Learning to code


I think it’s safe to say that the basics of code have become an integral part of every digital marketer’s arsenal. Even though I have no intention of doing much front-end website building myself (let’s leave that to the experts, shall we?), I still think that taking the time to gain a basic knowledge of HTML and CSS (two of the standby computer/programmer languages) will prove time well spent. If for no other reason than to correct any misconceptions about the limitations (alternatively, possibilities) of website design. For many jobs in the field, a basic knowledge of HTML creates a point of differentiation or competitive advantage (if it’s not a minimum requirement). Moreover, it saves a lot of time, energy and headache later, when minor iterations are required and those changes can be executed in-house.

In a nutshell, HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) informs the structure of content (paragraphs, headings, images etc.), whilst CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) stylises the appearance of that content (colour, typeface size etc.). In fact, I’ve had exposure to code before; I used to edit a Wordpress website for a non-profit I did some marketing for, but did so utterly haphazardly. Everyday I was doing that, I thanked the search engine gods that I was able to Google a three-second solution to any and all of the basic commands I didn’t know how to execute (very simple things along the lines of increasing font size, inserting page breaks, inserting hyperlinks etc.).

Familiarising and trialling my own HTML tags (opening, closing), attributes (id, class, href src) and elements (<head>, <body>, <h1>, <header>, self-closing), CSS selectors and properties, standard HTML document structure, referencing stylesheets, inserting CSS resets, learning HTML semantics (<i>, <b>, <strong>, <em>), using anchor tags, inserting comments, creating hyperlinks to webpages and emails in Notepad++, and seeing my changes happening in real-time in a browser is a very satisfying experience. The thing that I’ve found the most aggravating so far is how easy it is to make a mistake. One typo, and the whole thing stops working the way you want it to.

In any case, whilst there is so much to learn, I think that grasping the basics shouldn’t be too difficult. Since technology (and all things digital) is so quick to evolve, the challenge may actually lie in keeping this skill perpetually honed. Here’s hoping.

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