Should I Master HTML and CSS Before JavaScript?

You’re getting into web development and you’re wondering what to focus on: HTML/CSS or JavaScript? This guide will help.

Published Categorized as Web & Code

If you’re just getting into web development, you may be wondering: should you learn HTML and CSS before you learn JavaScript?

This is a good question. And, however you look at it, an important one to ask yourself. After all, the decision you make will affect the next weeks to months of your professional development.

So let’s help you find out!

HTML vs. CSS vs. JavaScript

The biggest difference between HTML/CSS and JavaScript is arguably that the former are static and the latter is dynamic. HTML is a markup language and CSS is a style sheet language, while JavaScript is a scripting language.

With HTML, you can structure the information contained in a web page. And with CSS, you can give it a new look and feel. JavaScript, on the other hand, lets you do object-oriented programming for the web (for websites, web applications, and, in recent years, even backends).

JavaScript is an interpreted programming language—it’s executed without compiling a program that gives instructions to the machine as to what to do. Compared to HTML and CSS, you can do much more with JavaScript, such as creating variables, storing data in them, and using methods and operators to modify and work with that data.

Basically, JavaScript is one of the programming languages that can help you make an interactive website.

Which One Should You Master First?

Okay, now that we have that out of the way, let’s get to the question you came here to get answered: As someone who is just learning development for the web, should you master HTML/CSS before JavaScript?

The long story short is that it really depends on what you want to achieve professionally.

If You Are a Front-End Developer

If you want to become a front-end developer or full-stack web developer, then you absolutely need to master HTML and CSS before moving on to JavaScript—they are considered “the bread and butter” of the trade.

Mastering HTML and CSS will help you develop an understanding and discipline for using language syntax and coding style, which can help you tremendously when learning JavaScript.

Along the way, you will probably have to learn to use HTML starter projects, like HTML Boilerplate, and CSS frameworks like Bootstrap and Foundation.

Similarly, when you get to JavaScript, you will probably need to master one or more of the following JavaScript frameworks: Vue.js, Facebook’s React, and Google’s AngularJS.

In terms of ease of learning, HTML is the easiest to learn, CSS is moderately difficult, and JavaScript is the most difficult of the three. CSS is a good introduction to programming if you’ve never worked with it before, as it resembles very simple programming.

If You Are a Back-end JavaScript Developer

These days, JavaScript is also becoming a backend programming language thanks to serverless computing and cloud services such as AWS Lambda, Azure Functions, and Google Cloud Functions.

If you want to become a backend JavaScript developer, you don’t necessarily need to learn HTML or CSS first (although if you’re working on the backend of a website or web application, those skills will probably be useful for your daily work).

Instead, you will have to understand the basics of cloud architecture and learn how to work with Node.js, a JavaScript runtime built on Google Chrome’s V8 JavaScript engine, or an alternative.

Do You Need to Know HTML and CSS to Learn JavaScript?

No, you don’t necessarily need to know HTML and CSS to learn JavaScript.

Technically, HTML is a markup language and CSS is a style sheet language, whereas JavaScript is a scripting language. The way you work with HTML/CSS is different from the way you build business logic in JavaScript.

With that said, if you don’t have any programming experience, you may want to start with a simpler language, like HTML and CSS, before moving on to a programming language like JavaScript.

What Other Skills Do I Need to Master?

At a minimum, you should master version control and Git, the distributed version control system that’s used by most companies and their IT teams for collaborating on their source code.

There are a number of tools for using Git out there. By far the most popular of them are Github, Atlassian’s Bitbucket, and Microsoft’s Azure Repos (part of the Azure DevOps toolchain).

You also need to learn about CI/CD, or continuous integration and continuous delivery, the concept and practice of introduction automation at all stages of your development workflow.

CI/CD builds on top of version control, and it’s all about working collaboratively and efficiently with code. You make small additions and changes to the source code of your project, which you merge frequently and test in an automated fashion.

Where to Learn HTML, CSS, and JavaScript

Some of the best places to learn HTML, CSS, and JavaScript are Free Code Camp, Codeacademy, CodeLearn, Sololearn, and edX.

As you learn HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, your go-to references will be W3Schools and Mozilla’s MDN Web Docs. Add these two websites to your bookmarks; they will be the ones you refer to the most as you learn about HTML tags, CSS rules, and JavaScript methods, functions, and Web APIs.

When learning a markup, style sheet, or programming language, never underappreciated the value of a good book. If you’re looking for recommendations, see the best books for HTML5 and for CSS3.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth a million. And, thanks to YouTube, professional developers can share some of their best advice and practices with those who are just starting out—for free. See our list of the best YouTube channels for web developers.

The tools you use can also make a huge difference in your learning efforts. Be sure to check out our roundups of the best tools for your HTML, CSS, and JS code, as well as the best code editors for Mac and for Windows machines.

In Conclusion

If you are a front-end or full-stack developer, then you should definitely master HTML/CSS before diving deep into JavaScript. However, if you are a back-end JavaScript developer, then you should focus on serverless architectures and JavaScript runtimes instead.

Of course, if you have the opportunity, learn in parallel and master everything. Even if you are working on a serverless JavaScript backend, you will probably have some overlap with the HTML/CSS front-end in your code.

Image courtesy of Nubelson Fernandes /Unsplash

By Dim Nikov

Editor of Maker's Aid. Part programmer, part marketer. Making things on the web and helping others do the same since the 2000s. Yes, I had Friendster and Myspace.

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