How easy is it to wrap your head around CSS? Well—and apologies for the frustrating answer ahead—it all depends. If you have some programming background, you might pick up the basics pretty quickly. But as you learn more, you’ll discover that this language is actually quite detail-oriented and nuanced.
Ultimately, your progress is going to depend on the sincerity of your attempt, your drive, retention abilities, and the practice regime you follow to become more fluent in the language. So get ready to buckle down.
If you’re looking at the long road ahead and questioning whether learning CSS is worth it, we can assure you: it’s one of the most popular programming languages for a reason. Your CSS knowledge will serve you throughout your web development career.
We’ll help you understand why CSS is so valuable, and share some tips for picking up this language and learning to apply it in real-life programming challenges.
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HTML vs CSS: Which Should You Learn First?
HTML and CSS are two of the most widely-used computer languages. Technically, HTML and CSS aren’t programming languages. A programming language is a more formalized language that consists of a set of instructions to produce useful outputs and run algorithms. So they’re a little more complex than HTML and CSS. C++, Java, Python are examples of programming languages.
HTML or Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) is the standard computer language used by millions around the globe to construct web pages. It’s a tool used to control or create the various characteristics or structures to be incorporated in the page you intend to create, be it the headers, footers, color of the font, or paragraph.
CSS or Cascading Style Sheets is the language that is then used to describe the layout characteristics or dictate the formatting information for the structures that were built with HTML. If you’ve created a heading for the page using HTML, you’ll need CSS to make it look good: whether that means italics, bold font or a different alignment. So CSS’s main function is to further describe the characteristics of the structures designed using HTML.
All this is to say—in order to make headway with CSS, a working knowledge of HTML is a must. The best way to proceed with learning CSS is to master the fundamentals of HTML beforehand or do so simultaneously as you progress.
Why Learn CSS?
These days, many web developers and designers have begun to use simpler “drag and drop” web building platforms and prefabricated webpage templates. You might be wondering if this is reason enough to conclude that HTML and CSS will be made redundant in the years to come. But there are a few reasons why that’s not going to happen anytime soon.
First of all, templates and pre-fabricated websites offer a limited pool of features to choose from, that may not always match your aesthetic vision for a website. There’s little creativity being used while dragging and dropping elements onto a web page, which is one of the severe limitations of using these platforms. What if a client requires a higher level of customization and uniqueness? If you try to rely on one of these platforms, you’ll end up falling short.
Using your prowess with CSS, you can unleash your creativity and whip up innovative solutions for your clients that will surpass the limited offerings of cookie-cutter platforms. Your client needs you to inspect some code? You can utilize your CSS skills to save the day and debug dodgy code.
One of the best reasons to master CSS is that you'll never be boxed in by the confines of web design tools. You’ll have the peace of mind of knowing you have the autonomy to craft and troubleshoot your own development work.
How Should I Learn CSS?
Before you decide what route you’ll choose to learn CSS, spend some time identifying what your end goals are.
- Do you want to go into business as a web developer?
- Are you looking upskill and add value to your resume?
- Are you unsatisfied with the work done by freelance developers on your web projects?
- Are you simply looking for a new hobby as an avid programmer?
- Are you undecided and looking for new avenues to explore?
Once you’ve narrowed down which goal best describes your situation, you’ll be in a better position to decide how you’ll go about learning CSS. This will also help you determine how you'll pace your learning.
How Hard Is it to Learn CSS?
Once again, the answer to this question is relative and will vary depending on your drive and intellectual curiosity. Most people with basic computer skills tend to make very good progress in the first few weeks. It's a tool you need to build familiarity with by being disciplined about the learning process. If you're well-versed with HTML, that will be an advantage. Otherwise, you should aim to pick up HTML simultaneously, as these skills complement each other.
Once you’ve decided how far down the CSS road you intend to go, you can set up a study schedule for yourself. You should be able to nail the basics within a few months. Many beginners will cruise through the initial concepts, but things do get more complex as you progress. Once you get to debugging and web browser compatibility, that’s when a lot of people start to struggle and can become a little discouraged. The more complex topics can be challenging, but the payoffs are worth it because these skills are highly sought after.
What’s the Best Way to Learn CSS?
We’re currently living in the best ever time for autonomous learning, thanks to the internet and the wealth of online options available today. There’s a vast repository of free resources, books, courses, videos, and tutorials—all of which can help you bolster your knowledge. Self-study may be all you need to pick up CSS. But if you’re like the vast majority of people, you’ll find it pretty challenging to impose self-discipline when it comes to charting out a study plan.
A very popular and wise choice would be to enrol an inexpensive online course, as the material will be more structured than self-learning. You’ll still need self-discipline to keep up with the course work. But most online courses now offer the added benefit of allowing you to progress at your own pace, so you don’t risk getting too bogged down in the curriculum.
After putting in some time and building up your foundation, you’ll eventually be able to pinpoint which knowledge block needs to be tackled next. You’ll be able to pinpoint what needs to be revised and which further topics need to be covered and perfected to solve a problem you may have at hand. This is when the free resources available can be used more effectively, as you're much further down the road of learning CSS and will be able to choose your focus areas and plan study sessions better.
How Long Will it Take to Learn CSS?
For an average learner with a good degree of discipline, it should take around seven to eight months to build up a working knowledge of CSS (and HTML—as they are almost inseparable). At the one-year mark, you'll have built up more confidence.
A fun way to push yourself is to start a small creative project of your own. This will challenge you in ways that you may not have encountered while absorbing theoretical knowledge and doing prescribed exercises. There will be times when the going will get tough and you may feel a little confused, dejected, or lost in general. That’s normal. But if you keep pushing, you’ll eventually learn how to be more resourceful in applying your knowledge.
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