From The Blog

CMS, HTML, CSS, PHP, JS…. WTF? Know the language of user love!

cartoon computer showing web language acronyms

HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) – The structure of the website.  Content and core elements of a website are placed in the right spot using HTML. Hand coded, static HTML sites (ones that do not use a CMS like Wordpress) code the content into the site.  So it’s there and cannot be changed without the help of an HTML coder.  Without all the “Wordpress code” in there, the site tends to be “clean” and fast and very easy for Google to navigate.  Google likes this.  But the downside is paying your coder every time you want to make a tiny change to content!  If you want something “added” to your site, you can’t just “plug it in and go” like you can using Wordpress or a similar CMS, you need to get it hard-coded in.  This is very, very expensive. 

CSS (Cascading Style Sheet) – Your CSS does the pretty stuff on the website. It’s a “layout language”.  HTML will tell the browser where headers and paragraphs stop and start – CSS will make them have that lovely font you like so much with that colour that you have in your logo.  CSS changes the look and feel of elements placed in the HTML and it applies your design plan to every page, a single document or to a subset of documents on your site – hence the “cascade” in cascading style sheet.   

website showing the difference between css and non-css

CSS vs Non-CSS

JS (JavaScript) –  JavaScript is added to your HTML to make specific things happen.  It’s about functionality.  When a user does something, JavaScript triggers something else to happen.  So for example, you click on a “ask a question” link, and a message window opens up and connects with a customer service assistant. Put simply, it does the interactive stuff for the users.   

Check out a rather cool example here.  

If you want cool stuff that grabs the user on your website, it will be done in JS or one of its competitors.  User experience stuff is handled by JavaScript. 

PHP (Hypertext PreProcessor) – This gives the same view but with different information for every user.  It is used for managing the website’s “database”.  It’s fast which Google likes.  Need a member loyalty program or a log in area where people can chat in forums?  This is done by PHP or one of its competitors.  Put simply, it does the tricky stuff for the website – JS is frontend, PHP is backend and they go together like peas and carrots. 

 So wait, I use Wordpress – it’s not mentioned here? 

CMS (Content Management System) – Popular CMS options like Wordpress and Squarespace are actually content databases that allow you to store and retrieve content as you need it.  It gives you easy access to create and upload web pages and to make changes to the content that you put on your blog or on pages on your website.

WordPress uses php to manage, update and display the content from the database (and is not dependent on anything extra like plugins).  Wordpress is easy to use and so powerful that around a quarter of all websites on earth are created using it.  A Wordpress website will use HTML, CSS and depending on what you want to do and the plugins you install, Javascript, PHP and their “competitors”.   So Wordpress isn’t a way to code websites, it’s a way to manage the content that goes onto the site.  Wordpress Themes are sets of pre-coded files where the HTML, CSS and other scripts are already in place. Once installed, these files give the front end of a Wordpress site a preset structure and design. All you need to do is customise and upload to the internet.

WordPress Plugins are pieces of code (using the appropriate language) that can be inserted into your website with a single click.  This is the benefit of using the CMS – it’s so cheap and quick!