How Much Code Do I Need to Know?

There is no sign that the influence of the Internet is going to get any less pervasive in the upcoming years. In fact, all indicators suggest that the world will continue to become more and more reliant on an increasingly available stream of instant data, and if you own a business or want to play a significant part in that advancement, then you’re going to need a website.


The problem is that many people have never even considered making a website before, and hiring a professional can run into the thousands of dollars for even a basic site, which is why you should consider building your own.

While this may require a certain amount of code, it’s not very difficult at all, and a few hours of training could help you get enough information to put up a high quality site for a fraction of what you would pay a designer to do it for you.

Types of Code

If you’re looking to build a website, there are a few types of code that you ought to know at least a little about.

HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) – This is the most basic language that all websites are built on. There are variations of this like XTML, but ultimately this particular set of structures and syntax are what people have used to create websites since the World Wide Web launched in 1994.

HTML is the basic language that all websites are built on, which means that simple functions require relatively simple bits of code.

If you’re learning HTML, there are only a few things that you’ll absolutely want to know: how to identify the parts of a website (Head, Title, Body, etc.) in the code, how to start and end a website’s code, and how to insert tables, links, images, lists, and embedded media into your website. If you gain those simple skills, you’ll be able to create a basic website for yourself without too much difficulty.

CSS (Cascading Style Sheet) – CSS code is another language that knowing a little bit of can go a long way. This is a particular kind of code that is designed to help define the look and formatting of a website. Knowing how to write and manipulate CSS code means making it very easy to separate document content (the actual information on your web pages) and document presentation (how that content looks when people access your website).

CSS also goes a long way toward keeping your website consistent by allowing you to define a particular “look” then simply refer your code to the CSS document to reflect that exact look whenever you want to replicate it with different information. So, for example, this will make sure that if you want headlines on every page of your website to be in a certain font, a certain size, and a specific color, then they can all easily have those elements added to them through the use of CSS.

If you’re learning CSS, there are no specific things you ought to learn, but rather you should learn how to read and understand the syntax of the code. Once you understand how it’s put together, then it’s just a matter of working out what you want.

JavaScript – This one is not strictly necessary, but it helps to at least understand the basics of what is going on. Many of the more advanced website functions are done with JavaScript, which was designed to make the Internet more capable of running applications that had previously only been available on local machines.

Again, this is not nearly as necessary at HTML or CSS. Take some time to familiarize yourself with how JavaScript works and how you would employ it should you want to, but otherwise you probably won’t need it.

Why You Only Need a Little Knowledge

Only knowing a fraction of the total amount of available information on these types of code can go a long way because building websites is no longer restricted just to people who can create them with code alone. There are a number of ways to go about creating a website that don’t require more than passing familiarity with HTML and CSS.

Templates – Perhaps the most obvious and easiest way to go about creating a website is by taking advantage of the thousands upon thousands of free templates available all over the Internet. It’s very easy to find open source HTML files with the associated images, CSS documents, and necessary files such that all you have to do is change the particulars to replace with your content and you’ll have a website ready to go. This is where a little knowledge of HTML and CSS can be very helpful since it can let you easily see where you need to change and what changes you should make.

WYSIWYG Editors – WYSIWYG is an acronym for “What You See Is What You Get,” meaning that this style of website editor is such that you can adjust the web pages that you are creating by seeing what changes you’re making. The majority of those run locally on your actual machines allow you not the ability to insert items into a page and control the layout of your website, but also give you access to the HTML and CSS code of your pages. That way, with your little bit of knowledge of those codes, you’ll be able to do the bulk of your designing simply and use the code to make detailed changes.

Web-based Builders – A number of web-based builders have become popular recently. In many cases, these use templates or a drag and drop WYSIWYG interface to allow you to change the look and content of your website. They usually make it easy to publish your website online with the click of a button. These aren’t bad, but most don’t give you access to the code if you want to make changes to it directly.

Where to Learn Coding

There are a number of ways to learn how to code online. Perhaps the easiest is to look at the official websites for HTML and CSS, which include extensive tutorials on how to use them. There are also other tutorials available online and dozens of books available at your local bookstore.

It’s much, much easier to build a website today than it was in 1994. There are plenty of options so that, with only a little knowledge, you can build professional websites for yourself and others.


Posted on Wednesday, June 18th, 2014