Learning HTML: Tips and perspective for beginners

In this article, we hear from Thomas David, an OpenClassrooms mentor on our Front-end Developer and Full-Stack Developer Paths. Thomas finds himself having the same conversations with students early on in their programs as they begin learning HTML.

And he wanted to share his tips so all HTML learners can reframe their expectations and get started in a more successful fashion. He writes:

It’s a commonplace belief that HTML is a very simple language.

I’m sorry to be the one to inform you that this is a myth.

The assumption is based on the fact that when compared to a programming language, HTML is easier to identify. For one, it is a mark-up language meaning it uses terms seemingly decipherable to beginners. And it is a completely static language.

With a very basic understanding, you can write an HTML document that actually works. But once you delve deeper, you’ll find it is not that straightforward. There are 134 different HTML elements to choose from, not to mention the 29 obsolete ones that should never be used (I’m looking at you <blink>) and each element has their own attributes, 161 attributes in total!



The belief that HTML is easy could trip up even the most experienced developers in other languages. Their HTML structure could be wrong, their syntax, incorrect, and their CSS, a mess!

In order to be an expert in HTML, you will need to have an excellent understanding of CSS (which means that you will have to learn both languages at the same time) and ideally have an understanding of Javascript. The three languages depend on each other to function correctly.

Why do I think that knowing Javascript will help your HTML?

Because, in order to write efficient Javascript, you’ll need to have a solid HTML/CSS structure. Also, knowing those three core languages provides enough context to create something truly beautiful.

Are you starting to see, now, why HTML is hard?

When new students start HTML with the misleading belief that HTML is easy, they quickly get overwhelmed. In my work as a mentor for OpenClassrooms, students tell me on a regular basis about the difficulties they face when writing their first lines of code from scratch.

They often tell me, “It doesn’t work!” They end up feeling disappointed because it was “supposed to be easy”. They get discouraged and sometimes start to doubt themselves. They sometimes start to think that maybe they are not good enough, after all, to be a developer.

This is where I find it really rewarding to step in as their mentor to reassure them.

Given the context I have just outlined, it is only natural to have this reaction. Don’t feel pressured. It will take time for you to feel comfortable enough to write good HTML. You will face many problems along the way.  And this is normal. HTML is hard. And you can learn it.

I’m curious. How did you find writing your first HTML document? Was it as easy as you may have thought? What were the problems you encountered? 


Please share your experience in the comments!



Thomas David is an Australian living in Spain with a love of building projects for the web. He has worked as a web developer for 20 years specializing in Full-Stack. He also works as an OpenClassrooms mentor helping students on our Front-end Developer and Full-Stack Developer Paths.



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