Coding 101: How to Communicate Briefly but Effectively with Your Web Developer

 

Thursday February 15 2018

We get it. You want it like that, but not like that. You want it like this – but oh man not like this! Your web developer tries to understand too. But translating your vision into lines of code is tough. We at TDB are all about good communication and digital building.

That’s why we’ve created a quick and helpful primer for anybody looking to build a website, and looking for a quick and easy cheat sheet to refer to when talking with their web developer. OK, Let’s jump in.

Why do I want to know this?

 

HTML. CSS. JavaScript. PHP. Together these 4 languages are the most popular when it comes to building websites online.


They do not account for the backend AKA server-side creation of sites. That’s where it gets quite complex as terms like remote server and full-stack developer start getting thrown about. But even if you’re not a web developer or especially tech-savvy, an understanding of these languages can make the fulfillment of your website needs far more quicker and efficient.

It is also just good business. If you’ve hired a web developer odds are good they’ll know a little bit about your business and its industry. Even if they don’t, a good web developer will be ready to learn. The same should cut both ways. Nobody is expecting you to lead a university coding class, but being able to speak in the same jargon and terminology goes a long way to driving success.

HTML

HTML stands for Hyper Text Markup Language. This is the starting point of a new website.

HTML will not provide you all the flair and panache that ultimately turns a website into a stylish design, but it will allow for the basic structure of a website to be created.

For headings, to paragraph text, to page links, and some other nifty stuff like photos and site titles and linking to external style sheets (more on that in a moment), it all begins with HTML.

CSS

CSS stands for Cascading Style Sheet. This is commonly seen as part 2 of website creation. It’s here that the existing HTML content – the section headings and the text and other content – can be styled.

While CSS is like HTML essentially a static language, it is a powerful way to easily change the colour, size, and interaction of one HTML element (like a paragraph of text or photo) with another.

CSS is ultimately added to a website by being linked to the existing HTML page. As there are a number of versions of CSS out there, there are a number of stylesheets accordingly. Each of them can be slightly different in what they offer, but all of them offer the ability to change the style of a website. That’s CSS in a nutshell.

JavaScript

Here’s where it gets really interesting. JavaScript is the third component of a basic front end website, but is also a programming language in its own right. Unlike HTML or CSS, JavaScript can be used in front end and back end (the behind the scenes, server side) part of a website.

As opposed to HTML and CSS, JavaScript is also a ‘pure’ coding language, whereas the first two languages are technically coding languages, but better described as styling or design languages. With this understanding in mind, it’s easy to understand why JavaScript is special: providing a way to add programming functions and events to your website.

At its core, this means JavaScript adds an interactivity and responsiveness to your website that would otherwise be largely impossible to do with the first two languages. Animations, sounds and effects, and website navigation based on responses to surveys and other forms are commonly achieved by JavaScript. Simply put, JavaScript takes a website and makes it move.

There is some caveats here. You can install a video or photo on your website without JavaScript in CSS. You can actually even code some CSS <style> in HTML. So there are shades of grey surrounding what each language can do, so the lines can blur a little depending on your needs.

Nonetheless, there do remain hard and fast rules surrounding the core uses of each language. So remember:

  1. HTML is your starting point
  2. CSS is your style
  3. JavaScript makes your website fly

and then there’s PHP!

So if your have the 3 main languages of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript already, what’s the purpose of PHP?

It’s true you can absolutely make a website without PHP.  But given this language is used for WordPress, the Content Management System (CMS) that powers over 25% of all websites on the internet, it certainly has pulling power in its own right.

Because so many people use PHP, and especially those who seek to use a easy, user-friendly website, those who want to build front end websites invariably need to know how to code in PHP.  This applies for websites built exclusively in WordPress, as well as those originally built in the HTML/CSS/JavaScript frameworks, and then converted over for use in PHP on WordPress..

The conversion process is where it gets real technical, and is best discussed in-depth in another article. But for now it’s just important to keep this conversion in mind if you want a web developer to create a unique website from scratch, but then use it on WordPress, as it may be required.

Say….Can I Do This Myself?

As well as business leaders being busy souls, they’re also usually ready to take the reigns and ‘just get it done’, as well as proactive in learning and building their own skills. For that reason many businesses leaders reading this may well ask ‘if it’s this simple, can I learn to code myself?’ Of course you can! – but there are some caveats here as it’s not that simple.

For those who have a vibrant and active digital life – think frequent bloggers, marketers, and social media wunderkinds – there is absolutely an advantage in learning to code for yourself. More widely, learning programming generally is A+. It not only teaches you a useful and practical skill, but hones your mind in a way of practical and logical thinking.

It is also very time consuming. And frustrating. And especially when something is not working for some reason and you have a deadline for the site to go live. It is this view of a deadline that is a really useful indicator here.

If you want to build a new site or update your existing site in future, and have time to spare? Go for it and learn programming. If your new business is set to take off next month? Hire a web developer.

This is especially because while a site can look similar from one coder to the next, there is a huge difference in the time, efficiency, and overall effectiveness of a experienced coder to a novice. This may not seem like a big deal initially – who cares, the code displays the cat pic, right?

….but when it comes time to do site updates, or make it more complex than you’re currently able to code, it can be a nightmare for a developer to edit and fix all the old code. Sometimes it’s simply best to scrap all the old code and build the site anew in a way that’s efficient and clean.

There’s nothing to say you can’t build your skills now and lighten the load of a developer down the road for ongoing maintenance or edits, but get a professional for a quick result meantime.

Now You’re Speaking My Language

Being able to speak the language of front end coding is invaluable for those in the business of building websites. It makes articulating what you want, working with a web developer , and assessing the final result easier. It is also really useful for helping you think critically about the website construction all up.

Once you understand how a website works, the mental gap between what is theoretically and actually possible diminishes. OK sure, you won’t see Tesla launch a rocket anytime soon based off HTML programming, but a through knowledge of HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and PHP can give you new ideas and inspiration for future updates that are really engaging and interactive.

 

 

 

Ed Kennedy is a journalist, ghostwriter, and web developer from Melbourne, Australia. Contact Ed via enquiries@edkennedy.co on LinkedIn or Twitter@EdKennedy01

#Tech and Online