Lots of people want to learn to code. It’s a fascinating skill that pays well and lets you work on a nearly endless number of fascinating problems. But there are so many different languages, paradigms, tool sets, books, videos, and courses, that a beginner can be forgiven for not knowing how to take the first step.
Another important problem is that coding, while not as hard as many assume, demands a different way of thinking. That is, you have to learn how to think algorithmically. What might be a relatively simple thing to state in English (‘make the title font bigger’) requires rephrasing in the crisp, clear language that machines can understand.
One excellent way to learn this type of thinking and cut through the maze of different approaches to coding is to learn more about something you see every day: web pages.
What Is HTML, and Why Should I Learn It?
HTML stands for ‘hypertext markup language,’ and it’s what your browser uses to display webpages. Computers may seem stupendously powerful, but they’re really just executing lots of simple instructions very quickly.
If text is supposed to be in italics, for example, someone has to tell a machine to display it that way. Or, if a webpage links to another webpage, someone has to format the text in a special way and create a pointer to the destination page.
You can accomplish most of this with HTML. If you learn HTML, you’ll know how to tell a computer what a text should look like, how it should be laid out, where links should go, and other instructions.
Thus, HTML isn’t a programming language; rather, it’s a markup language. This means it’s simpler than, say, Python. The great software engineer Eric Raymond recommends learning HTML because it’ll teach you many of the habits of coding without forcing you to grapple with a full programming language.
There are many tutorials online for learning HTML. The best way to begin is simply choose one and get started! It’s important to remember that coding is a deeply participatory skill. You can’t learn it just by reading code; you have to actually spend time writing it. So build a simple webpage or project as you go through HTML tutorials. This’ll double as a portfolio if you decide to get into web development.
Of course, it’s also great preparation if you plan to attend a web development bootcamp at some point.