As more and more communication goes digital these days, I’m seeing communicators fall into one of two camps:
1) They embrace the change and do what they can to stay savvy.
2) They fight the change and become curmudgeony.
I’m all for embracing change — as long as I have time to plan for it — so I count myself as part of the first group. One of the biggest things I’ve done to try and stay on top of communicating in a digital world is to learn the basics of HTML and CSS. Let me tell you, it has definitely paid off. Here’s why…
It Increases Your Value
While businesses aren’t as bootstrap as they were during the recession, hiring managers are still looking for professionals who are all that and then some. This is especially true of small businesses and nonprofits.
If you can write a great feature article AND turn it into an amazing HTML email or an inviting webpage? That’s one less thing that hiring manager has to worry about, or possibly one fewer person they have to hire. In other words, they’ll want to keep you around. Maybe even pay you a little more.
It Makes You Likable
In the digital age, web designers are in high demand, so it always seems like really good web designers are in short supply. The ones who really do know their stuff are so busy, they forget to eat lunch sometimes. (I know, I’ve seen it happen on multiple occasions.)
So they definitely don’t have time to figure out why whatever content you imported is showing up wonky when it’s viewed in a browser window. If you can fix most of your own coding problems, and maybe even lighten their load from time to time by taking care of little tasks handed down by the boss, web designers will LOVE you. Which means they’ll be much happier to help you in return.
It Makes You More Independent
I won’t pretend to know everything about HTML/CSS. In fact, when you compare what I know to how much there is to learn, it gets a bit intimidating. But I know enough to be able to download a WordPress theme and tweak it to look just the way I want using custom CSS. Or format text on a page exactly how I want to using HTML.
This means I can create a website for myself that looks different from everyone else’s. It also means I don’t have to hire someone to do it for me. And when you’re running your own business, the fact that you can spend little to no money building a website makes learning HTML/CSS seem like the best investment in the world.
Where to Learn
So where do you learn to code? Well, thankfully, there are lots of options out there — many of which are free!
Here are some of my favorites:
Khan Academy – Khan Academy is a non-profit educational organization created in 2006 by educator Sal Khan to provide “a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere.”
Lynda.com – Lynda.com offers thousands of video courses in software, creative and business skills. Basic month-to-month memberships start at $25/mo. If you work at a university, check to see if they have a group account, which will get you access at the premium level for free!
Treehouse – Treehouse offers lessons on HTML, CSS, iPhone apps, and more. Basic memberships start at $25/mo. Free trial available.
Once you learn the basics, getting things just the way you want them becomes a matter of trial and error, where you’ll learn even more. You’ll learn that your browser’s “Inspect Element” feature is your new best friend. It’ll be confusion and frustration mixed with the thrill you get when you solve a puzzle…or if you’re like me, the feeling you get when you find a typo. But in the end, it will be worth it.
Are you a communicator who’s learned how to code? How has it helped you?