Jonathan Saipe

Web Coding Isn’t Just For Programmers

23 April 2012, Jonathan Saipe

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When I passed my driving test and had just started to drive independently (yes that was a long time ago in 1987!), I was always curious to know what was going on under the bonnet.

What actually happened “beneath the scenes” when I pressed the clutch pedal? When I pressed the brake pedal, what was the exact mechanism causing a one tonne car to decelerate from 70mph? Why didn’t my car start when it was cold?

Know thy engine room

I decided that if I knew how the components of my car worked together, it would have four positive effects: one, it would encourage me to fix the car myself (I was a penniless student at the time); two, if I needed a garage, I’d have a firm idea what I was being charged for; three, I’d be me more technically capable of driving my ungainly Renault 5; and four, it would make me a more confident driver; I’d recognise all the quirky noises and the reasons it would misbehave at times.

We’re driving the web

Roll on more than two decades and we all find ourselves behind the wheel; the only difference is, we’re controlling a mouse, a track pad, a tablet or a keyboard.

Instead of having to control a car, we find ourselves sharing social content; we’re editing our own blog; we’re asked by our agency to insert some tracking code; we need to understand what web analytics software our website is using; or we’re using our organisation’s content management system (CMS) to maintain our website content.

In all the above instances, wouldn’t it be helpful to know what’s going on behind the scenes? What’s unpinning my website? I don’t mean, knowing how to code in PHP or .NET. I don’t even mean mess around with JQuery or HTML. Nothing of the sort. I’m talking about looking at some HTML or CSS and having a basic idea of what’s causing a paragraph to break or a link to work; or to identify the fonts used across my website and whether or not they conform to my corporate identity guidelines; or how to locate where an image is stored on my web server. The list goes on.

We could all do with some idea of web coding

There are a multitude of content editors, marketers, bloggers, designers, community managers and PR professionals – the vast majority not able to code websites – but all of whom, on a daily basis, will be contributing to online content in some capacity.

Know matter how intuitive a CMS or blogging platform is (and WordPress ain’t that good), there will inevitably come a time where users come unstuck. Why doesn’t my formatting work? How do I add this social widget to my blog? Google’s asking me to add some conversion tracking code? How do I embed this YouTube video?

Having serviced clients for over 16 years, I can with confidence say that those clients who knew the basics of coding, (those who weren’t afraid to press CTRL-U on their browsers), were significantly more productive and confident managing or editing content online. It’s almost as clear cut as those using IE versus the Chrome or Firefox gang.

Jonathan Saipe is founder of Emarketeers and has 16 years experience delivering web design and development projects. Emarketeers’ training courses include Website Coding for Beginners and Web Project Management.