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Get Started in Web Design & Coding

So you want to learn to design and build websites? Let’s talk about where should you start, what you need to learn, apps you’ll need, industry terminology, and more. There are two sides to creating websites: design and coding: 

  • Designers decide the appearance and user experience of the website.
  • Developers use code to make the website function in a web browser.

Front-End versus Back-End

Front-end code works in a web browser, whereas the back-end code works on a web server. The front-end of websites involve coding HTML, CSS, and JavaScript that control the look and feel of a website. The back-end of a website involves coding languages such as PHP, MySQL, Ruby on Rails, Node.js, etc. to create application-like functionality that typically interacts with a database.

Front-End Coding


To create web pages and emails we use HTML code (Hypertext Markup Language). HTML tags mark up (label) content to indicate headings, paragraphs, lists, links, images, and more.


CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) code is used to style the contents of a webpage (or email), based on the HTML markup. CSS controls the appearance of everything, from fonts and color to building responsive page layouts that look good across screen sizes (mobile, tablet, and desktop).

JavaScript & jQuery

JavaScript code is used to add interactivity, animation, and more to the front-end of websites (what you see in a browser). Create slideshows, image galleries, validate forms, and much more. JavaScript can also be used on the back-end of websites to execute code on a web server. jQuery is the most popular JavaScript library, and it makes it easier to target elements, handle events, and more.

Back-End Coding


PHP is a free and open source language for back-end web development. It can create web pages dynamically by interacting with a database, collect and process data from web forms, and much more. MySQL is a popular open source database that is commonly used with PHP.


JavaScript can also be used on the back-end of websites to execute code on a web server (with Node.js for example).


WordPress is a free and open-source content management system (CMS) that lets you create & manage a website or blog. WordPress themes control the look and feel of a WordPress site. These themes are built with HTML, CSS, JavaScript, & PHP.

Code Editors

When writing code you’ll want a good code editor. Here are three popular ones. They are all good and you really can't go wrong with any of them.

  • Sublime Text ($80, free unlimited trial): This is our favorite and what we recommend.
  • Atom (Free): Made by GitHub, this is a great free code editor.
  • Visual Studio Code (Free): Made by Microsoft, it has been gaining users and is also very good.

Designing Websites & Creating Web Graphics


Sketch is a Mac-only app that many web designers are using, and more people every day are switching to it. Not only can you create your designs (for website, apps, etc.), but you can even turn them into working prototypes to show clients and do user testing with.

You can buy Sketch for $99 which includes 1 year of updates and Sketch Cloud. After that, you can renew the license for $69/year if you want updates and access to Sketch Cloud.

Adobe XD

Adobe XD is a newer Adobe app that is very similar to Sketch. It’s an easy to use app that enables you to design and prototype your ideas. Unlike Sketch though, it works on Mac and PC. It’s a relatively new app and is still developing rapidly. 

You can get XD for free (with some limitations), as a single app for $9.99/month, or as part of the Creative Cloud.


Photoshop has been around the longest and is used by many web designers. It is a photo editor with web design features added on, so some web designers are turning to other apps such as Sketch and Adobe XD which were created solely for the purpose of visual and UX design.

You can get Photoshop for $9.99/month, or as part of the Creative Cloud.

Learn in Noble Desktop Classes & Certificate Programs

We offer classes in NYC, but you can also attend them live online. Here are some classes you should check out:

Practice, Practice, Practice

Build sites, lots of them. Bang out a few small sites. Start each one from scratch for the practice of setting things up. Start simple, and get more complex later. If you try to do all the complex stuff on your first site you can get frustrated and are more likely to get discouraged. Try to get freelance projects from friends, family, and colleagues.

Useful Free Resources

Learn more in these courses

  • Web Design Classes
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