Is It Hard To Learn HTML? Here’s The Straight Goods

Is it hard to learn HTML? Not at all! But the real question is, Is it worth it for you to learn HTML? In today's post, you'll not only find this out, but you'll get other answers too. Let's jump in!

Is it hard to learn HTML? Not at all!

While it might look messy, if you're asking yourself Is it hard to learn HTML? then you're in for a pleasant surprise!

No, it is not hard to learn HTML. In fact, once you take the plunge and go for it, you'll quickly discover that beyond a few simple concepts, there's nothing hard about HTML at all. Within a few short hours you'll have the basics down and be well on your way!

In fact, if you're ready to get started learning HTML right now, I have a free hands-on tutorial where we build a complete web layout from scratch. Take a look at HTML Tutorial – Learn HTML And CSS Tutorial EASY!

Or if you really want to dive in, let's sit down together in my full-length online course, HTML5 & CSS3 Site Design. It's a great way to learn HTML and CSS fast -- but only if you're really ready to dive into HTML and web design.

Learn how to build your small business website!

Meanwhile, you might be wondering if it's important to learn HTML in the first place. In fact, you might be asking yourself...

Do I Need To Learn HTML?

In short, yes. I think it's a great idea to learn HTML. And the good news is, it's way, way easier than you might think. And, it won't take much time to learn. Trust me, you've learned harder things that have taken you a lot longer to figure out than HTML!

HTML might seem daunting, complex, and technical, but it really isn't. In fact, it's pretty basic. But let's dig into this a bit deeper...

To me, it isn't so much a question of Do I need to learn HTML?, but rather How much do I need to know about HTML? In other words, how far down the rabbit hole do you want to go?

I phrase it this way because I believe everyone should have even a cursory understanding of HTML and web design -- just as I believe everyone should have basic computer and internet skills. After all, this is the 21st century!

So, how far do you want to go with this stuff? What is it you want to do? What are your objectives?

Do you want to become a full-stack web developer? A freelance web designer? Or maybe you want to be more like me -- a self-sufficient online business owner?

If you want to be a front-end web developer or freelance web designer, then there's no way around it -- you've gotta learn HTML, CSS, and other front-end technologies on a deep level. But what about the rest of us? Well, even people in non-tech positions would benefit greatly from even a basic understanding of HTML and CSS. At a minimum, you'd have an extra edge -- that extra skill set -- that makes you more valuable.

How Self-Reliant Do You Want To Be?

Another way to look at it is, how autonomous and self-reliant do you want to be?

Do you want to be dependent on others -- co-workers, your employees, or (often flaky) freelance web designers? Or do you want to be self-reliant and keep your costs (and headaches) low?

See, it's kinda like owning a house: The less you know about stuff like plumbing, electrical, fixing appliances, and so on, the less autonomous you are. And, the more expensive it's going to be to have someone come and fix problems when they arise -- and they will arise! I know some people who don't own any tools, and phone a handyman anytime something goes wrong. That gets expensive real fast. I know other people who handle pretty much everything under their own roofs themselves.

Or, think of it like owning a car. If you own a car, you have to know some things about cars. You have to know about gas and oil at a minimum. How much more would you like to know about automobile maintenance? I knew a guy who taught himself basic auto repair, and carried around enough tools and spare parts in his trunk for common stuff that could go wrong. Do you want to go that far? That's up to you to decide. And of course, the more you know, the more self-sufficient you are.

And it's the same in the world of web design. How self-reliant do you want to be? With web design, you'll have to determine for yourself where you are on the spectrum between being completely dependent on others and being completely self-reliant. Myself, I'm like the self-taught auto repair guy I knew -- I'm not completely self-reliant, but I can handle a lot of stuff on my own. And I always keep in mind that there's a point of diminishing returns...when a problem comes up that's too big to handle. Or maybe I'm just too busy to take care of it.

I'm always aware of that line in the sand, where it's way more efficient to hire someone to do the work for me. I talk about this and some related issues in another post, Is HTML Easy To Learn? Here’s What You Need To Know which you might want to check out.

But for me, I decided that I wanted to go far with web design and learn as much as I reasonably could. So my line in the sand is pretty far down the rabbit hole. Maybe yours isn't as far...maybe it's much further. You'll have to determine that for yourself.

Meanwhile, no matter what role you're in, no matter what your objectives are, a general understanding of HTML and CSS (combined with some other tools like WordPress, Photoshop, and other tools) can go a long, long way. An understanding of these tools at a mid to high level is very valuable, and very marketable.

We'll talk more about how to go about learning these web design tools shortly. But first, it's important to know that...

You Don't Need To Be A Master -- Just The Basics Will Do

Assuming you don't want to become a web developer or freelance designer, you don't need to be an HTML jedi master. You just need to know the fundamentals -- they're enough to get by on. Once you've got the basics, then you can decide for yourself where your line in the sand is...you can choose to keep learning and going further down the rabbit hole, or you can shift gears and focus on building your online business or web projects.

And as I've eluded to already, learning the basics of HTML is easy. It isn't rocket science at all. All you need is a general understanding of how HTML works, because in the real world, you won't be building web pages from scratch with code. Instead, you'll be using tools like WordPress and Elementor to rapidly build your layouts.

Where knowing HTML and CSS comes in handy is when you want to make specific customizations, tweaks, and troubleshoot any problems that come up.

And besides, you'll never be able to memorize everything there is to know about HTML. Heck, I keep my HTML cheat sheet nearby. In fact, here's the dark secret of most web developers and IT professionals: Google. Yeah, most tech pro's secret weapon is Google. Whenever they run into something they don't know about, they Google it.

And you can, too. After all, that's what it's there for!

So if you want to be autonomous and self-sufficient, save tons of money and frustration, and not be dependent on others, then I can't encourage you enough to learn HTML.

A general understanding of HTML goes a long, long way. And I'll bet you'll find HTML much easier than you'd expect.

Why You Should Learn HTML

You might still be sitting on the fence, unsure if you should learn HTML or not. Take a look at this short list of reasons why you should learn HTML.

  • Knowing HTML makes you more valuable: Add a set of highly valuable, highly marketable skills to your toolbox with little effort on your part. (HTML is easy, taking only a few hours to learn the basics).
  • HTML is something everyone should know: Don't you agree that in today's economy, everyone should at least have basic computer skills? Well, in the age of the internet, shouldn't we all have at least a general understanding of how websites are put together? After all, we live in a technology-based economy...and each of us carries a supercomputer in our pockets!
  • Knowing HTML means you can handle simple tasks easily: Whether it's sending an HTML-based email to a list of customers or adding code into specific areas of your website (like embedding a map or adding Google Analytics to your site), having a basic understanding of HTML makes these tasks a breeze.
  • Handle changes, fixes, and customizations yourself: You could hire a web designer to handle every tiny change or fix that comes up, but that's kinda like hiring someone to make your breakfast each morning. It's so simple, cheap, and fast to do it yourself, why would you hire it out? Imagine this: It's 3am. You have a big trade show or critical meeting in just a few hours, and you notice an error with the pricing or images on your website. If you don't know how to make those simple fixes, you're likely toast...unless you know a 24-hour emergency web design service! Really, there's no need to pay someone else to fix issues that can be solved in only a few minutes.
  • Knowing the basics of HTML and CSS is liberating: Back before I started using WordPress, I used Dreamweaver. And I'd get frustrated with it because it wouldn't let me do everything that was possible with HTML and CSS. It was like being locked in a box. And the same holds true with other WYSIWYG editors, website builders, and even WordPress (depending on how the theme has been structured). But if you know some HTML and CSS, at any time you can "flip the hood," get into the guts of your site, and get do pretty much whatever you want. Without these skills, you're stuck in a box.

But you still might not be sure if it's worthwhile spending the time learning HTML. Next, let's discuss if the time and effort are worth it...

Is Learning HTML Worth It?

Absolutely. I don't regret any of the time I've spent learning HTML, CSS, or other web technologies. Being able to handle things myself has saved me huge amounts of time (I get tasks done on my schedule, not some flaky designer's). I've saved huge amounts of money (the sites I've built would have cost me thousands and thousands). And, I've saved massive amounts of frustration, getting tasks completed quickly and efficiently.

I've been able to work on my terms, on my time-line, as fast as I want. If I want a task or project completed on a tight time-frame, then I can pull late nights and make it happen. And when changes, problems, and tweaks come up, I can excuse myself from the dinner party, and rip out a few quick fixes on the fly.

Otherwise, I'd be at the mercy of someone else -- an employee, a co-worker, or a freelancer. I'd be on their schedule, their time-frames, and their hourly rate. Turnarounds would be a lot longer, and my bills would be a lot higher!

And I love the peace of mind. It's very liberating knowing that I can solve problems, customize things, or even dream up an entirely new project, and know that I can handle it all on my own.

And it's important to stress something I've already mentioned: In the real world, we can do more than 90 percent of our work using tools like WordPress and Elementor without touching any code. Combining WordPress and Elementor allows us to build beautiful, responsive layouts visually, in an intuitive, drag 'n drop workspace. No coding required! But, when there's something that needs to be tweaked, fixed, or customized, knowing some code gets us out of that confined box so we can troubleshoot a solution or tweak an adjustment until it's just right.

What Exactly Is HTML?

So if your interest in HTML is piqued, you might want to know more about exactly what it is. If you're not sure what HTML is, very simply, it's the foundation of all web design. No matter what tools or methods you use to build your website (a visual website builder, WordPress, a WYSIWYG editor, or any other method), at it's core, your website will be structured with HTML.

Even if some kind of advanced technology like .NET, PHP, or Python is being used (these are all called "server-side languages"), HTML is always being generated. HTML is always the final output that's viewed in your visitor's web browser.

In fact, you're looking at an HTML document right now -- your web browser is taking the background code that this page is comprised of and rendering it in a human-viewable format.

HTML might seem frustrating, but really, HTML is easy to learn

Every page on the web (including the one you're reading right now!) is built out of HTML.

Humans don't read code well, but computers do. So your computer's (or smartphone's) web browser is translating code into something that's easy for you to read and enjoy -- that's how the whole sha-bang works!

Now if you're interested, HTML stands for Hypertext Markup Language. HTML was first created as a way to share documents (specifically, research papers) on simple computer networks.

Then these computer networks got bigger...and then the internet took off...and here we find ourselves!

But originally, HTML was created to do just two things: Structure pages (so, things like headings, paragraphs, lists, sidebars, footers, and so on), and connect pages together via hyperlinks. That's it -- that's all HTML does.

So, inside an HTML document (which is viewable inside any web browser), HTML is structuring the page, saying things like this is a header, this is a sidebar, this is an image, this is a paragraph, this is a bulleted list, and so on. With HTML, you're telling the page (and your visitor's web browser) what you want the visitor to see.

But By Itself, HTML Is Pretty Boring...It Needs Some Help

Think of HTML as being the plain, skeletal structure of your web pages. Giving a page structure is exactly what HTML does. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that by itself, HTML is dull, plain...and downright boring! There's nothing hard to learn about it at all.

To do anything interesting, HTML needs some help. This is where other technologies -- most commonly CSS and JavaScript -- come in. All by itself, without any help, HTML is pretty meh.

What CSS does is provides formatting on top of plain, structural HTML. And as for JavaScript, think of it as adding special effects -- animations maybe, behavioural events, and so on.

Here, let's focus primarily on how HTML and CSS work together because they're absolutely needed, while JavaScript is more icing on the cake, if that makes sense.

Now whenever I'm explaining how HTML and CSS work together, I often use the metaphor of a house. Think about where you live. There's a foundation, structural and load-bearing walls, and (hopefully!) a roof. That's the structure. But what about what the rooms in your house -- what do they look like? How have you decorated them? That's of course the interior design. Or, how you've "dressed up" each room.

In the world of web design, HTML handles the structure, and CSS handles the design. So, you could say that CSS sits on top of HTML's structure, making it look pretty.

Specifically, CSS does two things: It controls text formatting (fonts, colours, and so on), and it controls page layouts (columns, headings, object positioning -- that kinda stuff).

Further, think of HTML and CSS as side-kicks -- Batman and Robin, Starsky and Hutch, Turner and Hooch...whatever works for ya! HTML and CSS are partners that work together to create web pages. And while they might be team mates, HTML and CSS visually look different, and they function differently too.

So while you'll have to learn both, it's easy to learn HTML and CSS together at the same time. They aren't hard.

If you'd like to know more about CSS and if it's worth it to learn, take a look at Is CSS Easy To Learn? Here’s Everything You Need To Know

So that's the basics. Now, if you wanted to you could get more advanced (again, going further down the rabbit hole). You could get into the aforementioned JavaScript, jQuery, PHP, and other web technologies. But they aren't necessary.

Why Is HTML So Frustrating?

If you've started learning HTML and are finding it frustrating, or if you're on the brink of getting started and think it might be frustrating, let me throw a few things your way.

First, HTML can be frustrating if this is your first foray into anything overly technical -- code-related or otherwise. Really, with HTML you're simply providing instructions to your visitor's web browser: "Make this a header, make that a paragraph, put a footer down there" ...that sorta thing.

This means that there is some memorization involved -- you have to remember all the different page elements you can use. And there are a lot of them. I'd say this can be one of the tougher aspects of learning HTML. But honestly, don't stress out or worry too much about trying to memorize everything. It'll come with time and use. You'll naturally see HTML elements coming up over and over.

You know what this memorization stuff reminds me of? How most of us were taught math. For most of us, we were taught a bunch of disconnected concepts, formulas, and equations that we had to memorize. But to me, math should be taught in a real-world environment -- maybe in a workshop filled with tools and materials. The worst way to learn it is by memorization in a stuffy classroom (is it any surprise that most of us despise math?!).

And so the same holds true with HTML. While you could stress out trying to memorize everything, that's no fun. Instead, I think the best way to learn it is through actual, real-world application. Learn as you go by building some kind of project or maybe by working on your business website. To me, the best way to learn something is to roll up your sleeves and start using it right away.

So don't sweat it. And trust me, you have much better things to devote brain power to than memorizing HTML. As I said earlier, I still reach for my HTML cheat sheet every once in a while.

And beyond that, remember that there's no "hard" part to HTML. You may find it a little challenging at first to know when to nest different page elements, remember details like the difference between inline and block-level elements, and a few other tidbits, but these are all easy once you get going with them.

If there is a "hard part" to HTML, it would be how it relates to other web technologies like CSS. And if you're taking my recommendation and learning HTML and CSS together, then this will all come in time.

Remember too that you can't learn everything at once (geeze, wouldn't that be nice!). Even the "pros" who make it all look so easy didn't learn it all at once. Instead, just take it one step at a time. In the next section, I'll give you my recommendations for those first few steps.

But first, if you're finding HTML frustrating, know that the real learning starts when you begin applying this stuff in the real world. That's where the real learning happens. Remember our math metaphor? Math by itself is pretty dull and boring. But apply it to building a bookshelf, a vacation cabin, or to calculating your return on investments and it instantly becomes less painful -- and maybe even interesting! And this real-world learning continues for years, making you better and better as you go.

How Long Will It Take To Learn HTML?

I get asked where to start with web design and how long it'll take to learn a lot! Back in my classroom teaching days, I'd get asked these questions at least a few times a week. And my answer was always the same...

No matter what it is you want to do -- become a web developer, run online businesses, or simply get into web design as a hobby -- start by learning either HTML and CSS together, or with WordPress and Elementor. It doesn't matter which pair of tools you learn first. Then, learn the other pair. Then, throw in some Photoshop fundamentals to handle your graphics, and you'll have a very strong foundation -- better than many pros.

If you follow that recipe, you'll be in great shape to either continue learning more, or to start applying your new-found skills to your online projects and businesses.

And how long will it take you to learn HTML, CSS, and other aspects of web design?

You could learn the fundamentals of HTML and CSS in a single sitting -- that is, just a few hours. As for WordPress and Elementor, you can learn the basics in a weekend. And how long will it take until you're proficient in these, feeling confident? That really depends on how many hours you dedicate to them and how far down that rabbit hole you want to go. I'd say certainly within a few weeks you'll be finding your legs.

The more you work at it, the more web projects you take on and the more challenges you tackle, the faster you'll learn. But don't forget, you don't need to be a jedi master, and you'll have to decide where your line in the sand is.

So, learn HTML and CSS, and WordPress and Elementor. Throw in some Photoshop and you'll have a pretty solid toolbox. And remember, the order in which you learn these doesn't really matter.

After that, decide what you want to do next -- maybe some JavaScript, PHP, or even a framework like Bootstrap. Or, you might be more like me and say, "Alright that's good enough for now. Next I want to focus on my business, marketing, and SEO."

So are you ready to get started with HTML and CSS? I have a free, step-by-step HTML and CSS tutorial, where you'll see how to build a layout from complete scratch. Take a look at HTML Tutorial – Learn HTML And CSS Tutorial EASY!

Or, if you really want to dig into HTML and CSS and learn it once and for all, join me in my full-length course, HTML5 & CSS3 Site Design. I'd love to show you just how easy this stuff is!

And if you're ready to get started with WordPress and Elementor, take a look at my online course, Ready For Lift-Off: How To Build And Run Your Online Business Yourself!

I'll see you there!

Hey, I’m Geoff. I help entrepreneurs untangle web design using just Ten simple Building Blocks so they can build and grow their business website themselves!

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Enroll in your free online workshop! Get a solid understanding of web design for your business, and a clear path to follow based on your unique ideas. I'll see you there!