Are You Familiar with HTML and CSS? Six Reasons Why You Should Invest the Time to Learn

By Steven Snell

I had been involved with web design for a few years before I ever started blogging. In my opinion, being able to work with the code of a blog is a huge advantage that many bloggers choose not to pursue.

learn html and css

Aside form the design aspect of creating an attractive blog, being able to work with the coding will allow you to make changes and adjustments to your blog any time you want, rather than relying on a professional to do it for you, or rather than just limiting yourself to what’s available with the theme you have chosen.

Most blogs need a bit of customization from time-to-time, and for someone who has no experience with HTML or CSS this be a bit intimidating. However, if you’re working with WordPress you really only need a basic knowledge in order to make many of the customizations that you would like, and you don’t even need to know PHP in most cases (those who aren’t comfortable with PHP just need to be able to recognize it and avoid it when making changes to the HTML).

In my opinion, more bloggers should pursue a basic understanding of HTML and CSS, two coding languages that are relatively easy to learn. Here are just some of the reasons for you to make the time to learn more about HTML and CSS.

1 – Saves you money

If you are paying someone else to make changes to your blog or to design your theme, you could save some money if you learn how to do these things yourself. Even after gaining some knowledge you may still want to pay for a professional theme or for some more advanced work, but many of the common changes made by bloggers can be achieved pretty easily without requiring a lot of skill and experience.

2 – Opens up new opportunities

If you’re relying on others to do the work for you, or for other themes to include the elements that you want, you’ll never be able to take advantage of all of the ideas that you would like to be able to implement at your blog. By being able to work with the code you can put your ideas into practice quickly with little investment.

3 – Upgrading WordPress

If you’ve been using WordPress for a while you have probably had to go through the process of upgrading, or else you have been putting it off out of fear of potential complications. While upgrading shouldn’t cause any trouble, you’ll probably have much more confidence if you are comfortable with the files involved and not so afraid of a minor issue arising. If you’re avoiding upgrading for a long-period of time (a lot of bloggers choose not to upgrade immediately due to stability issues) you are probably taking serious security risks.

4 – Working with plugins

One of the great benefits to using WordPress is the huge number of great plugins that are available. However, not all of them are simple to install and put into action. Some plugins will require you to make some minor changes to one or more of the files, which can be a tall task if you’re not comfortable with the files in the first place. In addition to installing plugins, you may run into bugs from time-to-time with different plugins, and again, knowing a bit about the code can really help to get these problems fixed quickly.

5 – Changes to sidebar

Whether you want to change you entire theme or not, you will most likely want to make some minor changes to your sidebar every now and then. Widgetized themes make some modifications possible without editing the code, but you’re not completely able to do whatever you want with widgets. Sidebar changes can make a big difference to the usability and effectiveness of your blog, so you may want to experiment and test with some different choices. By making some changes in the sidebar files you can quickly and easily make sizable improvements to your blog.

6 – Get creative

Most bloggers get stuck in the rut of just publishing posts. If you’re able and willing to get involved with the code there is really no limit to what you can do with your blog. Just about anything is possible if you’re willing to take the time to learn.

Recommended Resources for Learning:

If you’re already familiar with basic HTML and CSS and you’re interested in learning more about how WordPress works, the codex is filled with useful information. Some articles that you may want to check out include Using WordPress Themes, Theme Development, CSS for WordPress, and a collection of articles on Lessons on Customizing Template Files.

Fortunately, there are plenty of places to learn about HTML and CSS online. One of the most popular tutorial and learning sites is W3 Schools, which has a number of different tutorials. HTML Dog is another useful resource that is very much worth your time. And About.com also has a decent section on HTML and CSS.

If you are more interested in books, the Visual Quickstart Guide: HTML, XHTML and CSS is a good place to start. Two of my favorite books on CSS are CSS Mastery and Bulletproof Web Design, although both assume a basic knowledge of CSS. Blog Design Solutions is another good choice for WordPress users, although parts of the book are dedicated to other blogging platforms.



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52 Responses to “Are You Familiar with HTML and CSS? Six Reasons Why You Should Invest the Time to Learn”

  • MrCooker

    I think #1 is the most important reason to learn at least some basic css and html.

    And it’s a good thing to know a bit of html coding, so you can play around with your design on a local server and if/when you’re happy with it, apply it on your website. Saves you quite a bit of cash.

    Good one pointing this out Daniel.

  • Ali from The Office Diet

    Steve, thanks for this excellent post! I strongly agree that learning a bit of HTML and CSS is a great idea for bloggers. I modified the CSS in the template for my blog (www.theofficediet.com) to make it look how I wanted it, rather than just using the default fonts, colours and graphics of the Cutline 3 theme it’s based on.

    And you’re completely right that “if you’re working with WordPress you really only need a basic knowledge in order to make many of the customizations that you would like, and you don’t even need to know PHP in most cases” — this describes me exactly 😉

    The list of links you give looks excellent; I use W3 Schools a lot for CSS and HTML help (I recently designed a website for a small charity, which involved vastly brushing up my very rudimentary knowledge of CSS). I think I’ll be bookmarking this post to come back to…

    Ali

  • Daniel Scocco

    @MrCooker, it is a post from Steven actually 🙂 .

    I think that if you work on the web learning the basics of HTML and CSS are a must.

    You just need to understand some basic code when you see it around. It will make it easier to get the flow of things.

  • Stefan Vervoort

    You are right. The points you mentioned are definitely valuable. Fortunately I have learned HTML and CSS some time back.

  • team ray

    i am very verse in html and css
    i am a self learner i brought several books on subject to teach myself
    php is whats i am learning now

  • Diane Penna

    I do agree that learning HTML and CSS are important. I started out on Blogger and had a lot of fun working with my templates. Then I moved to WordPress and was intimidated by the PHP. I wasn’t sure how to mess around with the code at that point. Because of that and a few other issues, I moved over to TypePad and I’ve just accepted the fact I can only work with CSS there. I’m a bit bummed, but I do want to write, not be a webmaster. Perhaps I should learn PHP and move back…

  • PublicRecordsGuy

    I designed my theme, had an artist help make it a .psd then hired some coder (who did a horrible job, didn’t know his stuff) and I’ve had to quickly learn how to make things work as I went along, since my “coder” I should call him “faker” would leave out things and never knew how to do stuff. I think he outsourced it.

    I’ve come to learn a lot of html and css from other templates. I’m downloaded several themes from designers I like, ie Brian Garner and the likes. I’ve looked at their themes, then the css sheet and started tweaking mine. Thats how I got the date set up on each post now.

    Thanks for the resources. I think learning the basics and then seeing how others have done it, make it a great combo.

  • Sumesh

    I learned HTML and CSS (not just beginner, but also advanced and proper coding of web templates) before I even heard of blogging. And I was lucky that the standard then (xHTML/CSS) exists even today(unlike many who had to learn xHTML+CSS after learning HTML+tables).

    It can not only help you save money and dependency on others, but you would also feel more complete as a blogger – just knowing that you can maintain your blog (technical aspects, atleast) completely without another person is awesome.

  • Aseem Kishore

    Hmm HTML and CSS is almost like a must…I would say people need to start learning PHP, XHTML, and XML. I know HTML and CSS, but still have trouble doing a lot of technical stuff on my blog.

  • The Blogger Tips

    Learn HTML is a basic for online users or bloggers. This post is an education topic for the reason to learn html & css.

    Anyway, Aseem Kishore you are right. People also need to start learning PHP, XHTML, and XML to upgrade the technical skill in web development or blogging theme especially for bloggers in design field.

  • Rajaie

    Designing you own theme is one of the best reasons

  • Barbara LIng

    Yes yes yes yes YES! This is the song I’ve been singing ever since I’ve been marketing online.

    Knowing how to take care of/enhance your own site opens new vistas never before imaginable (plus, you can always fix problems yourself and not have to wait to be rescued by a developer).

    Data points,

    Barbara

  • sonia

    You are obviously very right. I have been frustrated by many of the things you have listed, and wished for knowledge of css to just come to me. But I used to have another blog (on blogspot), and I did spend the time to learn some basic coding language. It still took a longggg time to see what I wanted happen on my website, though. I mean, colors would change, and I could move things, but there was always some unexpected side effect I didn’t want. And I finally had to get my brother’s help anyway.

    But your web links seem useful. Maybe I will become ambitious again this summer:)

  • Ben

    I learned to do websites prior to blogging and I must say knowing some coding tricks has come in handy. I generally pick templates that are easy to modify. A real nice program to use is HTML Kit and you can get a free version at:

    http://www.chami.com/html-kit/

    It also allows you to do CSS as well as HTML.

    Hope this helps someone that wants to start learning code.

  • ShopLittleGifts

    Very true and interesting. I’ve been relying on an old blogger help blog to figure out how to tweak my template. But unfortunately blogger doesn’t have these informative pages like wordpress and typepad and no one seems to be able to help from the blogger team… sigh.. wonder if I should just switch over to word press. All I want to do is to show a thumbnail view of most recent posts in my left sidebar (thumbnail of the 1st image in each post) and I still can’t figure out how to do that. Anyone got ideas?

  • badang

    While not everyone will take your suggestion about learning HTML and stuff, I also cringe everytime when someone suggests that you can always hire a coder from Elance that can do the job for you.

    If you ever do customization on your own, you sure know that there’s no mods that just take one go and it’s done. It’s like playing around with your idea and keep testing until you are happy with the outcome.

    Try doing this using Elance. It will take you ages (in Internet scale) to get the job done.

    I personally will leave the biggies for outsourcing and do minor tweakings on my own and save lots of time and money in the process.

  • VeraBradley, Bradvera

    I’ve always believed that basic knowledge in HTML is absolutely required in being a successful blogger. While it might not be important to novice and diary type bloggers, but those that really seek to attract a large crowd should command a certain amount of knowledge in web building and designing. Of course one can just pay to get it done by others, but it’ll be both a waste of revenues.

  • zohai

    You don’t need to be familiar with HTML and CSS to build a site. Just use a WYSIWYG tool and any newbie can create one. But to create one that looks professional is the problem.

    For a blog I would just recommend WordPress. It’s powerful and even there are nice looking and some professional themes that can be used. All you need is to learn how to use FTP. No HTML or CSS skills required.

  • Traveler

    hvin a blog myself i understand n strongly suggest every blogger to at least have some common knowledge with html n css. it can makes ur blog stands out n more personalize to our own needs.

    wordpress is a great tools for beginner, recommended to use. but hvin more knowledge on php helps alot for web hosting

  • Jav

    Steve, I totally agree with this post. I do not know any CMS or HTML and unfortunately I have very little time to learn, so I rely on programmers to do anything I need to do, such as doing a special theme (which by the way I just got done for my blog). While that is fine, I find that many times I have ideas which I would like to get implemented right away but I can’t because the programmer I usually work with is not available at that very moment. When he is available again, I am working on something else and the initial rush of doing it has gone away.

    I have realized also that sometimes it takes me more time to explain what I need done, than it would take me to do it myself if I knew how to do it. Lately I have started to experiment with doing small blog changes on my own and I could not be happier with the results.

    Doing a more formal learning of HTML and CSS as you suggest here (I know now some basic stuff) it is among my objectives for this year. 🙂

  • Lightening@Lightenings Blogworld

    This is something I really want to learn more of. I’ve gradually been adding to my skills since I began blogging. Thanks very much for the list of resources of places where I can learn more. 🙂

  • The Other Daniel

    It is not all that hard to tinker with your CSS Code in an already created WordPress Template, I would recommend that all Bloggers have a go, it is amazing how quickly you will pick things up. CHanging Font Styles and Colors etc.

    Who wants to hire someone to do simple things like that? Dive in Bloggers!!!

  • Raman

    yes it’s always well and good to have some basic knowledge about css and html,as it is going save a good money for you.

  • Eshop

    basically, I don’t have any idea about CSS. but as for HTML, I’ve heard about it, but still, konow nothing about. If we want to learn it, should we get the expert or can be learn by myself?

  • Tony

    informative article, I dabble in both, but always could learn to get better

  • Anthony Lawrence

    Absolutely. There’s nothing really difficult about any of this.

    I also think everyone should know at least a little Javascript, Php or Perl – all three if you are going to pretend to be at all professional in this area. There’s nothing hard about any of that either.

  • Daniel Scocco

    @Diane Penna, I know very basic PHP, and I still can tweak most necessary things on WordPress. If I were you I would move to WordPress as soon as possible. It is the best alternative out there.

    @PublicRecordsGuy, that is how many designers learn their trade as well.

    @ASeem and TheBloggerTips, I agree, in fact I need to start learning more advanced PHP and MySQL, it has several uses.

    @Ben, thanks for sharing that link.

    @ShopLittleGifts, you could do a manual solution to get around it. It will take more work, but it should work easily. Just create the thumbnails of the images and upload them (or get WordPress to create the thumbnail versions). Then just use the thumbnails on the excerpt of post, and not on the post itself. LEt me know if you got this.

    @Zohai, I will have to disagree. I hate WYSIWYG editors. They create crap code with lots of bugs, and if you don’t understand HTML you wont be able to solve these problems.

  • jonson roth

    Excellent advice. Don’t just blog. Learn what’s under the hood. The more you learn, the easier it’ll be to customize your own site and use all the great tutorials out there.

  • job

    After reading this I shall allocate some time to learn html and css. I need html for blogger and css for wordpress..

  • Steven Snell

    zohai,
    I agree with Daniel that WYSIWYG editors are not a great solution. Even if you’re using one, there are times when you’ll need to dig into the code. Dreamweaver does a good job of not adding extra code, but personally I can’t imagine using Dreamweaver without knowing at least the basics of HTML and CSS.

    Diane,
    You can actually do a good bit of customizing WP without ever touching the PHP. If you just leave the PHP alone and mess with the HTML and CSS you should be able to customize the look and do all of the necessary stuff. Only for more advanced changes will you need to do much with the PHP.

  • bangambiki

    I first did not think HTML was necessary to me only to find through experience I couldn’t do without it

  • izmir de evden eve

    yes it’s always well and good to have some basic knowledge about css and html as it is going save a good money for you.

  • asansör ÅŸirketleri

    thanks you.

  • One Year Millionaire

    I agree that knowing css and html is definitely an asset when you do any kind of work online especially as a blogger. Although it is weird because blogging in a sense is for people who don’t want to spend time to write codes/etc and can update frequently at ease. Knowing a few html and css codes can help you in many ways.

  • Journey

    I am not very familiar with either of them, but I know just enough to keep me surviving through the internet life.

    And thanks for the tips! =D

  • konya evden eve

    thanks you.

  • bursa evden eve

    I learned to do websites prior to blogging and I must say knowing some coding tricks has come in handy. I generally pick templates that are easy to modify. A real nice program to use is HTML

  • loans

    new ideas for me, thx for reveal it…Learning a lot from ur article, html and css now clearly viewed ^-^

  • Netty Gritty

    May I please know the url of the site where you created the “HTML on keyboard keys” image?

  • Diane Penna

    Okay say I go back to WordPress…how and where do I change the HTML? All the template files say they are .php files. Am I missing something??

  • arvee

    very much true! i learned a little html/css… i was tired of actually finding the right template for me so just tried learning it, and it was really great!

  • iman354

    Thanks for this excellent post! I strongly agree that learning a bit of HTML and CSS is a great idea for bloggers

  • Heather

    This is absolutely true. In fact, I am surprised that schools don’t offer a unit on basic html for students these days…or at least, they didn’t five years ago. I’ve found that even if you don’t know anything about html, it is fairly easy to discover the necessary codes on the internet and spruce up your already existing blog in that way. For instance, I used a basic two column Blogger template for my blog, but easily expanded it to three just by cutting and pasting a code a found online into the Blogger code.

  • gendut

    I am agree…….great main reason, we will spend lot money to pay someone for consulting….. we need invest to start learning

  • Chester Tugwell

    Must agree. I am glad I am made the investment and learnt HTML/CSS. Even the ready made templates I buy these days require this know how.

  • medyum

    You are right. The points you mentioned are definitely valuable. Fortunately I have learned HTML and CSS some time back.

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