There’s no shortage of work out there for web developers. Businesses large and small, all over the world, have realized the importance of having an online presence. A great website is now top on the list of essential marketing tools, and brands invest heavily in creating a web presence that leaves an impact on visitors.
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Learning CSS – Is It Worth It?
By now you’ve probably heard of a few template-based web building platforms—like Squarespace, Wix and Weebly—that have made it much easier for those with no web development experience to create a fully functioning website. These platforms are often used by web developers too, when they’re looking to build a site for a client on a budget or with simple functionality requirements. This might leave you wondering if HTML and CSS will be made redundant in the years to come. 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 selection to choose from, that may not always match your client’s vision for a website. There’s little creativity being used while dragging and dropping elements onto a web page, which is one of the limitations of using these platforms. If a client requires a higher level of customization and uniqueness, and you try to rely on one of these platforms, you could end up disappointing the client.
Using CSS to Impress
One of the best reasons to master CSS is that your creativity won’t be confined to someone else’s web design tools. You’ll be able to craft and troubleshoot your own development work, with the peace of mind of knowing you have complete autonomy. Having proficiency in CSS, alongside your other web development knowledge, means you can unleash your creativity and whip up innovative solutions for your clients that will surpass the limited offerings of cookie-cutter platforms. Your A+ CSS skills will also come in handy when your client needs you to debug dodgy code or test something that doesn’t look right.
How Should I Learn CSS?
There are many different learning paths you can choose for learning CSS, and the cost and time involved can vary greatly. Before you decide, spend some time identifying your goals and how this might impact your choice. If you’re just starting out in your career and your aim is to eventually go into business as a web developer—a traditional education like a bachelor’s or master’s degree might be on the cards. If you’re already established in your career and looking to upskill in this area—an online course could get you where you want to be quickly, and with less expense. Are you undecided and just looking for new avenues to explore? Perhaps you could pursue the self-learning route for now.
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.
Is HTML a Prerequisite to Learning CSS?
A working knowledge of HTML is a must-have for learning CSS. The best way to proceed with learning CSS is to master the fundamentals of HTML beforehand or do so simultaneously as you progress.
HTML or Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) is the standard computer language used to construct web pages. It’s a tool used to create and control the various characteristics or structures to be used in the page you create, whether it’s the headers, footers, font color, or paragraph spacing.
Together, HTML and CSS are two of the most widely-used computer languages. It’s important to note that technically they 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. Programming languages a little more complex than HTML and CSS. C++, Java, Python are examples of programming languages.
CSS is the language 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. CSS’s main function is to further describe the characteristics of the structures designed using HTML. So it’s fair to say that you’ll need a working knowledge of HTML in order to progress with CSS.
How Challenging Will It Be to Learn CSS?
If you have some programming background, you’ll probably find it fairly simple to pick up the basics quickly. But as you learn more, you’ll discover that this language is actually quite nuanced and detail-oriented. So how challenging it is will really depend on a few different factors, such as:
- your existing knowledge;
- the practice regime you follow;
- your drive and self-discipline; and
- your intellectual curiosity.
It's a tool you need to build familiarity with by being disciplined about the learning process. Most people with basic computer skills tend to make very good progress in the first few weeks, and you should be able to nail the basics within a few months. 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.
How Should I Proceed with Learning CSS?
It’s a great time for autonomous learning, thanks to the internet and the wealth of online options available. 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 most people, you’ll find it pretty challenging to impose self-discipline when it comes to charting out a study plan.
Enrolling in an online course is a great option, as the material is more structured than going it alone. You’ll still need a bit of 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 left behind.
After you’ve built up your foundational skills, you’ll be able to identify areas for improvement and refinement. You’ll be able to narrow down what needs to be revised and which further topics need to be covered and perfected to solve problems you may be encountering in your practice. This is when the free resources available can be used more effectively, as you're 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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