When you consider developing your own website for the very first time, you might be left utterly befuddled by the alphabet soup of programming languages. If you think an ASP is what bit Cleopatra; a .NET is what you catch butterflies with; Ruby and Perl are jewelry; Java is what you get at Starbucks; and Ajax is what you use to clean your sink, here is the beginner’s guide to the top 10 web coding languages.

This one is the granddaddy of them all. Computer users old enough to remember Macintosh’s HyperCard will know that hyperlinkage predates the Web. HyperText Markup Language (HTML) is just a way to describe a page in code so that a browser can display it accurately. One of the most important features of HTML is that it allows a link on a page to launch another page. The link can be embedded within the text, an image, a banner, or pretty well anything else you want. Hyperlinks have freed the world from linear reading by jumping around within content to find the specific information that interests them.
When coding a very complex web page, HTML code can get messy and difficult to sort out. Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) help by separating the content of the document from the presentation code. Many CSS documents have a separate style sheet that is not included in the actual page at all that allows you to make a change to a hundred elements on a page with one simple edit to the style sheet. You can do pretty well anything you want with HTML without resorting to CSS, but it’s much cleaner and loads faster.

This is a programming language that borrows various features from heavy-duty hardcore languages such as C, AWK, Lisp, and others. On the web, Perl often goes hand in hand with CGI, which defines how the data is passed back and forth between the server and the user. Perl’s original use was for text manipulation, but it has since graduated from supporting complex data structures, databases, and the like. Programmers can use Perl to make your website do almost anything.

PHP originated as a collection of Perl utilities and then developed into its own scripting language that produces dynamic web pages when loaded up onto your server. The PHP code is embedded directly into your HTML page, and when it’s interpreted by your server, your website can present your visitor with dynamic and interactive content.

This is another offshoot of Perl. Considered more powerful than its ancestor, it allows for easy implementation of objects that are structures of interacting data methods and fields. Ruby is generally for websites that require very advanced functional elements.

Another object-oriented language that resides on the server and generates dynamic web pages, this one originated by Microsoft. It is included as an integral part of:

This is the Microsoft software framework that your users would have to download onto their own computers first in order to take advantage of its features.

This Visual Basic scripting language is a simple way to perform a fairly lightweight action, such as displaying the time on a web page or running a macro on an application.

If you’ve ever played an interactive game on Facebook or elsewhere on the web, you’ve used Java. This language allows programmers to create interactive content scripts that run equally on any browser and any computer.

This language essentially takes Java and allows it to communicate with the server directly without refreshing the page. The advantages are that the loading time of an entirely new page is eliminated, and there is an inherent “wow” factor when a user clicks on an element, and the page undergoes metamorphosis before their very eyes.

Although the web is filled with exhortations that these languages are easy to learn, you’re far better off concentrating on your online marketing and hiring an experienced programmer who can take a coding test.