HTML and CSS are the building blocks of the web. Together, they are used to create every web page, webapp, and online service that is used today.
Because webapps have gotten so complicated, many who are not directly involved with developing websites shy away from getting into the details of how HTML and CSS works. But if you work as a marketer, there are many benefits of at least being familiar with both of these tools — and they’re not that hard to get started with.
What is HTML and CSS? And what are some of the things that marketers can do with it? Keep reading to find out.
What Is HTML And CSS?
HTML stands for “HyperText Markup Language”, and CSS stands for “Cascading Style Sheets”. Together, they tell your browser what to display (content) and how to display it (presentation).
In the old days of the web, HTML contained both content and presentation information. For example, you would use the <b> tag to specify bold text, and the <font> tag to choose a font to display text.
Since CSS became widely used, however, presentation and content can now be separated. By convention, HTML should contain only content and markup, or tags that tell the browser what kind of content is being displayed. CSS is then used to apply style to that markup.
For example, an HTML document contains header tags like <h1>, <h2>, and so on, and text tags like <p> (paragraph). CSS is then used to tell the browser “H1 tags should be bold and 24 points, H2 tags should be 18 points and blue, and paragraph text should be 12 point Arial”.
CSS can be specified inline with the HTML element, such as <p style=”text-color:blue;”>, or it can be written inside a <style> tag in the document header. A more powerful option, however, is to use an external style sheet — a separate .css file that can be used on multiple HTML pages. That way, style information can be changed across an entire website simply by updating one file. The entire site theme and layout can be changed while the content remains the same. This is, in part, why sites using content management systems (CMS) like WordPress can easily be re-skinned simply by installing a new theme.
Why Marketers Should Know HTML And CSS
Nowadays, very few people write their own websites from scratch using HTML and CSS. That doesn’t mean that it’s not important for online marketers to learn it. Here are just a few of the things that marketers who know HTML and CSS can accomplish.
Create Search Engine-Friendly Content
Search engine optimization, or SEO, is a major part of any online marketing strategy. It involves creating web content that is ranked highly by search engines like Google. But how do search engines know which web pages are relevant to a given search query? It has to rely on the HTML markup of the page to figure it out.
Search engine crawlers read the text inside header tags, paragraph tags, and other clues like image alt text, to figure out what a page is about and whether it’s relevant to someone who is searching for a particular keyword. As a marketer, knowing how to use HTML tags correctly will help you to produce content that is SEO-friendly and more likely to attract organic search traffic.
Search engines are getting smarter about interpreting CSS, too. Google now assesses the mobile-friendliness of a page and uses that information to influence rankings. Google can also detect helpful style information, like a direct answer to a question set off in a styled text box, and trickery like text that doesn’t display on the page. It can then use that presentation information to rank sites that are more usable, and bury sites that aren’t.
Build Rich Emails
Are you setting up an email campaign? Though there are some advantages to plain-text emails in some cases, a well-styled email can grab attention and improve click rates. All modern email clients can display HTML emails, so you are free to add images, text styles, and even responsive layouts to your emails.
However, there are some tricks to getting an HTML email to look good across different email clients. Many email marketing tools allow you to preview your email in different email clients. An understanding of HTML and CSS can help you to make tweaks to your messages that look good across every email platform and client.
Work With Designers And Developers
As a marketer, you may work with — or lead — a team that includes web developers and designers. Though you may not be able to do what they can with HTML and CSS, it will be helpful to speak the same language as they do.
For example, your designer may ask if “the H2s on this landing page are big enough” or “whether the DIV should float left or right”. If you understand HTML and CSS, those statements will make sense to you, and you’ll be able to give a helpful answer. You’ll also have a better understanding of what’s possible on a web page, meaning that you can more clearly communicate to your team your ideas. When put together, this will make your marketing efforts more effective by connecting with your audience more easily.
Build Your Own Websites
Another common scenario is that you are a team of one — but you still need a way to put a website out there to use as a landing page, a blog, or an online shop. Fortunately, it’s easier than ever to launch a website without coding experience. Platforms like WordPress, Squarespace, and HubSpot make it easy to create websites that look good without needing to code. But, knowing some HTML and CSS can give you even more options when it comes to customizing your site and making it look good.
These platforms allow you to edit HTML and CSS to tweak the design and layout of your pages. This way, you can get your site to look exactly the way you want it to look and give it a unique flair that will make your site stand out.
Learning HTML and CSS as a Marketer
As a marketer, you may not have a lot of extra time to dedicate to learning HTML and CSS. Fortunately, it’s easy to get started learning HTML and CSS with just a few minutes a day.
SoloLearn is pleased to announce the launch of a new course: Coding for Marketers. This course will introduce you to the basics of web development in a way that’s specific to your needs. Download the free SoloLearn mobile app, and you can learn and practice using free lessons no matter where you are. Get started growing your skills today!