Understanding a server-side language is very handy and gives you great power to create much more dynamic sites. The most common one is PHP. There are many other web tools/languages that are worth knowing at least a bit about, such as SQL (database language), Apache (the most common server software), and knowing a bit about Photoshop and other graphics programs is handy too.
But all these are nice extras. HTML itself is the basis of a website, and you can do a very nice and usable site with that alone.
Yes, much later … such as when you’ve been cast out of heaven to the nether world. Flash is a nice technology per se, but doesn’t really belong on the web. Flash-based websites are dying out, not only because some devices don’t support Flash, but because Flash is much less accessible than an HTML website—not only for certain people but to search engines as well. Even though that has changed a bit over time, in my view, learning Flash is a waste of time now. It became particularly useful for serving up video, but now even that is changing as browsers begin to support the new <video> element and other video formats become mainstream.
Ha! I’m really behind the latest developments and I need catching up! Flash has fallen out of grace! Back in 1998 or 1999 we saw the first examples of amazing websites designed 100% in Flash and we thought it was going to rule the world. Apparently it won’t. I guess every technology has its heyday that passes, like the steam engine for example.
I wouldn’t say Flash has completely fallen out of grace. Flash-based websites definitely have, but there are still many valid uses for Flash (though that territory is being encroached upon by HTML5/CSS3). However, if I was just starting out, it would be pretty low priority for me too.
A server-side scripting language is a must for most websites nowadays as well (completely static pages are generally boring and often hard to maintain). I personally recommend PHP, but ASP.NET and the like work too.
I don’t think anyone can fully master any of these (I’ve been doing this for over a decade and I still learn little bits here and there all the time). You should work on getting a handle on the basics, then work on some projects. When you come up against something you don’t know or are unsure about, that’s your opportunity to learn something new. Repeat a million times and you’re well on your way to becoming a pro.
It is very difficult to learn any programming or markup languages purely by reading books… you need to practice, practice, practice. I’ve seen many programmers with bachelor’s in Computer Science who can barely do anything, because all of their knowledge is purely academic. They’ve barely done any real projects.
I think the order of importance for web-related skills are:
HTML 4.01 stuff first (which is the core) then learn the new HTML 5 stuff.
CSS 2.1 stuff first (which is the core) then learn the new CSS 3 stuff.
PHP (or other server-side)
Flash/Actionscript 3 or Silverlight, etc.
Excellent answers Samanime.
I would definitely leave Flash out of the picture until you absolutely need it or have a specific use of it. You will know if u need it or not.
Here’s my 2 cents of the order in which to learn:
Photoshop and/or Fireworks
<– I would even suggest learning a CMS like Wordpress here should you plan to use a content management system for your sites, which gives you a way to easily generate sites while this gives you experience in working with a) HTML in themes b) css in themes c) how HTML and CSS can tie together with php in the themes & plugins and more.
Like samanime said, it depends on the kind of developer you’d like to be. Front or Back end…
Thanks for all suggestions, gents. I have an 'HTML 4 Bible" printed in 1998 which looks very impressive from the outside (huge book). I would like to read it front to back, even before I start any coding, but isn’t it outdated if printed so long ago?
Not to plug Sitepoint or anything but I would highly recommend picking up on of the beginner books rather than bible book because it will provide a clear learning path that progresses rather than throwing everything at you at once. Generally the book to start off with is http://www.sitepoint.com/books/html3/.
Yes, good suggestion. Knowing how to use a CMS will give you access to a lot of dynamic functionality without you haveing to learn how it all works, which means you can quickly build fancy sites for people without being a programmer.
That sounds too old. HTML 4.01 came out in 1999, so presumably this book covers an earlier version? XHTML came out a bit later too, I believe, so best to upgrade. As oddz says, the SP books are a good place to start.
However, I would actually strongly recommend AGAINST reading through any reference book front to back before starting anything. That’s getting much too close to a purely academic knowledge, which is actually more difficult to do things with. You should read a chapter, play with some code, read a chapter, play with some code, etc., so you are building a more practical knowledge base. I’d say you should probably spend at least four times the amount of time coding as it takes you to read each chapter. (This rule applies for any programming language).
One of my web design mentors (a guy with serious credentials) says you should read the book front to back, without ever touching the computer. Then read all over again and do all the coding exercises. I guess there are various schools of thought out there, depending on everybody’s studying habits.
Just be careful not the throw clarity / usability out the window in your quest for something unique. Most sites exist to provide visitors with information of some kind, and I’ll bet those visitors are far less interested in the artful layout than in quickly getting the information they need—which is aided by familiar positioning of key elements like navigation.
There is a reason you see the same ‘boring format’ over and over. It’s because it works, people are used to it and know how to use it.
Breaking from the mould is exciting and can be fun, but usability is of utmost importance.
True, all aspects will have to be considered, including ease of navigation for web-challenged people like my sister. When my sister is browsing the web, she sort of clicks randomly all over the screen without knowing why, including clicking links that she never intended to click and links that download and install malware on her computer, which happens without her noticing it.
Hmmm…to think of it…every scientist needs a laboratory chimp to test his ideas in practice.