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July 9, 2023 - 7 minutes

A Beginner's Guide to HTML and CSS for Web Development

You’ve heard of HTML and CSS, but what are they? How do they differ?

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You’ve decided front-end web development is for you; you’d love to focus on the client-side of web development, creating intuitive and efficient interfaces that facilitate client use. And you probably already know this, but both HTML and CSS are absolute necessities for any front-end developer. What are they? How do they differ? Are both really necessary? How can you learn them? We’ll discuss this and much more in this article. 

Why are HTML and CSS Important?

We see this question a lot and we get it! Especially for beginners, there seems to be a massive number of programming languages out there and tools you need to know. But HTML and CSS are truly essential to your work as a front-end web developer. In fact, HTML and CSS knowledge is so valuable that it’s highly desired in other roles as well. Imagine that you’re working as a freelance makeup artist. Instead of having to hire a web designer to build your website/app and hire them to deal with every single issue, you’ll be able to do it yourself, saving valuable time and resources. 

Regardless of your area of work, today’s world is so digitized that such knowledge is absolutely crucial to your success. As you continue reading our article, think about HTML and CSS applications that could be useful in your professional or personal lives. It’s probably worth learning! 

What is HTML?

Short for HyperText Markup Language, HTML is the generic language used to create web pages, describing the structure of the site. Using tags and hidden keywords, HTML tells the site what to display, but is not a programming language; HTML is a markup language. Through specific keys, HTML dictates the format, style, font size, and pictures that are seen on a page. Within an HTML page, there are five sections: 

  • <!DOCTYPE>: this tag exists to tell the browser about the type of HTML used on the page; it doesn’t contain any content. 

  • <html>: there must be a <html> tag at the beginning and end of each document, communicating to the webpage that anything between those tags has HTML content.

  • <head>: this section contains metadata; this part isn’t displayed when the page loads but instead contains key information about the page, such as characters, links, and styles. 

  • <title>: this is where the title of a webpage goes; this is a key place to include keywords if the web page wants to be well-positioned in search engines. With only one <title> tag per page, it’s a key part of the page setup. 

  • <body>: here’s where the meat of the website lies, containing all text, paragraphs, links, images, videos, and more. 

Here’s an example of what HTML tags would look like: 

<!DOCTYPE html>











Sounds good? Let’s dive right into the benefits of HTML and how it can help you as a web developer.

Benefits of HTML

HTML is widely used and there’s a good reason for that! It’s quite easy to understand and implement, in addition to being free and easily accessible to all. In addition, HTML offers:

  • Compatibility with any browser

  • Ease of editing 

  • Simple integration with other languages

  • Quick speed

  • Small learning curve 

How to Learn HTML

If we’ve convinced you that HTML is just what you need to learn (and as a front-end developer, it is!), you’re probably wondering how to do it. As one of the easiest languages to learn, it’s possible to do it on your own with some practice. But if you’re unsure of where to start, try some of these tips: 

  • Online resources: before you commit to paid resources, check out free ones online, such as videos or quick courses. Watching other people walk you through the basics can be extremely helpful. 

  • Books: depending on your preferred learning methods, HTML can be best understood through a bit of theory. If you learn better once you have a strong foundation, consider checking out some books on the topic. 

  • Bootcamps: once you’ve decided that you really want to dive into HTML and become an expert, there’s no better way to learn than taking a bootcamp. Bootcamps will help you learn the foundational details that are needed to succeed and even provide you with career assistance to help you land that new role. 

Well, we’ve covered HTML and everything you need to know. Let’s head into CSS so you’re well-versed in both. 

What is CSS? 

Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) is a stylesheet language for documents written in HTML or XML, telling websites how to present web page information. It is also able to adjust for various formats, such as mobile and desktop. If this sounds similar to HTML, we get it, but they’re totally different: HTML is the content of the web page; CSS is the presentation of that content. Within CSS, there are three styles:

  • Internal CSS: used to style a single page, internal CSS is used with HTML to provide instructions to a specific page. However, adding CSS to HTML can increase the page’s loading time. 

  • External CSS: ideal for bigger pages, external CSS links to an external file (as the name suggests!) and is able to edit entire pages at once. As the CSS code is in another document, your HTML code can run faster and is lighter. 

  • Inline CSS: used for styling a specific HTML element, inline CSS is used just for single elements; due to its complex nature, it’s not ideal for large amounts of text.

Benefits of CSS

CSS is widely used, and not just for its abilities to make web pages more visually appealing. Some benefits of using CSS are:

  • Because CSS allows you to use less code to accomplish multiple things, pages are faster and easier to set up.

  • As CSS works to make a more attractive web page, the overall user experience will be superior and users will be more likely to return to the site. 

  • CSS code can be replicated across multiple pages, saving time and speed when it comes to both setting up the page and loading later on. 

  • CSS is compatible with websites, mobile sites, and more.

Just in case we didn’t make it clear, here’s the difference between CSS and HTML: HTML is a markup language for static web page design and CSS is a stylesheet language used to design the actual page design. You might see articles comparing the two, but they exist for completely different functions and aren’t comparable; used properly, they are both quality options. 

How to Learn CSS

Before you jump into CSS, it’s best to have some familiarity with both HTML and web development in general; it’s quite technical and you’ll struggle if you try to jump right in with little to no experience. However, the technicalities tend to come with more advanced features and you should be able to start practicing after a bit of studying. The following suggestions will help you on your journey to proficiency in CSS: 

  • Online communities: the online web development community is widespread and there are tons of beginners out there looking for assistance. This means that you’ll both have access to other people’s troubleshooting and a place to solve your own doubts. 

  • Bootcamps: if you’re looking for hands-on, guided practice where you’ll be able to be corrected and ask questions, bootcamps are probably your best bet. These intensive courses seek to teach you everything you need to know in a short period of time, giving you tons of opportunities to get your hands dirty. 

  • Practice: practice makes perfect and you’ll get much better if you practice writing codes and work to solve your own bugs through research/professional guidance. As you get more and more comfortable writing CSS code, you’ll be ready to tackle more advanced tools and even try to learn another programming language. 

HTML vs. CSS: which is for me?

Our answer to this question depends on your specific situation, of course! If you’re working as a front-end web developer, both of these are quite important. Here’s our recommendation: 

Start with HTML and make sure you understand the foundations of web development; practice creating very basic web templates. Once you’re fully comfortable with HTML, dive into CSS, working slowly. CSS has lots of different levels and options; take your time and make sure you’re proficient with the basics before heading into the more advanced aspects of it. 

Both are valuable to learn and with time, effort, and, of course, practice, you’ll be well on your way to reaching proficiency in both HTML and CSS. And after that, the world is yours! You can explore programming languages and pick your next victim. To get started on your web development journey, there’s no better way to learn HTML or CSS than with a bootcamp.

At Ironhack, our Web Development Bootcamp is designed to provide you with the foundational knowledge necessary for entering the workforce, and HTML and CSS are integral parts of our coursework. You’ll leave comfortable with both--are you up for the challenge? We can’t wait to see you in class. 

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