What Programming Languages Do You Need to Know in 2018?

By BrainStation May 22, 2018
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Like Old English or Ancient Greek transforming into modern words, programming languages have evolved over time. Certain ones became the standard, others fell by the wayside. And each of them serve a distinct purpose.

So in 2018, which ones are the most important to learn? Here’s a roundup of three key programming languages to know for web development — HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript.

HTML5

Hypertext markup language has long been the standard for web development, and its fifth and latest version, HTML5, is no exception.

The language that acts as the basic building blocks for presenting content on the web, it’s still an important starting point for budding web designers and developers, since it gives web browsers much-needed directions on how to display words and images.

“HTML describes the structure of information on a page,” explains Jamie Counsell, Senior Software Developer at Konrad Group. “Computers don’t speak English, so HTML allows us to teach computers a bit about the information on the page. You can think of HTML as the bones of a website — it holds everything together and gives it structure.”

From a technical standpoint, he added, HTML allows developers to target specific parts of a web page to look or behave a certain way using using CSS or JavaScript. Without HTML, there’s no way to tell the computer to treat one part of the page differently than another.

CSS3

Cascading style sheets (or CSS), a style sheet language, is used alongside HTML to design web pages. The big difference between the two? Put simply, HTML is the code explaining the content — web page segments like basic text, lists of items, images, buttons, and links — while CSS handles the style and design, meaning aspects like font color and spacing, or visual effects. The beautiful websites you come across online are made that way using largely CSS. It’s essential for making a website look great, as well as for properly communicating your brand.

It’s key to know the latest version, CSS3, which allows long-awaited features like rounded corners, animations and gradients, and a variety of new layout options.

Nowadays, it’s also very important to learn the industry’s best practices for styling websites with CSS. That often means studying SASS, a popular language that extends CSS by both simplifying the coding process and adding special features.

BEM is helpful as well, as a methodology that helps organize code, reuse components, and simply speed up the coding process — something that’s particularly useful for bigger web dev projects.

But of course, like any language, it’s crucial to have a handle on the basic components of CSS before learning SASS and BEM.

JavaScript

A third key language is the continually popular JavaScript. “JavaScript is the language that does,” says Counsell. “When a web page changes over time as people interact with it, there’s usually JavaScript involved.”

So what is it, exactly? JavaScript is a high-level programming language that is used for building interactive effects in web pages — things like forms and animations. It makes web sites more dynamic, and it’s generally considered easy to learn. As the web evolves, we see more and more web pages that don’t have that white flash between pages. Apps that transition seamlessly from page to page. This are often called single page apps, or SPAs, and are powered largely by JavaScript.

Also helpful is JQuery. It’s not a language, but rather a JavaScript library of concise, well-written code that makes the process even simpler for a web developer.

If you’re trying to build an animation, for instance, the jQuery library could help you achieve that faster with fewer lines of code — so it’s a helpful tool once you’ve gained an understanding of how JavaScript works.

Languages to avoid

With so many programming languages out there today, it can be a bit overwhelming figuring out which ones to learn. Starting with the three popular languages above is a safe bet for any budding web developer, and it’s now a good idea to steer clear of some other increasingly phased-out options.

Flash, for instance, was a popular programming language in the 1990s because it offered a way to make web pages more dynamic — more like a piece of software, instead of just text and images — than the options available at the time. But as other languages like JavaScript evolved and people tired of needing a clunky browser plug-in to make Flash run, it fell by the wayside.

Perl is also safe to avoid. While the flexible, three-decade-old programming language works with HTML, it’s largely been on the out, with few popular websites currently using it.

Interested in learning more? Click here to get additional information about BrainStation’s Web Development courses.