It’s hard to go more than a day or two without seeing people either arguing that everyone should learn how to code (Sacha Greif) or shouldn’t (Jeff Atwood). As someone who understands code and many things technical but doesn’t write much actual code, I definitely see the value in understanding how programmers think and approach solving problems. Logic is a beautiful thing … comforting, even. Many times the challenges that new and growing businesses face require other flavors of thinking as well: experience design, buyer motivation, social drivers, communication, etc.
Debates aside, if you regularly produce digital content – blog posts, newsletters, promotional landing pages or maintain a website – you should learn HTML and CSS (cascading style sheets). Visual content editors in tools like WordPress and MailChimp keep getting better but still often leave you feeling like you’re trying to create a work of art with 3 paint colors and a roller. Learning HTML and CSS will give you a full palette of colors, brush sizes and canvases to work with.
Learn HTML and CSS with Codecademy
Codecademy is a startup that launched with the goal of helping people learn how to program. They offer a number of different programming languages – the Web Fundamentals series is a great place to get started. The interactive lessons will start you off slow with the basics and give you plenty of room to experiment. As you progress through the exercises, you’ll advance from understanding basic HTML to page layouts to styling your content with CSS.
Lesson 1 (Build a Webpage), Lesson 2 (More HTML and basic styling) and Lesson 3 (Style webpages with CSS) will take you a total of about 4 to 8 hours to complete, depending on how much you already know. They’ll give you all the tools you need to customize your content exactly the way you want. If you get hooked and want to learn more, continue on with further lessons.
Unleash Your Creativity
With your newly-developed skills, your creativity will really be the only thing that limits where you go.
- Create more engaging content – whether it be a blog post or an email newsletter, you’ll have full control over the layout of your content: place images wherever you want, add tables to summarize data, highlight text with unique font formatting.
- Customize your WordPress theme – Many custom WordPress themes offer a settings page that let you customize the appearance, but there are inevitably things that you want to change that aren’t included in the settings menu. Tweak the design yourself by editing the theme’s CSS.
- Tailor the look and feel of third party plugins and widgets to match the design of your site – I recently replaced the default WordPress comments on my site with Disqus comments. Because my site has a dark background, the default appearance of the Disqus comments didn’t work. Not a problem, I added a few Disqus-specifc styles to my CSS and all was good.
When do you find yourself limited by the options of your content editor? Are you ready to learn HTML and CSS? Share your experiences – I’m happy to answer any questions!