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Building a Website: The 5 Computer Languages to Learn

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Building a website can be fun as well as a lot of hard work. While there are many CMS (content management system) that do most of the work you will find that even if you are not writing the code understanding it and being able to alter it can be enormous assets in your web development toolkit. There are many different computer languages to learn for web development but here are the first five you should delve into (in order of importance).


HTML (hypertext markup language) is the backbone of your website. Web documents contain three main sections: the head, the title, and the body. These sections are written in HTML. The head includes the webpage’s identifying information. Search Engine’s like Google are only capable of reading the HTML of a website. The head section of the webpage is essential if you want your website to show up in Google’s results page. The title is what appears in the browser’s URL tab and is what your website will be known as throughout the internet. The body is where the content visible to visitors is written. Text and graphics can be adjusted using HTML tags (commands).

HTML acts as the organizational framework for your website and while there are many other computing languages that are growing in the web development world HTML will still be around for a long time. You don’t necessarily have to write all of your own code. By understanding the language framework and accompanying tags you can view the source page of websites and borrow pieces of code in order to have similar results on your website.

When learning HTML I would recommend learning XHMTL first. XHTML is an older version of the language that required stricter adherence to its rules. This will help you get in the habit of writing clear and easily navigable code. Once you feel comfortable move on to HTML5 (the newest rendition) which adds some nice perks to the language and relaxes the rules a bit.


CSS (cascading style sheet) allows you to control the look and feel of your website easily and quickly. The idea of CSS is to control the design of a website without altering the content (content is written in HTML). A style sheet is a page that lists all of the visual qualities that you want your webpages to have. This can include color, size, style, etc. of your font. It also includes the background of pages, the look of tabs and buttons. Basically, all of your visual elements are contained within the style sheet. In reality HTML although it does contain tags to bold, italicize, control font size, etc. was not really designed to format content. HTML exists more to define the content as discussed above.

The cascading part is what makes the language so valuable. Rather than having to rewrite the same style sheet for each page of your website. The style you choose ‘cascades’ down throughout all of your webpages. You can then make adjustments to the design of individual webpages if you would like but you don’t have to repeat the process of writing the CSS for each page. Make sure to learn HTML before CSS so you have something to build off (literally).

The latest version of CSS is CSS3. You can go ahead and learn that one first without worrying about differences that exist in previous versions. Remember, you can surf the web looking for designs you like and borrow the code. A better method would be to buy a design template that gives you alteration rights and work from there. You can also use free programs like composer to better see your CSS in action. If you are hoping for greater control Dreamweaver has always been a favorite but unfortunately it is not free.

Java & PHP

I am lumping these two languages together because they are the key languages for dynamic web pages and are interchangeable at times (you can use either one to get very similar effects). Dynamic web pages include things like games, chat abilities, image viewing, interactive apps or advertisements.

Java was originally developed for software and in-browser applets and has become a key infrastructure for web apps. Java shares many similarities to C++ (which can be a nice benefit if want to learn different languages in the future). Java allows the same program to be executed on different operating systems. No need to fear if a Mac, Linux, or Microsoft user makes their way to your website. Java contains build in support and is easy to use. There are plenty of tutorials available online and Java itself is not difficult to learn comparably.

PHP (Hypertext PreProcessor) was developed around the same time as Java and was built specifically for the web as it runs server-side and is embedded in the html pages. Just like Java, dynamic content can be written. PHP also can be used in collecting data and tracking cookies. Although PHP has other uses like desktop applications its strength lies primarily in the web. Similar to Java PHP can also be used across all the major operating systems. You will most likely be using PHP for outputting images, PDF files, Flash Movies, and text via HTML.

I would recommend you start with Java and then move on to PHP. In my experience they flow better this way. Also having a good understanding of Java gives you a leg-up learning software coding languages in the future if you have an interest.


Before you start going into MySQL understand that you can build a great website with just HTML, CSS, Java, and PHP. MySQL is used primarily for database building which most websites will need eventually, especially if you are selling items on a large-scale. If you are simply creating a visual website for personal uses you probably won’t need to bother with this language, but we will assume you have high hopes for your website’s growth.

Databases can range from small shopping lists to a huge picture gallery with mountains of information. Computers using a MySQL server can easily manage the large amounts of data. The language itself is very fast and reliable preventing any worries you may have of losing the data in the system. The language is also easily scalable but the more information you place in the database the more processing power you will need to dedicate to it. If you are carrying personal data in your system MySQL also has a high level of security built into it. Built to work well and be easy to use MySQL is probably where you want to start (although there are other languages you could use). Really no special tips for learning this language. If you have already learned the languages above MySQL really should not present a problem for you.

Hopefully this article answered some of the questions you may have had and gets you on your way to being a first class programmer and web developer. You can choose to learn these different languages on your own (there are tons of tutorials scattered throughout the web. However if you prefer the classroom or hope to make this a future career you will want to of find a degree like Computer Programming (AAS) where they will teach you these skills and hand you a diploma.

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