It’s 2017, should I learn HTML & CSS? Are they outdated?

Lately, I’ve been noticing a strange trend of pushing HTML & CSS aside in favor of frameworks, libraries, and “actual” programming languages like JavaScript.

Quickread: HTML & CSS are critical to learn. Personally, if it wasn’t for Mark Myers’ A Better Way to Learn HTML & CSS, I would have quit web development.

Whether we’re talking about coding bootcamp syllabi, YouTube programming guru videos, and even web development-related websites — more and more, it seems, the trend is something like “Here’s two weeks. Go learn HTML & CSS, and come back when you’re finished.” Don’t believe me? Log on to most coding bootcamp websites and you will see they have a “prework” section that requires students to learn that material on their own for a scant week or two before attending the camp. Actual in-person session time is reserved for things like Bootstrap.

This is troubling for a few reasons.

web shtuff

Web Development creep. It’s a real thing. 

  • First, numerous in-demand frameworks are built upon HTML, or at least acknowledging that HTML is the backbone of the operation. For example, AngularJS. One may think that with a name like AnguarJS (emphasis mine), it centers on JavaScript. False. AngularJS is designed to extend HTML functionality. AngularJS is also huge right now, and pays the real big bucks. With something so powerful, why would the concept(s) of HTML be brushed aside as something easy to learn?
  • Second, HTML and CSS tend to get lumped into a singular category. It’s true, CSS relies on HTML to do anything of merit, but CSS is also its own area of study. Because, eventually, an aspiring developer will be using something like Bootstrap, a powerful CSS framework that can make absolutely beautiful websites in minutes. The problem with Bootstrap websites and web apps, however, is that Bootstrap sites tend to all look the same. Why? You may think it’s because the designer of the template just wasn’t being creative. False. Templates are just that: templates. Patterns to use as creative springboards.

    Too often, end developers don’t know enough about CSS to make the Bootstrap template a little less…Bootstrap template-y.

    So, sadly, that prototypical Bootstrap site ends up looking like all the rest of them. If only that person had a bit more knowledge of CSS (and HTML, to be fair) that template could look like something out of a top producer’s portfolio.

  • Third, CSS can do things that are light-years ahead of the competition, with very fast execution. Animations via keyframes to replace the truly awful Flash? Check. CSS wireframes to replace bulky Photoshop documents for clients? Indeed! Oh, and did you know CSS isn’t bound to just HTML, but is compatible with any XML-based markup language? Yeah, it’s pretty sweet like that.

These are concepts that can’t be committed to any human brain in just two or three weeks, or even set aside in favor of something with a little more ostensible protein, like JavaScript or a CSS framework. A solid foundation of HTML & CSS is the number one key to success in web development, and I challenge anybody to counter that statement. Because, at the end of the day, if your customer, or your guest, or your client, or your whomever isn’t sticking around your website… you’re out of business.

What I’m saying is, if your website looks ramshackle, or like all the others, or just plain schizophrenic… you’re out of business. Period.

A practical suggestion: If you don’t know where to start to start building that HTML & CSS foundation, I highly recommend Mark Myers’ book A Smarter Way to Learn HTML & CSS. I’m telling you, Mark is the man. He understands beginners and their learning process, and if it wasn’t for him, I would still be spinning my wheels trying to learn what the heck the difference is between a class and an id, and what the heck “em” stands for. Actually, I take that back. I would have quit learning web development by now because there are just too many damn resources to try and pick from, and most of them suck.

There’s a reason I keep mentioning this dude in so many of my writings and videos. His teaching techniques work.


Dog ears and highlights don’t even begin to describe my relationship with this book.

There is one additional bonus to having a solid foundation of HTML and CSS:

You’re going to find learning actual programing languages much, much easier. You’ll probably be using the same code editor for HTML/CSS as for JavaScript (or PHP, Java, etc.), so the familiarity of that environment will give you a boost of confidence when pawing at the inner workings of a programming language. It’s just one more reason to learn these bad boys.

Code on and prosper,

-RTC

P.S. Snag a Smarter Way to Learn HTML & CSS (tell ’em Candy sent you): http://amzn.to/2rp8l2D

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