Code or Be Coded

Catching Up With Codecademy: Nothing Says Christmas Like Building Your Own HTML/CSS ‘Code Cards’

Code your way into the New Year.
Screen shot 2012-12-24 at 10.34.18 AM

via cards.codecademy.com

Codecademy managed to win the holiday news cycle last year with its Code Year pledge that even got Mayor Bloomberg to learn to code in 2012–or at least tweet his New Year’s resolution. It was hard to miss the headlines crowing about coding as the lingua franca of the 21st century. But despite the best intentions, some of us fell off the wagon, hard.

However, the well-funded New York City startup just launched a more lightweight plan to make learning to code seasonal: a Code Cards site that lets anyone build holiday cards with HTML/CSS or through a drag-and-drop interface. Cards can be remixed and shared with friends, cofounder Zach Sims told Betabeat, calling it “a continuation of our philosophy that people learn best by doing and creating.”

Building the cards gives users “the opportunity to make something, see the code change in real time, and understand what drives websites,” he added.

As for last winter’s ambitious Code Year pledge, Mr. Sims declined to disclose numbers, “beyond the fact that we have millions of users.” But he did point us to a collection of stories from “people who have made it through Code Year and done really awesome things.”

The “vast majority” of Codecademy’s users are not from Code Year, he noted, “and are definitely from outside the tech scene.” For instance, more than 50 percent of its user base is outside the United States and includes both school systems , like the after-school programs listed here, and governments.

Retention and growth are always top of mind, said Mr. Sims. To boost the former, Codecademy has been focused on quality. “Beta testers help to edit courses, and we’ve monitored courses with bad quality to get them fixed,” he said. “Beyond that, we’ve launched courses in new languages and added other features to help people stick with it (including better email reminders).”

Now it’s just up to users to resolve not to ignore them.

UPDATE: Union Squares Ventures’ Andy Weissman shows you how Code Cards are done–with a little help from Abbie Hoffman, of course.

Follow Nitasha Tiku on Twitter or via RSS. ntiku@observer.com