The HTML and CSS Blog:

The First Thing New Coders Should Learn (from Coders We Love)

We wanted to show our appreciation for some of the important coders who paved the way for the existence of this site. But we only want to share posts that are going to provide useful info for our readers (hey, that’s you!). So we thought it would be fun to reach out to some of our favorite designers and coders to ask them one simple question:

What is the first, most important thing new coders need to learn?

We asked some of the authors and designers we respect the most. Want to find out more about the coders on this list? Click on each image to be taken to the Twitter page for each person. Or you can simply check out our Twitter list of web coders we love.

Denise Jacobs: Learn to Fix Your Mistakes

Denise Jacobs image quote on the first thing new coders should learn

Denise Jacobs may be best known now as a speaker and author who teaches creative productivity, and practices for sparking innovation, but long before that she earned the titles of tech industry veteran and web expert. Jacobs is the author of The CSS Detective Guide and co-author of the Smashing Book #3 1/3 and Interact with Web Standards. She is also the Chief Unicorn of Rawk The Web and the Head Instigator of The Creativity (R)Evolution.

With her many years’ experience it’s no surprise to me that she highlighted a very important skill for new coders to focus on. Jacobs says,

It is how to troubleshoot. Having taught HTML and CSS for many years, the thing that new developers really need to know is how to find and solve problems in their code. I’ve seen a lot of very intelligent, capable people completely fold in the face of code that doesn’t work. It’s one of the reasons that I wrote The CSS Detective Guide—to provide beginning and intermediate front-end developers with tools for getting to the bottom of code “mysteries.”

Vitaly Friedman: Get Your Code Right

image quote of Vitaly Friedman on the first most important thing new coders need to learn

Vitaly Friedman is a writer, speaker, author and editor-in-chief of the always gorgeous, always informative, Smashing Magazine. He runs responsive Web design workshops, online workshops and loves solving complex performance problems in large companies.

It is often said that “practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect.” While I also believe the adage that one should never let “the perfect be the enemy of the good” there’s no doubt that if you’re not coding correctly you’re going to have a lot of trouble re-learning as you correct your mistakes over time. But let’s get to Friedman, as he can say it better than me:

Well, I’d say the most important thing is authoring the markup correctly—clean markup is a cornerstone of progressive enhancement and as such robust, flexible websites. Learn how to mark up content properly, and get it right—and you will be alright!

Bruce Lawson: Code Should be Semantic

Image quote of Bruce Lawson on the first most important thing new coders should learn.

I didn’t know about Bruce Lawson before Diane brought me into the Learn HTML with Song team, and now I maybe want elect him for president. It’s no good, because the guy’s a Brit, and my reasons are all terribly biased: he codes for my favorite web browser (Opera), he writes music and reads Tarot cards (me too Bruce! Me too!), drinks Guinness, and he is super humble and nice. Lawson was the co-author of Introducing HTML5 . Aside from carrying the title “web standards love god” (I meant what I said before, humble as can be!) he is also a member of the Web Standards Project‘s Accessibility Task Force.

Lawson kept it short and sweet. He said, the most important thing new coders should learn is, “that HTML is for declaring what your content means, not what it looks like.” We’ve said this so many times Bruce! Glad to hear it echoed by such a righteous coder.

Veerle Pieters

Image quote of Veerle Pieters on the first most important thing new coders need to learn.

Veerle Pieters is a graphic & web designer based in Deinze, Belgium. She runs her own design studio, Duoh!, together with Geert Leyseele. Veerle has been blogging since 2003 and is considered number 39 on the list of “NxE’s Fifty Most Influential Female Bloggers.”

When asked the most important thing for new coders to learn, Pieters focused on an important tip that even many experienced coders sometimes forget. Pieters said, “make your code human readable. It’s just as important as naming your photoshop layers.”

Terrific advice. Usually when I take efforts to make my code readable, the future coder it helps the most is me—years later, when I’m digging through something I wrote and need to remember the ins and outs of why this div is here and that ID is there. The longer I code, the more I take the time to comment the heck out of everything.

Ethan Marcotte: Your HTML Is the Foundation of the Web

Image quote of Ethan Marcotte on the first most important thing new coders need to learn.Ethan Marcotte coined the term “responsive web design” to describe a new way of designing for the ever-changing Web. His popular book on responsive design has been widely praised, as it demonstrates how designers and organizations can leverage the Web’s flexibility to design across mobile, tablet, and desktop—and whatever might come next.

Over the years his clientele has included New York Magazine, the Sundance Film Festival, The Boston Globe, People Magazine, and the W3C. Ethan is an advisor to Editorially, and has been a featured speaker at many conferences, including An Event Apart, SXSW Interactive, and Webstock.

I wanted to finish off with Marcotte’s advice, because he got at the guts of the thing, reminding me why we code HTML in the first place: we make the web, and the web is awesome! Underneath this inspiring quote, is a subtle reminder that the world we’re building is accessed on a variety of devices, and we should code for that truth.

Your HTML is the foundation of the web, the rock it’s built on. How you choose to mark up your pages shapes the way they’re accessed across an infinite number of devices, browsers, and contexts. Regardless of whether someone’s accessing your work on a phone, a laptop, or by a device that reads a page aloud, your HTML shapes that experience.

I hope you found this advice as inspirational as I did. Do you agree or disagree with the coders above? What do you think is the most important fundamental for new coders to learn?

Karma Bennett is learning html with songThis is a guest post by Karma Bennett

Karma Bennett is the Learn HTML With Song girl friday, helping with social media, web marketing and editing. She loves dancing, taking photos of Bay Area graffiti, writing about culture and books, singing along to muzak at the grocery store, and helping people find their new favorite bands.

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Hi! I'm Diane. I'm an experienced web design teacher in San Francisco. I produce music videos to help new coders learn HTML. I'm dedicated to helping you learn to code, with tons of songs, videos, tutorials and activities. All our tutorials are free and we're adding new lessons every day. Subscribe to get the latest post in your inbox.
  • Karma Bennett

    Doh! I linked these images to twitter, but something is overriding the links I made. I’ll get this fixed lickety split.

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