Although it may seem relatively out of the sphere of digital marketing, coding is immensely important to the digital realm as it is involved in the makeup of virtually all digital content. With the exponential growth in computer technology, savvy computer programmers are in high demand. There is even a strong belief that basic computer programming and coding classes should be a requirement in schools and that everyone should have some amount of coding knowledge. In a growing future of digital content and information technology, it is not surprising to me that this is becoming the norm. With all of this in mind, it seems to me that it might be worth some time to briefly explore the topic of source coding.
What exactly are we talking about here?
Source code is the brick and mortar of digital content, whether it be websites, emails, or applications. Without it, there would be no digital content, the internet would not exist as we know it, and you would not be able to read this blog post as you are now. Source code is made up of different programming languages that create the information that tells a website how to express itself to a viewer. When you see a beautiful website, blog, or application, you are looking at the result of a combination of sophisticated programming languages ordered in just the right way to bring you coherent and aesthetically pleasing content. Coding is the act of creating digital content using computer code programming languages such as HTML, Java, and CSS. These languages can be read by both the computer hardware and human programmers, allowing developers and IT personnel to communicate with the computer, telling it how to present digital content.
The Importance of Coding
So, coding is clearly important, but why is it a good skill to have as a digital marketer? Well for one, if you want to change a piece of digital content on the fly, having some coding knowledge saves you the time of having to call up and wait on the IT guy to make the change for you. It cuts out the middle man, and you know that they say… “If you want something done right, you got to do it yourself.” Therefore, it not only saves you time, but it allows you to make the change exactly how you want it, without the possibility of confusion and miscommunication with the IT department, which could possibly result in a wrong or incomplete change. It is also important to know coding for certain SEO and digital analytics tasks. With Google Analytics, for example, you must install a particular tracking code into the source code of all of your webpages and digital content. Having a basic knowledge of coding, makes performing tasks like these much easier. Based on analytics data that is collected, knowing how the source code of your page may be affecting conversions can help you pinpoint exactly where and how to make a change to a webpage in order to optimize company goals, once again, without trying to explain it to a middle man. Such is the case in understanding and manipulating source code in order to conduct A/B tests. It all goes back to making the right changes and knowing how it is done. With all of this in mind, an effective and savvy digital marketer should have at least a basic, if not intermediate, knowledge of source code because it will allow them to achieve their goals more quickly and efficiently.
In the interest of gaining some basic coding knowledge, myself, I began the HTML and CSS course offered online by Codecademy, one of the most famous free online coding courses. I spent about two hours learning the basics of HTML and got about 17% through the course. 17% doesn’t seem like much, but I felt like I learned a lot in the time that I did spend navigating through the lessons. For me, taking this course was not about a race to the finish, but instead a steady attempt to learn a basic and important skill. Overall, I was pleased with the interface and the bite-sized instructions that each lesson provides. One of the best qualities of Codecademy is the interface that displays and live updates what your website looks like as you change the source code in the adjacent window. This made it easy to see how each piece of source code, or lack thereof, can directly affect the structure and look of a webpage. Even based on my limited experience with Codecademy, I would highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in learning how to code. It’s easy, engaging, kinda fun, and it has a progress bar! The below pictures display some of my progress.
After trying my hand at learning some basic coding on Codecademy, I began creating a fake e-commerce page on Squarespace. Squarespace is an online software program that allows you to create your own website. It bypasses basic source code by allowing the user to interact with a more simple and intuitive interface. I played around with this program for awhile, adding content, inserting pictures, changing font colors, and moving pieces of content around. Unfortunately, I was unable to figure out how to include a link to my site without upgrading to a payed Squarespace account, but the following pictures should give you a short glimpse of my small creation.
As you can see, I was able to arguably accomplish quite a lot and make my site look nice in a short amount of time. The ability to create an aesthetically pleasing website in a relatively short time frame was definitely one of the positives of using Squarespace. Most of this has to do with the wide variety of website templates that the program offers. I found the templates to be quite helpful in allowing me to figure out how I should arrange my site. Overall, navigating through the program and manipulating my website was pretty intuitive. Hovering my mouse over different sections of the webpage would display different actions that I could take. A pane on the left of the interface displayed a simple menu that offered more in-depth actions. On the flip side of all this, there were a few moments, however brief, where I felt slightly overwhelmed with the amount of possible actions that I could take. This left me a little disoriented and and confused a few times, but my overall experience with the program was not dominated by this feeling. My only real complaint was that there did not seem to be an “undo” button whenever I completed a wrong action. This was rather frustrating because it would take me much longer to fix a problem whenever I had made one, but this was a relatively minor issue that I encountered. It is also entirely possible that I completely overlooked the “undo” button, but even so, the program was not intuitive enough in that specific area for me to find it. Considering my short experience with the program as a whole, I felt that the positives of using Squarespace greatly outnumbered the negatives that I encountered.
No doubt, Squarespace is a powerful web design tool that combines an intuitive interface with a vast wealth of opportunities for customization. For these reasons, I would definitely recommend Squarespace to anyone who is interested in developing a website. And who knows? Maybe I’ll be using it in my future as I become an entrepreneur and establish my own consumer electronics business in Alabama.