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I've Learned HTML, What's Next?

CSS, JavaScript, XML, Perl, Java, What?

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In the Web Design forum, Barmisdele asks the question that is often on the minds of the new Web Developer "I've learned HTML, now what?"

There are many options for the developer to take. When I worked at Netcom, my manager thought of the Web department in three tracks:

  • Content Developers
  • Graphic Artists
  • Programmers

Notice how there weren't any "HTML Writers". The assumption was that anyone on the Web team would know how to build a Web page. That was a basic requirement for the job.

But even knowing that there are possibly three different directions you can go if you're going to go into the Web development field, there are still many different things to learn.

Content Developers

This area of expertise is probably the most clear cut, but in some ways the most difficult. If you are going to develop content for Web sites, you need to be able to write for the Web. You need to have good spelling and grammar (or at least have access to a good editor or spell checker). You also need to be creative.

Tools for content developers usually revolve around the programs they write in, such as HTML editors, or word processors. There are also a lot of content management tools, that it would help for a content developer to learn.

Finally, content developers would do well to learn XML. Things like DocBook and "home-grown" XML applications are often used by content developers to make their content available on more than just the Web.

Graphic Artists

Graphic artists need to be able to create graphics. This generally means you need to be able to draw, but mostly it just means you are comfortable creating and modifying images to suit your Web site.

Most graphic artists on Web teams also double as the designers. So a graphic artist should know how to do good Web Design. Style sheets are also usually within the realm of the designer or graphic artist.

Learning such tools as Photoshop, Paint Shop Pro, or other graphics tools is vital for a graphic artist.

Finally, most graphic artists usually move from standard images to animated images, and from there to multimedia. The most common tool for animation and multimedia is Macromedia Flash.

Web Programmers

Programmers are often the most common direction that people think when they think Web development. Especially if you've spent a lot of time learning to write HTML from scratch, it seems like a logical direction to move to more complex programming languages.

In Web development, programming means more than just HTML. It includes:

Which you learn first is really up to you. I learned to program in C before I learned Perl, Java, and PHP. JavaScript is something I leave up to others on my team at this point. But many people feel that it is easier to learn than Perl or other programming languages. PHP is probably the most popular programming language on the Web right now, followed by ASP.

Finally, to be a well-rounded programmer, you should understand how the server works. Understanding tools like ColdFusion and databases will help you create more dynamic and useful Web sites. You should also understand how to use Web caches to your advantage. And you should never forget security.

So, What's Next

Once you know what direction you want to head in your Web development career, you can better decide what you should learn next. Whether it's learning to write more effectively for the Web, studying CSS, or learning scripting, there is a lot out there. And don't forget, have fun with it!

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