Let me substantiate the three claims I just made:
Read and Write HTML and “Get” CSS
HTML is an easy one. Seriously.
HTML literacy is probably the skill that translates to quantifiable value in the shortest amount of time. HTML takes little time to learn, is relatively easy to become proficient with and there are many opportunities to use the skill. It is everywhere! Take, for instance, an organization where there is little existing HTML literacy, you can step in, change and remove ancient images on website’s rotating marquee and Boom!, digital facelift and decreased page load time! Your boss, your site’s visitors, and Google will thank you.
Even if you just become comfortable enough with HTML to be able to visually parse the source code of a webpage, you will have the ability to identify issues and understand their causes. This skill is especially valuable for Search Engine Optimization.
Technical On-Page SEO
Future-facing SEO, along with common meta-tags, integrates structured data such as Schema.org and JSON-LD requires specific syntax to have their intended affect. Page markup can also affect search engine crawlability, page load times, and cross browser compatibility. In this way, valid HTML affects search engine performance and user experience.
HTML literacy also demonstrates its value when implementing analytics or remarketing tags. The code markup and location of the code on the page must be accurate to properly send data to analytics platforms. Being able to debug implementations and communicate with development partners and not fully rely upon them for minor technical support drastically improves the fluidity of technical marketing initiatives and spares you from worrying how or if things will get done.
Another quick and measurable impact comes in the form of email marketing. You probably already know this but in case you don’t, emails are coded with HTML. You probably also know that email marketing is often one of the most effective digital marketing channels. The ability to test and optimize the look and feel of marketing emails can have a great impact on the effectiveness of the channel and truthfully of the brand’s identity. From simply swapping out images to writing inline CSS and using email platform template tags, the ability to code HTML is vital to a strong email marketing program.
Conversion Rate Optimization
The final use case for HTML and CSS knowledge is one that offers a remarkably high potential value and that is on-page testing and optimization. Conversion optimization tools like Optimizely and Google Content Experiments allow you to add, remove modify the HTML and CSS (styling, location, spacing) or elements on a page to create different experiment variations of the page. Some of the earliest and biggest wins that come from conversion rate optimization experiments are relatively simple CSS changes so having operational knowledge of CSS can translate to significant value rather quickly.
HTML and CSS knowledge can also translate to a sustainable value beyond the operational, nuts and bolts, knowledge. As your conversion rate optimization testing plan develops and experiment possibilities become less immediate, having the knowledge of presently untapped methods of displaying a page or newer HTML technologies will open up new testing possibilities. As long as browsers and HTML standards continue to change (this will always) prove its value.
Learn By Doing
Learning From The Work of Others
Google Apps Script offers an easy interface to try your new skills and accomplish some pretty useful things. It is nice because it abstracts away a lot of complicated things and offers a very simple API to Google Spreadsheets, Google Drive and Google Docs. There is also a lot of good documentation for getting started. If you manage PPC, try Google Adwords Scripts. FreeAdwordsScripts.com offers a lot of good code examples and cool ideas to show how to work with the Adwords Script API.
Books to Read
Google Apps Script: If you are more interested in the Google Apps Script and simpler forms of automation, this book is great. It will introduce you to a lot of server-side concepts. This stuff is great but just be weary, getting too deep into Google Apps Script may prevent you from learning the really powerful server-side programming languages.
Videos to Watch
Videos can be pretty inspiring. YouTube searches for whatever you are learning can be very helpful but a couple videos that I recommend are:
- 10 Things I learned from the jQuery Source by Paul Irish (and anything else from Paul Irish)
Learning HTML and CSS
Learn By Doing
codecademy.com again. You have to get repetition with the basics and this is a great intro. Get through it and then read a book and start really practicing.
Learn by Editing
- Get to know and love your code editor! Download the code editor of your choice. Atom is free and pretty good.
- Write some basic web pages and learn how to use scripts and link style sheets to your web page. Reference w3schools.com and look at the source code of existing pages for reference. GitHub.com has some nice clean source code. (You will also want to get to know GitHub anyway)
- Learn some tools. HTML5 Boilerplate is a great place to start with solid web standards and learning Twitter Bootstrap CSS framework will almost certainly come in handy.
Books to Read
HTML5 for Web Designers is great if you want a good basic intro. It will tell you what you need to know but no necessarily how to do it. This book is a must if you are going to be using Optimizely for testing. http://www.abookapart.com/products/html5-for-web-designers
HTML5 & CSS: Learn to Design and Build Websites is an intro to the medium and teaches how to use it at the same time. This is a great book to read in conjunction with step 2 above.
Now go make something awesome! Or rather learn how to make something awesome and keep practicing until you do. These front-end skills will take you a long way and make you very valuable. Check out the rest of the series to learn more about the Back End and Applications, API’s and Web Scraping and Technical Resources and How to Use Them.
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