust cross-platform framework like React Native, and find a course that lets you build your skills by making the kind of app you already wanted to make. Or, if you’re not looking to take the plunge into app development, get your feet wet with some basic website coding techniques in HTML and CSS.

If nothing else, the process will give you a renewed appreciation for what your dev team goes through.

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