If your purpose is to simply display static information on your web page, HTML and CSS are all you need. But if you really want to unleash the power of your site, you must learn a server side scripting language.
What is a server side scripting language? It is a computer programming language that runs behind the scenes. It does things such as allow you to dynamically change the content of your page based upon the user. It also allows you to interact with a database, which is a necessity for most modern websites . The question we need to answer is which scripting language to begin learning?
As a beginning developer, I would limit my choice between Microsoft’s ASP.NET and PHP. There are other languages available, but start with one of the more popular languages. For the most part, the amount of documentation available for those languages will be more readily available.
PHP is an open source scripting language that is used by many websites. For example, Facebook utilizes PHP as its server side scripting language. Also, WordPress uses PHP for its CMS system. Microsoft’s ASP.NET is a proprietary language used by many business websites. Monster.com is an example of a site built upon ASP.NET.
To help you narrow your choice, here is what I would suggest. If your purpose is to create powerful business applications, I would recommend ASP.NET. That does not mean that ASP.NET is only for business use, though. There are several benefits of ASP.NET. First, Microsoft has provided very good instructional material on the web. Check out the ASP.NET site for information and instructional videos. Another advantage of Microsoft’s product is that .NET is much more that a language. It is a complete development platform that you can use to create not only web applications, but desktop, hand-held and cloud applications as well. Check out MSDN for more information.
If your interest is in creating small to mid-sized websites or blogs, or you just have a slat towards open source technologies, I would recommend leaning PHP for your first scripting language. PHP is an open source technology and one advantage of open source technologies is cost. In general, open source technologies can be less expensive to develop and host. Microsoft allows you to develop applications for free up to a certain point. Also, .NET hosting is often more expensive than open source hosting. PHP also has documentation, which can be found on the PHP site. You can also look on the w3schools site for tutorials.
Look at both languages before choosing one, but only choose one scripting language to learn in the beginning. At some point, you will most likely want to expand and learn other languages as you progress in your skills. Keep it simple in the beginning and you will find the learning process much easier.