When you’re starting to learn web development, one of the first things you have to decide is what language to learn first: JavaScript, HTML, or CSS. These three languages are the pillars of web development; therefore, you must master them to become a competent web developer. But should you learn JavaScript first or HTML and CSS first?

You should learn HTML and CSS before JavaScript. HTML and CSS are the core technologies for building web pages and applications. HTML defines the structure of your content, CSS determines the style and layout, and JS makes the content interactive; therefore, you should learn them in that order.

Read on for a rundown of why you should learn HTML and CSS before JavaScript, and some tips for choosing which language to learn first.

Why You Should Learn HTML and CSS Before JS

When people ask me which skills they should start with when learning web development, I always tell them to learn HTML and CSS first. They may not be generally considered programming languages, but they’re some of the most important skills you can have as a web developer.

Here’s why you should learn HTML and CSS before JS:

HTML and CSS Are the Foundation of Every Website

The primary reason you should learn HTML and CSS is that they’re the building blocks of the web. Everything you see on a website is a result of HTML and CSS. You may use JavaScript to create dynamic and interactive content, but you cannot use it to create a website from scratch.

While some may argue otherwise, the reality is that even if you were to use JS alone, you’d still need at least one HTML tag when creating a site. Besides, most JS frameworks (like React and Angular) use HTML tags to create their user interfaces.

HTML and CSS Are Essential for Creating Responsive Designs

In the past, web pages were designed for desktop screens with a static resolution. But today, users access the internet on various devices with different screen sizes — from smartphones to tablets to desktop computers. That means web pages must be responsive or adapt to the screen resolution of the device they’re being accessed on. And the only way to create responsive designs is with HTML and CSS.

Learning JS Without HTML and CSS Is More Difficult

If you try to learn JavaScript without first learning HTML and CSS, you’ll have a much harder time. That’s because JS relies on the DOM (Document Object Model) API, which is created by HTML tags. The DOM is a tree-like structure that represents the different elements on a web page, so it’s essential for manipulating those elements with JavaScript.

If you don’t know HTML, you won’t be able to understand how the DOM works, and you’ll have a hard time trying to manipulate it.

Knowing HTML and CSS Ensure Full Site Functionality

When building a website, you have to make sure the content looks good and that it works properly. For example, if you’re creating a form, you must ensure that the form elements are correctly aligned and that the submit button functions as intended.

If you don’t know HTML and CSS, there’s a good chance your website will have some underlying issues, even if the content looks good. For example, a form that’s not aligned correctly can cause the submit button not to work correctly.

JavaScript Is Built on HTML and CSS

In a way, JavaScript is built on HTML and CSS. That’s because JS uses the DOM to access and manipulate web page content. The DOM wouldn’t exist without HTML tags, and CSS is used to style that content. Therefore, if you want to learn JavaScript, it’s essential that you first learn HTML and CSS.

You Become a More Competent Web Developer

You won’t find a competent web developer who doesn’t know HTML and CSS. Although it’s possible to build a website without knowing JavaScript, it’s nearly impossible to do so without knowing HTML and CSS. Moreover, knowing all three languages makes you a more competent developer.

Notably, understanding how the different technologies work together gives you a better overall web development experience.

The Relationship Between HTML, CSS, and JS

Now that you know some of the reasons you should learn HTML and CSS before JavaScript, let’s look at the relationship between these three technologies. Understanding this is crucial since it’ll help you understand how the different technologies work together and why you should learn them in the order I’ve listed them.

HTML Is the Structure of a Web Page

As I mentioned before, HTML is the foundation of every web page. It’s a markup language used to create the structure of a web page. That means it’s responsible for defining the different elements on a page and how they’re arranged. HTML consists of a series of elements, each of which represents a different part of the page.

For example, there are elements for headings, paragraphs, and lists. By nesting these elements inside each other, you can create complex pages with a clear hierarchy.

CSS Styles the HTML Content

Once the HTML structure has been created, CSS steps in. CSS stands for Cascading Style Sheets, and it’s a language that lets you control the look and feel of your page. For example, it comes in handy when you need to change your page’s color, font, and layout.

In addition, CSS lets you create responsive designs that adapt to different screen sizes. That means your page will look good on both desktop and mobile devices.

Here’s an excellent YouTube video introduction to HTML and CSS:

JavaScript Creates Dynamic Content

JavaScript is another important language for web development. It adds interactivity to your pages, making them more dynamic and engaging. With JavaScript, you can create things like drop-down menus, form validation, and animated effects.

JavaScript also lets you access and manipulate the DOM. That means you can use it to change the HTML structure of your page or add and remove CSS styles.

In a nutshell:

  • Static website = HTML + CSS
  • Dynamic website = HTML + CSS + JS

Key Takeaway: All three languages — HTML, CSS, and JavaScript — are essential for creating modern web pages. Together, they provide the structure, style, and interactivity users have come to expect from the web.

If you’re just starting, I recommend learning HTML and CSS first. Once you’ve mastered those two languages, you can move on to JavaScript. Not only will this give you a better understanding of how the different technologies work together, but it’ll also make you a more competent web developer overall.

Tips for Choosing Which Language To Learn First

There’s no “right” answer when choosing which language to learn first. If you have the right mindset and are ready to commit a few hours each week to learning, you’ll be able to learn any of these languages relatively quickly.

That being said, there are a few things you should keep in mind when deciding which language to learn first. Here are a few tips:

Consider Your Goals

What do you want to learn? Do you want to build websites or web applications? If you’re not sure, take some time to explore different technologies and see what interests you. Doing so will help you narrow down your options and choose the right language for you.

Start With the Basics

Don’t try to learn everything at once. Start with the basics and build up from there. For example, if you’re just starting, you might want to learn HTML first. Once you’ve mastered the basics of HTML, you can move on to learning CSS and JavaScript.Otherwise, you may encounter knowledge gaps that can make learning more difficult.

For example, if you try to learn CSS before HTML, you may not understand how the different elements work together.

If you need a handy resource for learning HTML and CSS, get this HTML and CSS: Design and Build Websites by Jon Ducket (from Amazon.com). The book explains the basics of HTML and CSS in an easy-to-understand way, making it a great resource for beginners.

Check Out Codecademy’s Web Development Path

If you’re not sure which language to learn first, look at Codecademy’s Web Development Path. This path offers a guided tour of the different technologies involved in web development, starting with HTML and CSS. You can also find other resources (like tutorials and articles) to help you choose the right language.

Choose a Language That’s in Demand

When choosing which language to learn first, consider which languages are in demand. After all, you want to be able to find a job once you’ve learned the language. Currently, JavaScript is one of the most popular programming languages, meaning there’s a high demand for JavaScript developers.

If you’re looking for a language that’ll help you get a job, JavaScript is a good option. But do remember the sequence: HTML -> CSS -> JS.

The Bottom Line

As a rule of thumb, any beginner web developer should learn HTML and CSS first. Once you’ve mastered those two languages, you can move on to learning JavaScript. Not only will that give you a better foundation on which to build your web development skills, but learning HTML and CSS first will also make it easier to understand JavaScript when you do eventually start learning it.

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