Getting Started: HTML Basics—and Some CSS

This week’s readings and Codecademy exercises helped to build upon the lecture from the first class by introducing the basics of HTML. When I filled out the pre-course survey that Greg circulated back in March, I recall mentioning that I had little to no knowledge of HTML, CSS, JavaScript, or any programming language, aside from the tiny bit of HTML that I learned while trying to customize my LiveJournal site when I was a high school sophomore back in 2004. I don’t consider that to be legitimate knowledge, and after completing the survey, I was even more eager to enroll in this class in an attempt to gain a deeper understanding of coding.

The Codecademy exercises were helpful and relatively easy to work through using the step-by-step tutorials. Prior to completing the Codecademy exercises, I read the “Really Basic Intro to HTML/CSS for Journalism Students” article, and was excited to learn how to apply the 15 “must know” HTML items mentioned therein. Reading through the descriptions of each of these tags did not do a whole lot in terms of increasing my understanding of the concepts, and I began the Codecademy exercises with a bit of trepidation about my ability to comprehend the basics of HTML.

I appreciate the structure of the Codecademy exercises—especially how I am forced to complete the tutorials one piece of code at a time, which helps me to remember it better as I move onto the next step. If I make a mistake on one part of the exercise, a red dot indicates that there is an issue that needs to be resolved before proceeding to the next part. While I appreciate having this indicator, I found the description of the issue that appears when I hover my mouse over the red dot to be a bit confusing at times, especially to someone who is new to coding. Nevertheless, I persisted and was able to complete the two exercises without too much trouble. I found myself in a groove and decided to move onto the next lesson about CSS, in which I was able to give my simple page a bit of formatting through the application of a basic style sheet. Even though I jumped ahead, this was the part I enjoyed the most because it allowed me to begin customizing the look and feel of the page.

As I worked through each exercise, I found myself having to refer back to the earlier steps in the lesson to ensure that I was correctly completing each one, lest I see the dreaded red dot appear. I hope to memorize and to be able to apply the basic HTML tags—something that Mindy McAdams mentions is important in her article “Get Started with Web Coding. Part 1: HTML and CSS”—within the next few days. Both McAdams and Codecademy reiterate that repetition, practice, and trial and error are key themes when learning to code, and this is something that Greg also told our class. By doing a little bit of coding and/or a Codecademy exercise each day, I can build the muscle memory that is necessary to learn some of the more complicated elements of coding. I know I have only begun to skim the surface of coding and web development, but I am excited to begin building my own site and documenting my progress on GitHub.

My Codecademy profile can be found here.

My GitHub test repository is here.

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