BlogHeikki Pieniniemi 23.09.2015

What a Marketer Needs to Understand About Web Programming 

Customer experience development Creative content Digital marketing Marketing optimization Marketing technologies

Basic knowledge of web programming can help a marketer come up with creative ideas that are technically feasible and effective in achieving marketing goals. Understanding how websites work can help a marketer optimize for user experience, SEO, load times, and other aspects that can affect the success of marketing efforts. 
Understanding programming often improves communication between the marketer and the web development team. By understanding their language, a marketer can accurately articulate what they need and understand the challenges that developers might face in certain features. If a problem arises on the website, such as a broken link or a broken form, a marketer who knows the basics of programming can identify the problem and sometimes even fix minor problems on their own, without waiting for the help of the technical team. 

Programming knowledge can be useful for data analysis. Knowledge of languages such as Python or R can be very useful when working with large amounts of data, as it allows for more detailed and customizable analysis. 

So, a marketer doesn’t have to become a full-fledged programmer, but a basic understanding can definitely add value to the role and the entire marketing process. 

Top 4 things about web programming for a marketer 

1. Front-end and back-end 

Every website has two sides – front-end and back-end. They are also referred to as “browser side” and “server side”. Front-end refers to all the code that runs in a web browser – that is, in front of your eyes when you access the page. Front-end includes, for example, page structure (html), layout (css) and browser functionalities (javascript). 

Back-end, on the other hand, refers to code that runs on the site’s server – for example, in your company’s server room or cloud service. For example, things like form processing, logging in and checking passwords, system integrations and database processing take place here. 

Why is this important? Because when buying a new online service, the front-end and back-end have a significant impact on the price, size and duration of the project. A site consisting mainly of a front-end – no matter how nice and visual it is – is always a simpler and more compact project than a site that requires a large back-end that involves, for example, system integrations. So if you can identify whether your site’s renewal needs are mainly back-end or front-end, you’re already one step further ahead. 

2. The browser interprets the code – in its own way 

Why do websites look different in different browsers? When you open the same webpage in Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, or Safari, you can usually notice slight differences in the layout of the page. The older the browsers used, the more different the pages often look. In particular, old Internet Explorer browsers can look like a much more boring and simple version of a modern web page. 

This is because when creating the layout of a website, the coder actually only writes “instructions” to the web browser to build the page. The final work is done by the browser and may have a different idea. A skilled coder always tests the site with several different browsers, but sometimes old browsers simply do not have the competence to understand modern web technology. Compromises will then have to be made. It’s not always appropriate to optimize a page for a browser that is used by less than one percent of the target audience. 

It is not at all necessary for the site to look exactly the same in all browsers – the most important thing is that the user experience of the site is good and pleasant. Not forgetting mobile browsers! 

3. Open or closed system? 

Drupal, WordPress, Joomla… What system do you log in to when you update the site? There are differences between publishing systems, and most of the time you want to choose the one that looks good and is comfortable to use. But you don’t buy a car just for the upholstery – what you find under the hood also matters. In the end, a content management system is just a pile of code – and it doesn’t matter what kind. 

The already mentioned Drupal, WordPress and Joomla – and many others – are open source software. This means that developing these software is free and possible for anyone. In other words, they are not owned exclusively by any particular software company – such as Microsoft – but are, in a way, the common property of the coding community. For this reason, popular open source publishing systems are usually a safe choice. It’s easy to find competent technical support for them, and you don’t commit to one supplier. 

Many software companies also have their own publishing platforms, which can range in quality from lousy to brilliant, but by committing to them, you always commit to the vendor in question. If you want to change the developer of a site, it typically means recoding the entire site, which is an expensive and time-consuming project. If, on the other hand, your site is built on an open source platform, it can be transferred as such to a new vendor without changing the platform. 

(Sometimes a “closed” CMS can also be a meaningful choice – as long as you’re sure what you’re committing to and know what you’re buying). 

4. Take a peek into the source code 

Have you ever glanced at your site’s source code?  
It happens like this: click on the browser window with the right mouse button and select “View source” / “View source” from the menu that opens. This opens the source code of the site in a new tab or window, which admittedly may look like a mess.  

By studying the source code more closely, you will see that there you can find all the content of your site in html format. For example, a page title might look like this: <h1>Title</h1>. So when you update a page, you code yourself – the CMS just modifies the content for you in html. 

Understanding the most common html formatting is useful for anyone working with web pages. The next time you update content on a website, select HTML view from your CMS (if possible) instead of the traditional editor. 

More on topic