If you’ve clicked on this article, chances are you’ve heard of all the big coding languages: HTML, C++, and Python are some of the most common frameworks used today. JavaScript is equally powerful, and it’s a language you’ll have to learn in order to pursue a career in programming. If you’re interested in becoming a web developer, then learning JavaScript could take your career to the next level.

So let’s lay the foundation. Read on for an introduction to JavaScript, and our take on how hard it is to learn this valuable language.

JavaScript 101: What Is It?

JavaScript is a scripting computer programming language used to create and control dynamic features on a web page. These dynamic features can be anything on a webpage that moves, refreshes, or changes on your screen, without manually reloading the page. Some examples of this are animated graphics, photo slideshows, auto-complete text suggestions, and interactive forms.

To better understand the role of JavaScript, think about certain, seemingly trivial, web features you use in everyday life. For instance, the feature enabling your Instagram timeline or Gmail inbox to update automatically on your screen. All of these actions are possible thanks to JavaScript. It is the third element of the mighty internet tools trilogy, the other two being HTML and CSS.

Imagine that the structure of standard web technologies is like a three-layer cake (chocolate mousse or red velvet, your choice!). The three layers, laid out on top of each other nicely are HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Now, let’s cut the cake and dig into the three layers.

What Is JavaScript Used For?

The fundamental functions of JavaScript are to ‘automate’ and ‘animate’.  Scripting languages, like Java, are coding languages used to automate processes, which would otherwise require step-by-step execution by the user. Without the use of scripting, any changes you do on your web page would have to be done either by manually reloading the page or navigating through a series of static menus.

JavaScript, like other scripting languages, shows us those dynamic features that you incorporated earlier, to perform their task. These tasks can include ordering images to animate, telling photos to run through a slideshow, or autocomplete suggestions to user prompts. All of these apparently instantaneous tasks are only possible because of the ‘script’ in JavaScript.

Moreover, since JavaScript is such a vital component of the web functionality, all top web browsers come integrated with built-in engines that can display JavaScript. As a result, JavaScript commands can be typed directly into an HTML document and the web browsers will understand. To use JavaScript, you don’t need to download any additional programs or compilers.

Here’s a quick list of some particular uses of JavaScript:

All these uses mean that using JavaScript has the following merits:

How Hard Is It to Learn JavaScript?

The degree of difficulty in learning JavaScript largely depends on your understanding of other coding languages. The first step towards learning JavaScript is to first understand HTML. Why?

Because the most common way to run JavaScript is as part of a web page, and that can only be learned with the help of HTML. Getting familiar with CSS, or Cascading Style Sheets is also important since CSS provides the formatting engine behind the HTML.

Learning JavaScript vs HTML

HTML stands for ‘HyperText Markup Language’. It is a markup language that is human-readable and annotates text for a specific purpose. HTML is fairly straightforward and easy to learn. In HTML, every type of content is wrapped in tags to identify what the content is. Generally, HTML tags are used to wrap content like paragraphs, headings, lists, and graphics.

An HTML tag comprises content enclosed within angle brackets. The tag name appears first, which is followed by a series of attributes. Also, the closing tag is matched with an opening tag by placing a ‘slash’ in front of the tag name.

On the other hand, unlike HTML, JavaScript is a programming language, making it more difficult to learn than HTML. This is because a markup language merely describes what an action signifies, while a programming language defines a series of those actions to be performed.

All commands written in JavaScript define an individual action. This action can range from copying a value from one place to another, to performing calculations, or even testing a condition. And since there is a plethora of actions that can be performed, coupled with an array of combinations in which they can be done, learning any programming language will be more difficult than a markup language.

There is a catch, however. While it’s true that JavaScript is more complex than HTML, the upside is that you can start writing code in JavaScript much quicker than learning to mark-up web pages in HTML correctly. Nevertheless, it will take you much longer to master JavaScript, as compared to HTML.

But if you are already familiar with another programming language, then learning JavaScript will be a much simpler task than learning your first programming language. When you learn a second or subsequent programming language it’s always easier. This is because you are already well-versed with the programming style, and only have to understand the specific command syntax of the new language.

Start Your Career in Programming

Different programming languages require different syntax and approaches to coding. If you know a language with a similar paradigm to JavaScript, then learning it will be rather easy. Arguably, JavaScript is one of the easiest programming languages to learn, so it serves as a great first language for anyone brand new to coding. Even the most complex lines of JavaScript code can be written one by one, in fragments. It can also be tested in the web browser at the same time.

And if you put in the time to learn this language, your dedication will pay off. Even small pieces of JavaScript code can improve the productivity of your webpage almost immediately.

If you’re looking for more guidance, and a way to kickstart your programming career, then Thinkful’s in-depth course in Software Development is a great place to start.

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