HTML vs. CSS: What’s the Difference?

A detailed look at the use cases of HTML and CSS and the advantages and disadvantages of learning each of these popular coding languages.
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HTML and CSS are both languages used by coders to create web pages. While they work hand-in-hand, they have different roles in web page development. Here is a more detailed comparison of the two.

When to use HTML

HyperText Markup Language is used by coders to create web pages and web applications. It provides the structure for the content on a web page and electronic documents. Paragraphs, bulleted lists, data tables, and images are determined by the way the HTML is written. This markup language uses elements to group and enclose the code. These elements tell the browser how to read the text. The text is then properly structured on the web page(s) and images are correctly loaded. HTML tells the browser how to display the text. The hypertext concept allows for hyperlinks to be embedded in the code and direct users to other pages, meaning it is also used for internet navigation. With the update of HTML5, game development is now possible with HTML when combined with CSS and Java. The language can also be used in email marketing. Plain text is often preferred in some email campaigns. HTML is often called the bones of the web page while CSS is the skin. 

Here is a sample of code:

When to use CSS

Cascading Style Sheets are used to change the appearance of a web page. CSS dictates the style of a page including background color, font style and size. It is responsible for the presentation and layout of the web page. Animations and effects can also be added with its use. CSS can be used within a HTML document, so the applications go hand in hand. Uniquely, it can be implemented three different ways: internally, externally, or inline. Each method has its own advantages and disadvantages


Here is a sample of code:

HistoryDeveloped in 1989 when Tim Berners-Lee created the internet.Developed in 1996 by Hakom Lie and Bert Bos.
Type of LanguageMarkup languageStyle sheet language
Use on Web PagesProvides the structure for content.Provides the style of the page.
Current Standard VersionHTML5CSS 2.1
FormatTags surround contentCombination of selectors with declaration blocks
DependencyCan not be used in style sheets.Can be used in any XML-based markup language
Community SupportLarge and establishedLarge and established

Advantages and Disadvantages of HTML and CSS

Are you a coder trying to decide if you should learn HTML, CSS, or both? Here are some advantages and disadvantages of each for your consideration.

What are the advantages of HTML?

  • It is easy to learn – Syntax is clear making this language easy to learn and read. It is also not case-sensitive, although using lower-case letters for tags is preferred for consistency. 
  • It can be used with multiple languages – As a markup language, HTML can also be used in conjunction with programming languages such as Python or R
  • It is platform-independent – This markup language can be used with any platform including Microsoft, Linux, and Mac.
  • The language has a large and supportive community – Forums, groups, and communities are established to support HTML users with any questions they have.
  • It is free to use – Since it is free to use, coders can work with the language on their own.
  • The latest version, HTML5 allows for client-side storage of browser data and more capabilities than ever before – This latest version allows users to save browsing data and more.

What are the disadvantages of HTML?

  • It can be difficult to master – While basic HTML is relatively easy to learn, the latest version, HTML5, has made it more complicated to master since it has so many capabilities.
  • It has limited security – Security is not written into the code itself so security support is needed.
  • It is a static language – This makes it difficult to change and requires a professional developer to change all related lines of code.
  • Technical progress is slow – While changes have been made to the language, new versions and updates do not happen often.

What are the advantages of CSS?

  • It is simple to learn and maintain – One line of code change can change a whole website, making it not very complex and also easy to make adjustments.
  • Improves the speed of websites and individual web page loading time – Only a few lines are needed to make changes to pages which helps speed.
  • It is compatible with a variety of devices – The code can be used to specify designs on different devices and screen sizes.
  • Has a large and supportive community – A variety of forums and communities are available for support in learning and coding CSS.
  • Supports offline browsing – Chrome, Safari, Firefox, and more all have versions that support CSS offline browsing.

What are the disadvantages of CSS?

  • The language does not consider security – Security features are not written into CSS.
  • Does not interact with databases – Further coding is needed in order to connect CSS to databases.
  • There are multiple levels of CSS – This can be confusing for beginners and also causes issues when crossing browsers.
  • Can be messy and create code complications – Cascading Styling Sheets can interact differently depending on the browser and cause frustration since when code is adjusted, other layout features may be affected. 

Should I learn both HTML and CSS?

HTML is the base language for structure in the world wide web and thus should be one of the first classes for anyone in web development. In order for web pages to be more user-friendly and aesthetically pleasing, CSS is needed for coders to create a more appealing design. Since the two languages are so intertwined, many coders recommend that they are learned simultaneously. Even if you want to focus on back-end development, it is helpful to learn CSS. Want to create dynamic web pages? Hypertext Markup Language is needed to organize content before Cascading Styling Sheets can make the information attractive. Whether you want to focus on front-end or back-end development, knowing how the two languages work together will only make you a more comprehensive and desirable programmer.

Career Opportunities 

Career/Job titles for HTML and Salary

Since HTML and CSS are so intertwined, they are skills that are useful for similar 

jobs. With essentially every website on the Worldwide Web using both languages, they are in high-demand and tech workers with these skills are well compensated. The average salaries from Indeed.com for popular careers requiring these skills are reported in the table below.

Career FieldAverage Salary
Software Developer$105,738
Business Analyst$77,130
Java Developer$103,233
Web Developer$74,699
Software Engineer$107,422
Front-end Developer$106,660

Career/Job titles for CSS and salary

Like HTML, CSS careers are commonly on the front-end of web development and are in high demand. Once again, indeed.com has provided the average salary for related careers, shown in the table below.

Career FieldAverage Salary
Front-end Developer$106,660
Web Developer$74,699
UX Designer$98,002

HTML and CSS, along with JavaScript are considered the three building blocks of web design. If you are interested in any career that is involved in the front-end of development, learning how to code in both languages will be beneficial for your future career choice. Additionally, learning these skills can make it easier to learn other coding languages.

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