Another week another new skill

“So how do you make a website?”….A reasonable question from my eight year son and one which as someone who’s been building websites professionally for 15 years I should be able to answer. At last a question I definately know the answer to!

“Ah, well son they are written in a language called HTML.” “What’s HTML?” “Well, erm its a markup language…”

You get the idea and that was just the start of the next 4 hours which ended up in a completed, but basic website.

Tools for the job

So what are the options when a curious child asks you how to create a website. Certainly I could’ve just opened up a text editor and shown him from scratch but I don’t think that’s going to work for most people. So I decided to find some other options.

My first port of call was to a website called codecademy. Something which I have used myself to learn a programming language in the past. Turns out it’s pretty good for kids to. For those who’ve never seen codecademy before though its a great free website dedicated to teaching coding via its friendly easy to use website. The site currently provides lessons in many of the popular programming languages used on the web today including HTML/CSS, Javascript, JQuery, PHP, Ruby and Python. For the non-technical among us those names may be meaningless to you, so you’ll have to take my word for it they are all good current/modern languages predominantly used to build websites today. Each subject on the site is covered by a number of tracks which are themselves broken down into small bite sized courses. Once registered with the site you can take the courses at your own pace and easily see your progress as you go.

Back to HTML

The main starting point for learning about websites and how they are built is a lesson (track) starting here. My son found the first lessons fairly straight forward most of the time but did get stuck occasionally. Usually though his issues were more about how difficult he found the typing rather than the task itself. During his first stint on the site he was able to create a basic webpage on to which he could add links and images. In the end he had created his own page which had a few links and a picture on.

My one critism of codecademy is that there was no way upload images before attempting to put them on a page. The lesson assumed that you had images already available and hosted somewhere. I guess if you stick to using images from other websites and linking to them directly this is ok. Obviously though you could never use them like this for a real live website. Also this is a pretty complicated thing to describe to an eight year old, I suspect most non-technical adults would also struggle here.

Is eight to young then?

Overall then I’d say no…if you have a bright child who’s willing to learn then eight is a fine age to start writing your own webpages. What was clear was that the most difficult bit about the process was the typing. I can’t really see how you could build a webpage (from source) without knowing how to type. Another reason why typing skills are as important these days as handwriting.

I can’t wait to see what happens when he continues with the rest of the exercises on codecademy.