Chapter 1 Preliminaries

We begin our journey into web development by introducing the concept of the web, and why it was invented. We will then continue with some context for today’s ecosystem of development tools such as build utilities, version control systems, and the tools found in modern browsers that aid in the development of web applications. In this chapter, we will also discuss a few web frameworks that are widely used today, and hopefully it will give you a glimpse of what you can expect to learn as chapters are added to this book. We’ll then look at what you need to install on your computer to get started developing websites and applications.

1.1 A BriefHistory of the Web

It all began with sir Tim Berners-Lee, a British computer scientist. He began by envisioning a way in which scientific research could be shared easily; at the time, documents were not accessible from one computer to another. Thus, he thought of the idea of the World Wide Web, and the HyperText Markup Language in particular. In the year 1990, Tim Berners-Lee invented the language HTML, the HyperText protocol (which is a convention used to transfer HTML from one computer to another), and HTML editors and a browser, as well as a web server.

As demands for web technologies was changing, new languages for the web entered the scene. Håkon Wium Lie who worked at CERN began his work on CSS. You see, HTML provides “default” look for paragraphs, links, and any other element of a web page. People who needed to customize their pages needed more, and this is what CSS offers. It offers a way to style documents such that each conveys the purpose for their creation. A newspaper could look like a newspaper; a contact form could look like a contact form.

Later on, JavaScript entered the scene two years after CSS. JavaScript provided a way for web developers to create interactivity for their pages. A decade later, people realized that they could write applications that everyone could use; some were doing it already (one example being Google). So, new standards were needed, and HTML 5 was developed. It introduced accessibility tags and attributes for HTML, media tags, and graphics. These new standards make it possible for the web to be used as the perfect cross-platform programming environment. Now, the web became the cloud, as services such as operating systems, word processors, and other types of systems are offered as an application written in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. They are “served” using other programming languages such as PHP, C-Sharp, Java, and new ones such as Go and Rust.

1.2 Where we are Today

We are living during times where the web has become the cloud. More and more applications are placed in huge computers known as servers, and very little is installed on the user’s end. Over the years, many code packages known as libraries have been developed to ease the design of user interfaces such as contact forms or even help manuals. Many tools for managing different versions of software have been made to save memory and time for software developers. The web has become the best cross-platform tool for developing software. The web is not going anywhere any time soon, and the field is only growing as the days pass by. Therefore, the web is a promising field for blind people to develop a talent.

1.3 JavaScript Development Tools

In this section, we want to tell you about some tools used by web developers. These are written in the JavaScript programming language and other system languages such as C and C++. The purposes of these tools range from building web projects, testing small code fragments, and even developing for web servers, to automating complex tasks, and managing code libraries. Although we’ll encourage you to download some of these tools in this section, don’t worry if you wish to skip the downloading process at this time. When these tools are referenced throughout this book, we’ll make sure to include link to these tools, so you don’t have to refer to this section later. In fact, we recommend that you first read a chapter to get a full picture of the activities you may need to do. Then, you may go back and follow such activities. Having said that, let’s begin by looking at one tool that has become essential in the web development community.

Node JS

Node JS is a tool used via the commandline, and it allows us to install code and other commandline tools written by others. We’d like to give you the opportunity to download Node JS here. This will be the most foundational tool we will use to test JavaScript code, and automate our builds, among other things.

Visual Studio Code

This is a professional text editor that allows us to have multiple files open in different tabs. This is useful when we want to switch between writing HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. We encourage you to download Visual Studio Code at this time, since this is another tool we’ll use later on as you progress through this book. This text editor is extensible, meaning that you can install packages that enhance the capabilities that come with it. You can even write your own extensions for it.

Grunt and Gulp

Grunt and Gulp are tools that allow us to automate tasks such as the compression of JavaScript files, and a process called concatination, where two or more files are merged into one, in order to improve delivery of our sites and applications. You may also include tasks that aid in the building of user help manuals, also known as software documentation. You may take a look at Gulp JS here, and you may also look at Grunt here.


Git is known as a version control system, which keeps track of your source code. It is able to role back to a particular version if you happen to make crucial mistakes. It also supports branches, which you can create if you need to add features without touching working, production code which is located in the master branch. You may take a look at Git here.

Git Hub

Git Hub can be thought of as the social networking site for web and other types of software developers to collaborate on a particular project. You may check out Git Hub using this link.

There are other tools specific to JavaScript, but we’ll cover them in appropriate chapters. For now, let’s look at what are known as frameworks, which bundle many capabilities in order to save time for web developers.

1.4 CSS and JavaScript Frameworks and Libraries

Imagine having to develop a particular component of an application over and over again. Furthermore, imagine having to copy and paste code throughout your own codebases, making it harder to maintain them. The frameworks we’ll mention here aid in eliminating such situations, and they can help you develop sites and applications quickly. These frameworks include utilities that would take a lot of time if you were to develop them yourself. Now, there are particular cases where frameworks would be an overkill, but most production software incorporate them. We recommend that you use these frameworks after learning HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, especially if you decide to create a business out of your web development skills. People reach to these frameworks when they are low on time, and would like to deliver products as fast as possible.

J Query

J Query is a library developed by John Resig, a respected person in his field. You may read about J Query here. This library was developed at a time when web development was a painful endeavor, as web browser developers would create their own way of adding functions for acting on particular events such as clicks or key presses. J Query would present developers with a single command they can call to add code to take actions when such events occurred in their applications. Now, J Query is not as popular anymore, but since people used to incorporate it heavily, it is still a tool worth learning, since you may need to maintain one of the systems that use it.


Bootstrap is a CSS framework that aids in the creation of applications and sites that incorporate elements such as buttons, text boxes, forms, and check boxes, among other controls. It uses a grid system where each row has twelve columns, perfect for blind developers to use! You may look at bootstrap here.


This is another CSS framework, which is similar to Bootstrap. However, this framework incorporates material design, a technique invented by Google. You can check out Materialize using this link.

Reactand Vue

Let’s add to the excitement by introducing you to React, a modern framework that aids in the development of single-page applications, a technique in which users can stay on one page to utilize an entire application. You can provide links to add for a settings section, a viewing section for business applications, and more, without having to wait for another page to load. This is convenient for users who need to view your software using a mobile device. You may read about React here.

A competitor to React is Vue. Vue is also a tool for writing fast, single-page applications. You can check out Vue here.


Svelte is a direct competitor to React and Vue. However, Svelte has the capability of updating the components of your application quickly. It let’s you combine HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, as long as the code is related to the visual aspects of your application components. All of the code you write is placed into a file with the .svelte extension. Much of the work needed to be done in the web browser is done when the Svelte tool translate your .svelte file to proper HTML, CSS, and JavaScript files. You may read about Svelte here.


Angular is used for enterprise-level applications, and developing with it is more involved. It is written using the TypeScript programming language, which is similar to JavaScript, but with additional features that check for certain qualities that prevent errors regarding the type of information your applications need. You may read about Angular here. It is worth noting that Angular includes much more than utilities that aid in the visual aspects of applications. It includes, for example, a third-party code library that has a certain way of manipulating data.

We could have started by using some of these frameworks, but they always change, and new ones are constantly being cooked up. For this reason, we begin with the fundamentals; they may change in many ways, but HTML, CSS, and JavaScript are here to stay, and have been the standards of the web for a very, very long time. Knowing about these fundamentals will perhaps place you in a role where you are able to contribute to some of these frameworks, perhaps. We’d love for you to be able to do this; just make sure to tell us about it so we can celebrate.

1.5 What We’ll Build and Getting Set up

Throughout this book, we’ll have sections that will ask you to build a project relating to a fictional artificial intelligence, web development, and robotics company we created for the purposes of this book. It’s name is Omega AI. We’ll pose a situation where there is a problem that you solve using the projects we build. Several of the chapters will include some aspect of these project; not all of them are going to be built at once. Also, the projects will introduce you to concepts known and utilized in the project management side of software development. We believe you should not only take away web development knowledge, but we’d love it if you become a well-rounded software engineer altogether. For this reason, our projects will range from building a simple section of a website, to making it look like a landing page. From adding code to a JavaScript file that will do something, to documenting it and add tests to verify that a particular code fragment works. For these projects, we’ll use some tools we suggest for you to have on your computer. If you already have a tool of choice, you may replace our suggestions with something that you know it works, as long as that tool supports facilities for web and other types of software development.

Setting up

Our first tool we’ll need is Visual Studio Code. This tool can be downloaded from this site.

Another tool we’ll need is Node JS, which can be obtained using this link. This will help us write JavaScript code, test it, and install other tools that will build, test, or document our code. (We’ll install those other utilities as needed.)

A third tool we need is git, which will help us keep track of all of the versions of a particular project. This tool can be downloaded from here.

A final tool we need is a website, actually. You need to create an account on Git Hub. This tool will help collaborate with other software developers, as well as work on the incomplete code we give you. You can also host your own projects using this site.

Keep in mind that we don’t assume you know how to use these tools, or even how to configure them. We just want you to have them installed on your system, ready to fire them when we cover them.

1.6 Summary

We looked at a short history of the web. Then, we considered topics related to the state of the web today, and which tools and frameworks are being used. In the next chapter, we’ll look at HTML. We’ll begin with a subset of HTML that helps you with displaying content such as articles and headings.