How to Communicate Efficiently With Your Web Developer


Communicating with a web developer can be an intimidating experience for a client. It’s recognised the web developer holds expertise in programming, but being able to communicate to the web dev what you want without knowledge of programming can be harder.  So here’s 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.

What Do I Need to Know?

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 around. But even if you’re not a web developer – or very tech-savvy at all – an understanding of these languages can make the fulfilment of your website needs easier and speedier.

It’s also just good business. If you hire 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.


HTML stands for HyperText 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 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 like HTML is essentially a static language, it’s 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.


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 can take paint and turn it into a painting.

Exceptions to the Rule

There are 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 remains 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 you 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 this language is used for WordPress, the Content Management System (CMS) that powers over 25% of all websites on the internet. So it certainly has pulling power in its own right.

Because so many people use PHP, and especially those who seek to use an easy, user-friendly website, those who want to build front end websites invariably need to know how to code in PHP.  This applies to 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 really 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.

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’. Alongside being proactive in learning and building their own skills. For that reason many business 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’ve a big digital life – frequent bloggers, marketers, and social media wunderkinds – there’s absolutely an advantage in learning to code. 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’s also very time-consuming. And frustrating. 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 an 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 thorough 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 and ghostwriter from Melbourne, Australia. Contact Ed via on Skype or LinkedIn.