Friday, June 4, 2010

Learning web development, step by step

The books on my bookshelf: Web Developers Desk Reference, Manga Guide to Databases, JavaScript, Wicked Cool PHP, Object Oriented PHP, Code Craft
One of the questions I often get when I tell people I’m a web developer is “Hey, I want to make a website! How can I learn to make websites?” Being a programmer isn’t for everyone, but basic web development isn’t hard & can be a very worthwhile skill to have.

Web developers use a bunch of programming languages, layered on top of each other, to present the dynamic websites that are popular today. I am going to lay out the languages I feel are essential for making web sites. As web languages often build upon and interface with one another, the order here is important.

The core: HTML

This was the internet back when I made my first web site. HTML, or its modern equivalent XHTML, is the core language for the World Wide Web. Every item you see on the page is either contained or referenced in the HTML for the page.

The look: CSS
CSS is responsible for how things contained in the HTML are displayed in your browser. Font, size, color, placement & more should all be controlled using CSS.

Interactivity: JavaScript
Not to be confused with Java, JavaScript is used to make web pages move and change. More recently it has been used to dynamically load content within a page, so that new content can be displayed within a page without reloading it. Another good option for interactive web site is flash, but recent compatibility issues with flash combined with advances in JavaScript and HTML have made JavaScript a much better option for development.

These are the three basic languages needed to start making web sites. If you want to learn, I recommend using the great free guides on They are quick, easy to understand, and cover not only these but other important web programming languages as well. In a future article I’ll go a bit deeper into the languages & tools I use to go beyond the basics and start using server side storage and scripting.

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