Javascript is a useful place to start to start if you’ve just finished covering HTML and CSS. When designing websites HTML is used to mark up content, CSS for the styling and then Javascript is used to add interactivity and functionality to a webpage.

Worth having a think about what type of projects you are interested in and then doing some research into what technologies they use. If you’re keen on developing web based applications, worth checking the courses on PHP and Ruby.

JavaScript is essentially a ‘front end’ or ‘client side’ language. Your browser executes the JavaScript in your webpages on your computer. It can be used to modify HTML and styles on the fly, and also uses a method called AJAX to send and receive data from the server. It makes web pages more engaging, easier to use, and overall can vastly increase the end user experience. Due to fairly recent developments, JavaScript can now also be used as a back end or server side language.

Python, Ruby & PHP are all languages that run on the server. The server processes the code and sends the web pages to your browser, compare this to JavaScript, where the code is sent to your browser, and that code produces or modifies the HTML within your browser itself.

There are ‘code snobs’ who will tell you not to touch PHP, and they have their reasons. It is a relatively easy language to learn, but enables you (encourages you) to write some really horrendous code and use bad practices. For someone who doesn’t know any programming though, writing something very badly that works (because it’s easier to do it badly) will give you a far better start and easier leaning curve than languages that don’t allow that and force a much steeper learning curve or barrier to entry.

Having not used Python or Ruby, I can’t recommend which of the three you mention would be best for a beginner, I’d simply say don’t rule out PHP based upon what some other people may tell you.

So JavaScript, or one of the other three? You don’t need to install any software or have access to a webserver to start writing JavaScript that works, this is a big plus. You can’t do this with any of the other languages. However, JavaScript is focussed on an object oriented paradigm. You won’t know what this means at the moment, but it is essential to understand if you want to write effective software in JavaScript. The other three languages also support object oriented programming, but do not enforce it. Why is this important? In computer software, object oriented programming is a relatively new concept. Before this, we all used a paradigm called procedural programming. You don’t need to know what this means at the moment, but I would say that it is far easier to learn how to write software by using procedural programming techniques, and then later progressing to object oriented techniques (or some combination of both). This will be easier to achieve with the latter three languages than JavaScript.

So my recommendation would be PHP, even with the headache of having to install some local software, or having access to a web server. To build great webpages you will need to know JavaScript at some point, I just wouldn’t recommend it as a starting point. I consider it quite a difficult language to learn compared to PHP.