Every website you visit today uses a wide variety of programming, markup, scripting, and query languages to deliver content you can easily access with the click of a mouse. They all work together toward a common goal — presenting information that’s useful, entertaining, or informative. As the World Wide Web has evolved over the past decades, there are more and more languages developers use to accomplish this task. So what about SQL vs. HTML?
Two useful web development languages you consume every day without realizing it are the HyperText Markup Language (HTML) and Structured Query Language (SQL). If you’re looking for some answers about which language is most useful, you’ve come to the right place. In today’s comparison, we’ll explore these languages to find out how they are used and how they perform, and we’ll also learn some must-know facts. Let’s get into it!
SQL vs. HTML: Side-By-Side Comparison
|Donald Chamberlin and Raymond Boyce
|Type of language
|Communicates with relational databases
|Describes web page structure
|Runs on web server
|Runs on web browser
|Entity Framework, SQLAlchemy, NHibernate
|Bootstrap, HTML5 Boilerplate, Skeleton
|(varies with server)
SQL vs. HTML: What’s the Difference?
Both SQL and HTML are languages used in most of the websites you consume daily. Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram all use both these languages to deliver your favorite content. However, they accomplish distinctly different tasks that most modern websites all need to achieve. What do we mean by this? Let’s break it down.
SQL’s main function is to communicate with relational databases. It is a server-side query language that allows web developers to set up, initialize, and update the database a website needs to carry out certain tasks. Some of those tasks include user registration and login, image storage and retrieval, and document storage and retrieval. Put simply, it’s what allows us to save and retrieve data stored on the web server.
Logging into your social media accounts? You’re most likely interacting with a SQL database.
Behind the website you’re viewing right now, is a skeleton of HTML code.
The syntax for SQL is fairly easy to learn, as it is based on the English language. Each statement in SQL starts with a verb that describes the action you want to perform on the database. Some of the most widely used commands in SQL are the following:
- SELECT: This allows you to select data from a specific table for displaying on a web page.
- INSERT: This will add information into a database table.
- UPDATE: This command allows you to modify information in the database.
- DELETE: This will delete data from the database.
- CREATE: This command creates a new table in a database.
HTML isn’t as straightforward but is actually easier to learn despite this. It requires the use of tags, elements, and attributes that work together to structure the information on the page. Here is an example of some code that would display a top-level heading on a web page:
<H1>Welcome to My Web Page</H1>
This tells the browser to display the text between the tags in a large heading. Many (but not all) HTML tags require them to be closed once you no longer need them. In this example, if we didn’t close the H1 tag with </H1>, the entire page would look like one big heading.
SQL primarily runs on a web server, such as Apache, Nginx, or Internet Information Services (IIS), which are the top three web servers on the market right now. However, to use SQL, you also need to have an SQL server installed. There are several options to choose from, and there are also many open-source options out there if you’re looking for SQL server software at no cost.
Some of the most popular options for SQL servers are the following:
- Microsoft SQL Server
However, since HTML is a client-facing markup language, it runs on web browsers, including Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Safari, and more. On most modern websites, you’ll also see HTML paired with CSS, which allows front-end developers to add a wide variety of design elements to their HTML tags. For instance, whenever you see a different font face, font size, or font color, CSS is responsible for telling the HTML document to style it that way. The CSS is set up in a separate document, with the HTML file pointing to the CSS file.
The performance of your SQL code relies heavily on the way you design your database. So it is critical to understand the foundations of relational databases before putting your code into production. However, there are ways you can improve your database’s performance after it’s been implemented into an app or a website:
- Always choose the best data type for your tables. Understanding the use cases for each data type will help you make the best choices when designing your database.
- Avoid data types that use more resources than necessary. Two examples of data types in SQL that should be avoided if necessary are NCHAR (stores fixed-length character data) and NVARCHAR (stores up to 255 bytes of text data) because they take twice the amount of memory as their counterparts do.
- Try not to use NULL in fixed-length fields, because they take up the same amount of memory regardless of whether there’s a value there or not. If you’re thinking about using NULL in any of your tables, it’s better to go with a variable-length field instead. This way, you can save memory and also optimize your database storage.
- Another thing to keep in mind is to avoid using wildcards in SELECT statements. When you do this, your SQL server has to figure out what the wildcard refers to before it can execute the statement, which can slow things down. If you want to speed things up, it’s best to list all the tables you want to search explicitly rather than relying on the wildcard.
HTML’s performance relies heavily on the resources you’re using in your HTML document, especially when you’re dealing with a wide variety of end users who may or may not have limited computing power. So, if your website has a lot of large images and videos embedded in the page, it can slow the loading of the webpage tremendously. For this reason, you can improve the performance of your HTML code by using YouTube to host your video files and ensuring your images have a balance between quality and compression to enhance their loading speed. These performance tweaks can also contribute to improving your search engine optimization (SEO).
When you’re developing websites and databases, you will likely have a need to debug your code to ensure it works as you intended. One essential tool you can use to debug your SQL syntax is through using breakpoints in your code. You can set manual breakpoints that allow you to stop running your code at a specific point to ensure it results in the expected outcome. Then, if your code works as you intended, you can “step through” the next lines of code to analyze how each statement is executing. This process is extremely helpful if you have data that’s not saving to the database correctly because you can see it play out from line to line.
With HTML, however, the best way to debug your code is to see how the page displays in your browser. You can do this easily without publishing it to the web before it’s ready to go live. All browsers have an option in their file menu to open an HTML file that will show you exactly what the page looks like once you publish it. The great thing about this procedure is that web browsers have some powerful tools embedded in their software that allow you to investigate what’s gone wrong with your code.
You can also do the following:
- Check the console for any scripts not executing properly
- Click on an element to highlight the specific code displaying it
- Preview your web page on different size screens, like mobile phones, tablets, and e-book readers
- Try out changes on the CSS code if you have a stylesheet defined
- Look at cookie data
You can access all these powerful tools in most browsers in the tools menu.
SQL vs. HTML: 6 Must-Know Facts
- Though both HTML and SQL can be coded like a programming language (Python, C++, Java, etc.), they are not technically considered programming languages. SQL is considering a query language, while HTML is a markup language.
- Since SQL deals with relational databases, it also needs a server-side programming language to power websites and applications. PHP, Python, C#, Ruby, and Java are examples of programming languages SQL enhances with its relational database capabilities.
- The man who created HTML, Tim Berners-Lee, also invented the world wide web, created the first graphical web browser, developed the protocol that loads web pages (HTTP), and created the first web server. (However, it should also be noted that he wasn’t the only one involved in the development of these projects.)
- SQL was developed at IBM back in the 1970s, decades before the Internet was available to the public.
- Though both SQL and HTML are not hard coding languages to learn, they both have critical fundamentals that need to be understood before you can master them.
- SQL can generate code from a database; however, you can not directly access an SQL database with only HTML code.
SQL vs. HTML: Which One Is Better? Which One Should You Use?
Which is better between SQL vs. HTML? Neither one is better than the other, because, to put it simply, they are used for entirely different tasks. To that end, they are the best available solutions for what they do: HTML is the most popular markup language for building websites, and SQL is the most popular query language for interacting with databases.
If you’ve studied databases at all, you might have heard of this cool thing called NoSQL that’s become a popular alternative to SQL. If you’re dealing with huge amounts of unstructured data or need to scale up your database, NoSQL databases like MongoDB can be a great option that’s different from traditional SQL.
Now, when it comes to HTML, there aren’t really any direct alternatives, but there are some other cool technologies you can use to write it. Check out PUG and HAML — they’re super popular and can be used as preprocessors for HTML, which means you can get more functionality with less code.
No matter which one you go with, starting with HTML is always a good idea. Once you’ve got the basics down and you’re building simple websites, you can add SQL to your toolset to take things up a notch. With SQL, you can create more complex web apps with users, states, and saved data. Before you know it, you’ll have the makings of an incredible website.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©Media Whale Stock/Shutterstock.com.