HTML, CSS, and JavaScript: Your Guide to Learning Fundamental Front End Languages

For anyone interested in learning front end web development, it’s crucial to understand the difference between HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Whether you’re booking a flight or figuring out what to make for dinner, these three front end languages are the user interface building blocks of every website you’ve ever visited. And, while each language has a different functional focus, they all work together to create exciting, interactive websites that keep users engaged. For this reason, you’ll find that learning all three languages is important.

If you’re interested in pursuing a career in front end development, there are a variety of ways to learn these languages — from coding bootcamps to college degrees. In this article, we will review the characteristics of each language, how they work together, and where you can learn them.

HTML vs. CSS vs. JavaScript: What’s the Difference?

While these three front end languages are all used to design websites, they each have their own specific uses and intricacies. For example, the main difference between HTML and CSS is that HTML creates the document structure of a webpage while CSS embellishes the webpage by adding formatting and style. JavaScript, arguably the most complex of the three, is used to make websites more interactive, and enables the development of more complex sites — pop-up boxes, buttons that change colors, and all the other dynamic aspects of your favorite websites are likely enabled by JavaScript.

HTML: The Building Blocks of the Internet

HTML stands for HyperText Markup Language. It is a relatively simple language that allows developers to create the basic structure of a website. Even the most complex websites have HTML at their core. It’s also the second-most-used programming language by developers, according to a recent Stack Overflow survey.

You may be asking yourself why HTML is called a “markup language.” The reason is that instead of using a programming language to perform the desired functions, HTML (like other markup languages) uses tags to annotate, or “mark up,” different types of content on a web page and identify the purposes they each serve to the page’s overall design. You likely see snippets of HTML more than you even realize. Have you ever noticed text at the bottom of a printed-out email that reads something like “ ”? That’s HTML. A markup language also helps web developers avoid formatting every instance of an item category separately (e.g., bolding the headlines on a website), which saves time and avoids errors.

HTML uses “elements,” or tags, to denote things like the beginning of a paragraph, the bolding of a font, or the addition of a photo caption. In this way, it controls how a webpage looks, how the text is separated and formatted, and what the user sees. For people who have never used programming languages before, HTML is an excellent place to start.

CSS

If HTML represents the building blocks of a website, CSS is a way to shape and enhance those blocks. CSS is a style sheet language used to specify the way different parts of a webpage appear to users. In other words, it’s a way to add some style and additional formatting to what you’ve already built with HTML.

For example, perhaps you’ve used HTML to add header text, and now you want that header to have a more pleasant font, a background color, or other formatting elements that make it more sleek, professional, and stylish. That’s where CSS comes in. CSS also helps websites adapt to different device types and screen sizes so that your pages render equally well onsmartphones, tablets, or desktop computers.

To understand the difference between HTML and CSS, it’s important to understand their histories. When HTML was invented in 1990, it was only designed to inform a document’s structural content (e.g., separating headlines from body text). However, when stylistic elements like fonts and colors were developed, HTML wasn’t able to adapt. To solve this issue, CSS was invented as a set of rules that can assign properties to HTML elements, building off of the existing markup language to create a more complex webpage.

JavaScript

JavaScript is the most complex of the three front end languages discussed in this article, building on top of both HTML and CSS. If you’re trying to compare the languages, think of it like this: While HTML creates the basic structure for a website, CSS adds style to that structure, and JavaScript takes all of that work and makes it interactive and more functionally complex.

A classic example of how JavaScript works is the menu button that you’re used to seeing on the top corner of most websites. You know the one — the three stacked lines that show a list of website sections you can visit when clicked. These buttons and their functionality are all present thanks to JavaScript. It can also help you develop keyboard shortcuts or change the color of a button when a cursor hovers over it.

JavaScript is crucial to all web development. It’s supported by all of the modern web browsers, and it is used on almost every site on the web. According to a recent Stack Overflow survey, JavaScript is the most commonly used programming language by developers around the world, with 67.7 percent of developers putting it to use in their work. So, if you’re interested in learning web development — whether professionally or even just as a hobby — you’d be smart to learn JavaScript.

A bar graph that displays the programming languages most used by developers.

How Do HTML, CSS, and JavaScript Work Together?

As we’ve already discussed, HTML, CSS, and JavaScript build on one another — from the simplest website structures to the most advanced interactive features. Like we mentioned earlier, HTML creates and structures the website’s content, CSS adds style and formatting to these structures, and then JavaScript turns those stylized components into something that a user can interact with.

Say you want to build a website where users can fill out a form for a contest. HTML will allow you to designate the difference between the text that announces the contest and the text that asks questions within the form such as a participant’s name, age, address, and so on. CSS will allow you to dress all this text up, giving it formatting, color, and style while helping you build the boxes where users will input their answers. JavaScript will then enable you to program a little box that pops up and says “Thanks for entering!” when everything has been filled out and submitted. It can even insert the first name that the person submitted in the form for a more personalized message.

Next Steps: Where to Learn HTML, CSS, and JavaScript

There are a variety of different ways to learn HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. These include bootcamps, college degrees, and independent learning options. Each option has its benefits, just as every student has their own set of needs, interests, and constraints. For those interested in flexibility, for instance, web development bootcamps are a quick and easy way to learn these languages and gain a certificate of completion. Bootcamps have become incredibly popular over the past decade, given their flexibility and practical, career-minded curriculums. However, you should keep in mind that your career goals will be an important factor in deciding how to learn these front end languages.

Bootcamps are intensive programs that teach a variety of programming languages and skills in approximately 6 months. They offer flexible schedules which are beneficial for students who want (or need) to maintain a full- or part-time job while studying to become a front end developer. And, for those who want to complete their bootcamp education as soon as possible, there are more intensive bootcamps that can be completed in as little as three months.

Developers-in-training will learn a wide variety of skills at a bootcamp, from the basics of HTML to the intricacies of JavaScript and more advanced coding languages. They will also receive hands-on, practical training that will prepare them for a wide variety of jobs in the web development and programming fields. High-quality bootcamps also offer individualized career preparation and help with the job search after graduation, tailoring guidance to students’ needs and goals rather than going through a predefined, rigid educational system. Whether you have a degree in something other than computer science and want to now pursue your dream job, or have decided a degree program just isn’t the right fit for you, bootcamps are an excellent choice to get up to speed quickly.

For those looking to obtain a college degree that will provide them with job opportunities in the fields of web development or programming, traditional four-year programs can be a great option. While traditional degrees require a larger investment of time and money, they allow students to study their concentration topics more deeply, as well as take courses that are of interest outside of their major. Computer science is one of the most popular degrees for those interested in web development, and it also includes courses involving HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and other programming languages.

There are a wide variety of options for those interested in learning web development independently. These options include free online courses (like FreeCodeCamp and Codecademy), tutorial-based videos, educational apps, and books. Many of these options are free or low-cost, and they allow for the greatest amount of student flexibility. You can make your own schedule and go at the pace that’s best for your lifestyle and learning style. If you’re interested in self-taught learning, this list of the 5 best ways to learn JavaScript is a great place to start.

Ready to advance your career? Learn HTML, CSS, and JavaScript at The Coding Boot Camp at UT Austin.

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How to Create a Website Using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript Step by Step

If you’ve ever wondered how long it takes to become a front end developer, it’s important to understand how websites are built with these three basic languages. While some websites pull in more complicated coding languages, it’s completely possible to make an exciting, beautiful, interactive website using just HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

Here’s how it works:

First, you’ll use HTML to create the basic structure of your website. This includes deciding what your main pages will be as well as how they’re laid out. HTML will help you build a main page consisting of a header and some body text, as well as an image at the end. HTML, after all, denotes where things go, how they are laid out, and what’s on the webpage.

Next, CSS will help you stylize what you’ve already built. You’ll add CSS tags to your existing HTML to add color, stylization, and themes, such as background color. CSS can help you make your website feel like a place, rather than just a grouping of information.

Once you’ve created the look, feel, and structure of your website, you’ll use JavaScript to make your page more interactive and functionally complex. Maybe you want your buttons to change color when someone hovers over them, or you want to animate an image. JavaScript can add these bits of flair to give your website more personality and dynamism.

To be a front end developer, you’ll need to be proficient in all three of these languages, as they are constantly working together. Ideally you’ll learn HTML first, then CSS, and then finish with JavaScript, as they build on each other in that order.

HTML, CSS, and JavaScript Examples

Reading about web development is one thing, but sometimes you need to see it in action to really understand it. We have put together a collection of code snippets and corresponding web pages below so that you can better understand how these programming languages are used together, as well as what the results will look like. If and when you learn these languages, you’ll be able to build similar and more complex websites yourself — this is just a taste of what’s possible.

HTML Webpage Examples With Source Code

W3Schools is an excellent resource that offers a wide variety of simple HTML examples to help you understand the scope of this language and the ways it enables you to format text and webpage components.

In HTML, for example, you can create buttons like those you’re used to seeing all over the internet. Their example is flexible, so you can get in there and customize the text, but the basic code is below:

W3Schools also has examples for HTML headings, HTML links, HTML lists, and more HTML examples.

CSS Examples With Source Code

W3Schools also has a wide variety of CSS examples that can help you understand the slightly more complex world of CSS and the ways you can style even a simple selection of text. Take the following snippet of code, for example:

As you can see, it’s similar to the HTML, with additional “style=” syntax that indicates the color of both the header and the paragraph text. The resulting page looks like this:

A graphic showing hello world.Again, you can play around with this CSS example to change the text and color. W3Schools also has examples that will help you visualize other CSS elements like basic syntax or image backgrounds.

JavaScript Examples With Source Code

To understand what it looks like when HTML, CSS, and JavaScript come together to create an interactive webpage, all you have to do is take a look at this JavaScript example from codepen.io. As you’ll see, the HTML, CSS, and JavaScript are written out separately with corresponding lines. The JavaScript portion looks like this:

The resulting interactive to-do list looks like this:

CODEPEN, “To-Do List, Plain JS.” (2021). https://codepen.io/JohnPaulFich/pen/MXmzzM

Become Proficient in Front End Languages: HTML, CSS, and JavaScript

For anyone interested in a career in web development, it’s imperative to understand these three front end languages. HTML, CSS, and JavaScript are the building blocks of nearly every website you’ve ever visited, and they are crucial to understanding how websites are built. Learning them requires a variety of skills and hands-on practice. Coding and web development bootcamps are a great way to learn these skills in a flexible, hands-on, intensive environment that focuses on teaching the practical, in-demand web development skills needed to become employer-competitive in the marketplace.

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