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Basic Website Coding Tips Every Site Owner Needs to Know

Hendrik Human

Want to own a website? Or maybe you already do. But to give your business an edge over the competition, you might what to dig a little deeper than the surface when it comes to your website’s design and functionality. Fortunately, there are a few basic web coding languages that will help you understand the web better, maintain your site, and even create some of your own features. This article provides a short introduction to the four most essential languages.

Wait… Why do I Need to Learn to Code?

Good question! After all, with content management systems (CMSs) or website builders like Wix, WordPress, Squarespace, and many more, who still needs to code for their own website?

However, if you use a builder long enough, you will inevitably come across that one image you can’t adjust quite right, or that one simple feature you can’t find a plugin for. These shortcomings, although small, can still stop you from getting your site perfect. If nothing else, coding knowledge will help you understand why your site works the way it does. And it might help you:

  •      Solve annoying issues you encounter.
  •      Implement your own basic features.
  •      Adjust your website’s styling or look until it’s just right.

Essential Website Coding Languages to Know


HTML stands for Hypertext Markup Language. And as they say, it’s “What the web is made of.” Basically, everything you see online — from a block of text, to an image, to a link — is written in HTML. As a markup language, HTML isn’t really a programming language by itself. What HTML does is provide a framework to represent elements using certain “codes,” or markup.

For example, a paragraph is represented in HTML this way:

<p> your text goes here </p>

The two sets of angle brackets are called “tags,” and every element consists of an opening and closing tag to show where it begins or ends.

HTML is easy to learn. However, it doesn’t really enable you to implement any logic or create processes, and items written in plain HTML will probably look… well, plain. HTML provides a framework, whereas (as discussed below) CSS can add styling, and PHP and Javascript can add functionality.

Here are some example HTML tags using the TryIt tool1

Basic Website Coding Tips Every Site Owner Needs to Know


CSS stands for Cascading Stylesheets. All you need to concern yourself with here are the “stylesheets.” By allowing you to set certain styling properties, CSS is mostly used to beautify HTML and describe how it should be displayed. You can write it in the HTML code or in external files that can be reused — hence, “stylesheets.”

For example, you can change the text color, background color, font, etc. of the <p> tag above in CSS. To change the text color to red, just type p {color: red}. The styling can get very advanced and even allow you to create basic animations and target a particular element.

Currently CSS is at version 3 (CSS 3). One of the main benefits of CSS is that it eliminates the need to do the same thing over again. Instead, you can let all your web pages use the same stylesheet to style their HTML the same way.

Here’s an example of CSS applied to the HTML tags above using the TryIt tool1

Basic Website Coding Tips Every Site Owner Needs to Know


PHP used to stand for Personal Home Page, but now it stands for Hypertext Preprocessor. Neither name is intuitive and neither should concern basic users. PHP is a powerful language that allows you to do just about anything, like adding useful functionality and communicating with databases.

PHP runs on a web server, which means that the code is executed on the server and not on the visitor’s computer. Some of the biggest CMSs or website builders like WordPress are primarily based on PHP. It’s a must-know if you plan to be an advanced WordPress user.

PHP, a massively popular scripting language, is entirely open-source. That means it has a lot of community development behind it and has regularly been updated.


You’ve probably seen “Javascript” before, as it has become fairly universally used. It’s a scripting language completely different from PHP, yet almost as powerful.

Javascript runs on the client computer instead of the server and is therefore used mostly to implement functionality on a website and do heavy computational tasks. It’s a must-know language if you want to make your website dynamic and interactive.

Because it can be used to do so many things, it’s usually tightly controlled by website builders. After all, your own code might clash with theirs, with plugins, or with your template/theme. Of the four codes, Javascript the “most optional” one to know. Still, it can be very useful if you want to add something special to your site.

Best Online Coding Courses

Learning a coding language on your own can be intimidating. Fortunately, here are some fantastic online courses where you can learn just about anything you can in a classroom:

  •    Lynda.com/LinkedIn Learning: Lynda.com is the go-to site for highly polished online courses relevant to today’s workplaces and required skills. It’s now part of LinkedIn Learning but retains its courses and quality. Their “Become a Web Developer” learning path will teach you how to use all the most important languages.
  • Basic Website Coding Tips Every Site Owner Needs to Know
  •    Udemy: Udemy offers numerous courses — taught by real professionals (like university lecturers) — about virtually anything. And often you’ll find great sales. “The Web Developer Bootcamp” by Colt Steele is particularly good and covers all the most important languages.
  •    Khan Academy: Their mission is to make a free, world-class education possible for anyone. By combining a few of their (completely free) courses, you’ll be able to give yourself a complete programming/web development education.

Ready, Set, Code!

With a little guidance, you’ll be able to grasp the fundamentals of any of these four languages. In fact, you should be able to swiftly pick up and use HTML and CSS; PHP and Javascript, on the other hand, may take a little longer to learn. Whichever you choose, investing some time and effort into learning one or more coding languages will help you fine-tune your website so it’s as beautiful and functional as you want it to be.

Inside this Article
Wait… Why do I Need to Learn to Code?
Essential Website Coding Languages to Know
Best Online Coding Courses
Ready, Set, Code!
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