The Role of HTML & CSS in Web Design

January 25, 2011 • By

If you are thinking about pursuing web design as either a career or a hobby, you must be able to do more than simply design a pretty page. Professional web designers are experts in programming and coding as well. The most talented web designers are those that can adequately balance both their creative and artistic sides with their love of technical coding.

As a web designer, there are plenty of different web design standards one must master. The two most important in the industry today are HTML and CSS. What are these methods all about and how much time and money will you need to invest in order to learn them?

What is HTML?

Since the early days of web design, HTML has been the standard for professional websites. It stands for Hypertext Markup Language and can be quite confusing to someone who has no experience using it. HTML is the language, or code, used to edit and position the text, images, frames and other web page elements. If you go to your web browser and select View and then Source – the code used to design that website is available for anyone to see.

Those who have used HTML will tell you that it is not difficult to learn. There are a few basic tags (codes) a designer has to learn and a simple webpage is at their fingertips. The more complex the HTML, the more you can do with a site.

Efforts have been made to dumb down the process even further so that anyone, even those who have no knowledge of HTML, can create their own website. These are typically called WYSIWYG (What you see if what you get) editors. They allow you to create a webpage without using code and the editor assumes what HTML you need and does the work for you. Some software programs now include an option to convert your document to HTML. These are great tools for newbies. Unfortunately, the processes of guessing what code you need breed mistakes and errors in design that can lead to further frustration.

What is CSS

CSS is a newer animal and is not as familiar to beginning web designers as HTML. CSS was created to allow designers to have even more creativity and control over their designs. Today there is more than just one type of Internet browser to design for and this can be tricky and time consuming for HTML designers. These saves users time, effort and most likely money when they are creating sites. Also, CSS encourages less effort by allowing designers to create style sheets. This means when an edit is made to one page, all other affected changes are automatically made. This keeps designers from having to make multiple edits for large, detailed websites.


CSS is not really taking the place of HTML. It is generally used as an enhancement, not a substitute. HTML is still the perfect type of coding for the main structure of a site.

CSS excels when it comes to how a webpage will look. The outward appearance including backgrounds, colors, content and image placement can all be handled by CSS. Anyone who is familiar with the Microsoft Office version of style sheets has a good handle on the purpose of CSS.

While a webpage can certainly be accomplished still only using HTML, CSS allows designers to do things like set different page margins for all sides of a page, overlap words, better position page elements, and set a font for a whole table instead of just pieces. These make all seem like minor adjustments but these CSS tricks free up time for designers to worry more about overall layout, design and navigation.


There are plenty of places where new designers can go to learn both HTML and CSS. If you are a manual type of student, the library has an abundance of tutorial manuals for these techniques. Any establishment that teaches computers classes will more than likely include these basic web approaches as well for the visual learners.

Of course, many a web designer learned their craft by simply jumping in and messing around. If you have the discipline, this hands-on method of learning is not only effective, but free.

With the popularity of today’s world wide web, it seems like everyone is designing a webpage these days. From the free online editors to full blown ecommerce Internet giants, there is a market and need for web design that is not going away any time soon. Whether you decide to take it slow and target small businesses or get serious and starts designing for large corporations, design fundamentals are the place to start your journey.