by Steven Snell
I had been involved with web design for a few years before I ever started blogging. In my opinion, being able to work with the code of a blog is a huge advantage that many bloggers choose not to pursue.
Aside form the design aspect of creating an attractive blog, being able to work with the coding will allow you to make changes and adjustments to your blog any time you want, rather than relying on a professional to do it for you, or rather than just limiting yourself to what’s available with the theme you have chosen.
Most blogs need a bit of customization from time-to-time, and for someone who has no experience with HTML or CSS this be a bit intimidating. However, if you’re working with WordPress you really only need a basic knowledge in order to make many of the customizations that you would like, and you don’t even need to know PHP in most cases (those who aren’t comfortable with PHP just need to be able to recognize it and avoid it when making changes to the HTML).
In my opinion, more bloggers should pursue a basic understanding of HTML and CSS, two coding languages that are relatively easy to learn. Here are just some of the reasons for you to make the time to learn more about HTML and CSS.
1 – Saves you money
If you are paying someone else to make changes to your blog or to design your theme, you could save some money if you learn how to do these things yourself. Even after gaining some knowledge you may still want to pay for a professional theme or for some more advanced work, but many of the common changes made by bloggers can be achieved pretty easily without requiring a lot of skill and experience.
2 – Opens up new opportunities
If you’re relying on others to do the work for you, or for other themes to include the elements that you want, you’ll never be able to take advantage of all of the ideas that you would like to be able to implement at your blog. By being able to work with the code you can put your ideas into practice quickly with little investment.
3 – Upgrading WordPress
If you’ve been using WordPress for a while you have probably had to go through the process of upgrading, or else you have been putting it off out of fear of potential complications. While upgrading shouldn’t cause any trouble, you’ll probably have much more confidence if you are comfortable with the files involved and not so afraid of a minor issue arising. If you’re avoiding upgrading for a long-period of time (a lot of bloggers choose not to upgrade immediately due to stability issues) you are probably taking serious security risks.
4 – Working with plugins
One of the great benefits to using WordPress is the huge number of great plugins that are available. However, not all of them are simple to install and put into action. Some plugins will require you to make some minor changes to one or more of the files, which can be a tall task if you’re not comfortable with the files in the first place. In addition to installing plugins, you may run into bugs from time-to-time with different plugins, and again, knowing a bit about the code can really help to get these problems fixed quickly.
5 – Changes to sidebar
Whether you want to change you entire theme or not, you will most likely want to make some minor changes to your sidebar every now and then. Widgetized themes make some modifications possible without editing the code, but you’re not completely able to do whatever you want with widgets. Sidebar changes can make a big difference to the usability and effectiveness of your blog, so you may want to experiment and test with some different choices. By making some changes in the sidebar files you can quickly and easily make sizable improvements to your blog.
6 – Get creative
Most bloggers get stuck in the rut of just publishing posts. If you’re able and willing to get involved with the code there is really no limit to what you can do with your blog. Just about anything is possible if you’re willing to take the time to learn.
Recommended Resources for Learning:
If you’re already familiar with basic HTML and CSS and you’re interested in learning more about how WordPress works, the codex is filled with useful information. Some articles that you may want to check out include Using WordPress Themes, Theme Development, CSS for WordPress, and a collection of articles on Lessons on Customizing Template Files.
Fortunately, there are plenty of places to learn about HTML and CSS online. One of the most popular tutorial and learning sites is W3 Schools, which has a number of different tutorials. HTML Dog is another useful resource that is very much worth your time. And About.com also has a decent section on HTML and CSS.
If you are more interested in books, the Visual Quickstart Guide: HTML, XHTML and CSS is a good place to start. Two of my favorite books on CSS are CSS Mastery and Bulletproof Web Design, although both assume a basic knowledge of CSS. Blog Design Solutions is another good choice for WordPress users, although parts of the book are dedicated to other blogging platforms.
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