A Beginner’s Guide to Computer Language: HTML

Matthew_Anderson
edited August 10 in PC Tech

Introduction 

In today’s world, knowing how to format a webpage or write a computer program is a very valuable skill. With strong job growth, numerous opportunities for specialization, and flexible work conditions, it’s no wonder that so many people see computer programming as an attractive career option.

But as a beginner, it can be difficult to find your way in a sea of different computer languages, not to mention the opaque computer jargon. If you’ve ever wondered what HTML is or what the difference between HTML and other computer languages is, you’re not alone. Let’s define the term.

What is HTML?

HTML, simply put, is a language used for creating websites. People use HTML to configure the format of a website and its text, including headings, images, and external links.

It’s ubiquitous, used in over 91% of all websites, and it can be written with a simple text editor, making it an approachable program to learn to use. In addition to being used to create websites, it can also be used to write emails or format data sheets.

HTML is an acronym that stands for “hypertext markup language.” The first word, “hypertext”, refers to the program’s ability to display external links and images, which was revolutionary when HTML was first published in 1989 by Tim Berners-Lee.

While HTML is omnipresent, part of its beauty lies in its simplicity. It is highly adept at formatting and displaying websites, but its features are limited, and a website that just uses HTML would be quite basic and visually boring. That’s where CSS comes in.

CSS, often mentioned in tandem with HTML, stands for “cascading style sheets.” CSS is used to modify fonts, colors, alignment of elements, and other stylistic or aesthetic considerations. People that learn HTML often learn to use CSS as well, as they work best when used together - CSS’s design elements complement HTML’s formatting strengths.

Though HTML is a computer language, whether or not HTML can be considered a programming language like Java or Python is the subject of debate. Typically, programming languages are defined by their ability to execute a function, or to “do” something: modify data, declare a variable, or something similar. 

HTML, on the other hand, doesn’t really perform a function in this way: it simply sends content for display on a web page. For this reason, some people describe HTML as a “markup” language, distinguished from more complex programming languages.

HTML programming basics and tutorial

To understand how HTML works in action, we need to learn a bit about its basic structure.

The basic building block of HTML is the element. Each element contains an opening tag, content, and a closing tag. While the opening and closing tags indicate where the element begins and ends respectively, the content is the output that the user sees. Here’s an example:

<p>This is the content of this element. </p>

The opening tag is written as “<p>” and the closing tag as “</p>” with the content in the middle. Because HTML is case-insensitive, there is no functional difference between “<p>” and “<P>”, though the custom is to use lowercase letters.

Another important element of an HTML element is its attribute. An attribute adds information about an element related to its appearance. The attribute is written inside of the opening tag, like in the following example:

<p align = "left">This is a left align</p>

The attribute “align = “left”” enclosed within the opening tag will cause the content “This is a left align” to appear with a left align on the web page.

There are over a hundred different elements used in HTML that can modify font, alignment, spacing, and more. But don’t let this intimidate you - you will use some elements more than others, and with time you will be able to master them all. As you continue using HTML, you will also have to familiarize yourself with the newest updates as they come out, which add additional elements and functionality.

Careers in HTML

With the allure of a career in tech, it’s no wonder that people want to learn HTML. Its relatively user-friendly structure and wide range of applications makes it a great choice for a newcomer looking to step into the tech field. But which careers in web development can one get with HTML knowledge?

One of the job titles that you can get with HTML knowledge is UI developer. UI developers, or user interface developers, format a webpage to provide an optimal user experience.

This includes optimizing web pages for different devices, such as for a laptop versus a mobile phone. HTML codes come in handy for adding relevant user engagement elements to a site, including images, buttons, and subscription links.

Another possible role for those skilled with HTML would be web developer. Web developers conceptualize and format a website. They may work freelance, helping to configure a user interface best suited to a client’s needs. Finding freelance work as a web developer is often a great option for those who are just starting out in the tech sector and need to obtain experience.

Though job opportunities with HTML/CSS experience are considerable, it should be noted that these skills are usually the baseline. For the many job listings seeking HTML/CSS proficient workers, there is also a large supply of people who have those skills. For those who want to be in tech long-term, HTML/CSS skills should be seen as a stepping stone in a series of continuous professional development.

How to learn

If HTML piques your interest or seems like a positive career move, you might be looking for a way to learn HTML. Luckily, there are a variety of places on the Internet, both free and paid, where you can learn.

For starters, there are many free video tutorials accessible on YouTube. This may be a good place to start if you’re not yet committed to the idea of learning HTML and want to get an introduction.

There are some sites that offer free HTML courses like Codecademy, Udacity, Scrimba, and Mozilla. Compared to their paid counterparts, these free courses are often shorter and may charge you an additional fee for accessing your course certificate.

Among the best-rated paid courses are Coursera’s HTML, CSS, and JavaScript for Web Developers and Introduction to Web Development with HTML, CSS, JavaScript. These courses go beyond HTML and even CSS to teach JavaScript as well, providing you with a solid basis with which to begin a career in web development.

Conclusion 

As you can see, HTML is a highly useful tool and a great entryway into a career in tech. Without a doubt, a background in HTML is a great foundation for the tech industry.

Matthew is a freelance content writer whose work has previously appeared in well-known language-learning blog Fluent in 3 Months and The Happy Self-Publisher. His creative work has also appeared in Otoliths, CafeLit, and the Eunoia Review. He is currently based in Taipei, Taiwan, where he is studying for a master's degree in Chinese Literature.

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