Web Development: #2 – What to Learn First?

One of the most popular questions most people have when they first start on their journey into web development is which language to learn first? There are many options out there and the quick Google search can be absolutely overwhelming. So let’s look at some common themes that tend to run in the beginner’s circles of web development.

Web Development #2 - What to Learn First

The Basics

HTML

In my experience (the whole whopping two months of it) is that the best language to start learning is not actually a programming language at all. I’m talking about HTML (Hypertext Markup Language). HTML is not a programming language in the fact that it doesn’t program anything. It is simply the structure layout that all web browsers look at to display information online. The heading sizes, the paragraph spacing, the navigation bar, the text at the top of your browser tab, all of this and more is contained within the HTML document. HTML is very easy to learn and can make you feel accomplished rather quickly. Let’s face it, you don’t want to dive into a complicated programming language only to be overwhelmed by the complexity of it and give up before you even really get started. HTML consists of tags such as <p> for paragraphs, and <title> for titles, etc. So jump into HTML first as you are going to need to know this basic structure before you dive into anything else.

 

CSS

CSS (cascading style sheets) is the beautification of HTML. Lets use an analogy of a really nice sports car, my favorite is the Chevrolet Corvette. If HTML is the chassis, axles, and frame of the car, then CSS is the leather seats, the stylish logo plates, sparkling chrome rims, and accented racing stripes. CSS can be a lot of fun to learn as well. Without CSS, your HTML will look like a website you barfed out of the 90’s when internet just started to take off. There are a lot of things you can do with just HTML and CSS alone! CSS consists of controlling what your tags in your HTML document look like. The color, positioning, size, font, etc. A lot of local small businesses are usually looking for just this alone. Something simple to look nice and professional to advertise their business online. If you can manipulate HTML and CSS well enough to accomplish this, you can start working relatively quickly in web development.

 

JavaScript

To continue the sports car analogy, if HTML is the structure, and CSS is the styling, JavaScript is the cruise control, the programmable radio stations on the stereo, the automatic transmission (I know you’d want a standard but work with me people), and the keyless entry. JavaScript is most likely the first actual programming language you are going to come across when first starting out. It’s the language that I am currently learning at the time of this writing. With JavaScript you can start animating things on the website. Making things “pop” if you will. You can make CSS styled HTML tags zoom in, fly of the screen, program a navigation bar to stick to the top of the screen when scrolling, and most importantly program a website to be responsive to mobile. A bit more on that here in a sec…

So with these three things in your toolbox, you can create most of the sites you find online. So if you’re looking to get started and don’t know where to go, I would recommend starting with those three things, in that order. Now, keep in mind, I am not a professional web developer yet. You can throw all of my advice out the window and go your own way, and chances are you’ll still end up on top if you stick with it. I’m simply saying that these three are the things I have found so far to get my foot in the door.

 

Other Languages

The list is seemingly endless. PHP, Java (not to be confused with JavaScript), C, C++, C#, Ruby, Ruby on Rails, Angular, NodeJS, jQuery, AJAX, yada yada, on and on… Where to go? You’re guess is as good as mine. No seriously, as bad as that sounds, I believe that’s actually a good thing. Speaking as the all-knowledgeable two-month web developer that I am, I’ve researched and looked into enough language options to know that there’s pretty much something out there for everybody willing to invest some time and energy in finding and then learning one they like and are interested in. My plan after I finish learning JavaScript is to try out PHP, a back-end server-side language that uses database information to render things into websites.

 

So as short and simple as this post is, I hope that at least gives the complete newbie (such as me) some way to point their compass. I wish I would have had a complete newbie blog to read to guide me even through these past two months, and that’s why I’m writing this one. So please continue to join me in my journey, as short-lived and newborn as it is and I look forward to hearing from you. Questions, comments, or suggestions? Leave them below and keep following me on this journey!

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