CSS Web Page design

October 8, 2016
HTML, CSS Web page design

baby-programming-funEver wondered how computer programming works, but haven't done anything more complicated on the web than upload a photo to Facebook?

Then you're in the right place.

To someone who's never coded before, the concept of creating a website from scratch - layout, design, and all - can seem really intimidating. You might be picturing the Harvard students from The Social Network, sitting at their computers with gigantic headphones on and hammering out code, and think to yourself, I could never do that.

But you can!

Anyone can learn to code, just like anyone can learn a new language. In fact, programming is kind of like speaking a foreign language - which is exactly why they're called programming languages. Each one has its own rules and syntax that need to be learned step by step. Those rules are ways to tell your computer what to do. More specifically, in web programming, they're ways of telling your browsers what to do.

magazine-page-exampleThe goal of this post is to, in plain English, teach you with the basics of HTML, CSS, and one of the most common programming languages, JavaScript. But before we begin, let's get an idea of what programming languages actually are.

A Brief Intro to Programming Languages

Programming, or coding, is like solving a puzzle. In a human language like French or Arabic, the puzzle might be the translate a sentence perfectly. In programming, the puzzle could be to make a web page look a certain way, or to make an object on the page move.

Basic-HTML-1So, when a web designer is given an end goal like "create a webpage that has this header, this font, these colors, these pictures, and an animated unicorn walking across the screen when users click on this button, " the web designer's job is to take that big idea and break it apart into tiny pieces, and then translate these pieces into instructions that the computer can understand - including putting all these instructions in the correct order or syntax.

Every page on the web that you visit is built using a sequence of separate instructions, one after another. Your browser (Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and so on) is a big actor in translating code into something we can see on our screens and even interact with. It can be easy to forget that code without a browser is just a text file - it's when you put that text file into a browser that the magic happens. When you open a web page, your browser fetches the HTML and other programming languages involved and interprets it.

HTML and CSS are actually not technically programming languages; they're just page structure and style information. But before moving on to JavaScript and other true languages, you need to know the basics of HTML and CSS, as they are on the front end of every web page and application.

In the very early 1990s, HTML was the only language available on the web. Web developers had to painstakingly code static sites, page by page. A lot's changed since then: Now there are many computer programming languages available.CSS-1 In this post, I'll talk about HTML, CSS, and one of the most common programming languages: JavaScript.

The TL:DR Version

An overview:

  • HTML provides the basic structure of sites, which is enhanced and modified by other technologies like CSS and JavaScript.
  • CSS is used to control presentation, formatting, and layout.
  • JavaScript is used to control the behavior of different elements.

Now, let's go over each one individually to help you understand the roles each plays on a website and then we'll cover how they fit together. Let's start with good ol' HTML.

HTML

HTML is at the core of every web page, regardless the complexity of a site or number of technologies involved. It's an essential skill for any web professional. It's the starting point for anyone learning how to create content for the web. And, luckily for us, it's surprisingly easy to learn.

HTML stands for HyperText Markup Language. The "markup language" part means that, rather than being a programming language that uses a programming language to perform functions, it uses tags to identify content.

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