Do I Have to Know How to Code for Web Scraping?

Nowadays, there’s no strict need to know how to code to scrape the web. Many tools allow you to collect data from websites with no or very little programming knowledge like hosted scrapers and web scraping APIs.

However, learning a programming language and some core concepts of web scraping can give you more control and flexibility when performing web scraping tasks and help you understand the inner workings of the tools you use.

What Do I Need to Know to Get Into Web Scraping?

No matter the tool you’re using or your technical skills, there are three things to understand to ensure the success of your web scraping project:

1. Understand how websites are structured

Although every website is a unique puzzle, the fundamental structure is always the same, and understanding this structure will help you build better automation.

In essence, every website is built using HTML and CSS, and we use these two elements to target the different data points we want to extract from our websites of interest.

You can learn more about these two elements and how to use them for web scraping in our web scraping in Python beginner tutorial.

Furthermore, websites have many links you’ll want to follow to reach content/information within deeper levels of the website (e.g., all the pages within a category in Amazon).

The most common to get to these deeper pages is by using the site’s pagination and URL structure.

Here’s a guide on handling pagination in Python – but you can use the same logic with any programming language or scraping tool.

Understanding page structure and how pagination and URLs work will help you scrape 90% of the web, so take your time.

You can also check these two guides to deepen your understanding:

2. Learn how web scraping works

Because every web scraping tool is unique and has its own language to talk about its features and process, it’s important that you understand what’s the underlying web scraping process.

Learning this process will allow you to read through the documentation to make the most of the tool you want to use.

Here’s a simple guide we’ve written on the web scraping process that’ll give you all the necessary context to understand how different tools work.

3. Know the tools you have and how to choose the right one

Finally, you need to know about the different tools available, and the questions you need to ask yourself (or your team) to ensure that you’re using the one that fits your project the best.

To help you in this journey, we’ve created two must-read guides:

  • Web scraping pricing for dummies – here, we dive deeper into how tools are priced, how to read tools’ documentation to avoid hidden fees and the nuances you should be aware of.
  • How to choose the right web scraping tool – in this article, we cover everything you need to know (about your project, your team, and the potential providers) before committing to a solution.

If you follow these three steps, you’ll be able to make better decisions and start collecting data more efficiently and quickly.

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