Web design languages for complete beginners

Thinking about updating your website and wondering how it’s done? Well, if your energies are focused on your clients, not website construction, we’re going to briefly explain how three web design languages – HTML, CSS and JavaScript – are used to build a website.

Knowing this isn’t going to help you build a website. But it will help you understand what the people you pay to build your website are doing.


HyperText Markup Language (HTML) controls the underlying structure (or “semantics”) of your website. Among many other things, your web designer uses HTML to:

  • Label headings and paragraph copy
  • Create links to other webpages
  • Label images
  • Structure a page’s content
  • Create lists, tables and forms

Also, well-written HTML code is more fundamental than ever as accessibility – e.g., designing a website that is easily understood by the screen readers that visually impaired users rely on – becomes more important.

When you see tags such as <body>, <p> and <section>, you’re looking at HTML that is structuring the content on your website.


Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) language controls how your website looks. From font size to background colour, your web designer uses CSS to make design decisions. Well-written CSS is essential because it will help you redesign your site quickly without running into problems that are hard to solve.

Have you changed your brand colours recently and they aren’t reflected on your website? A web designer can fix that using CSS without having to completely rebuild your website.

Code that looks like this:

h1 {
font-color: gray

is CSS and it’s telling web browsers how to display your website.


Compared to HTML and CSS, JavaScript is much more complex. JavaScript controls how your website behaves and how visitors interact with it. A classic example of what JavaScript can do is to create a form that alerts visitors, before they submit the form, that they have filled out a section incorrectly.

There’s a dark side to JavaScript: pop ups. As a result of unwanted pop ups, some people have turned off JavaScript in their browsers. Keep this in mind when you’re thinking about any bells and whistles.

Something like “function displayPanel () { …” gives you a clue that the code is JavaScript.

Although there’s much more to the story, HTML, CSS and JavaScript are among the core languages of practically every website you visit … including your own.

Create a website that your clients and prospects will love. Contact us at 416.925.1700 or info@ext-marketing.com and we’ll help you do it.