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"html" category

What is HTML? - Part 2

21st November 2011
Categories: basics, html

I mentioned in my last tech blog post that HTML had taken a back step from telling browsers how to display content, and that this job had been taken over by CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). But wait! Not so fast! What does HTML do now, and what's good and bad about it?

First then, what does it do?

In the new way of things, HTML allows you to specify and mark up content, leaving CSS to define how the content is displayed.  So for example if I have a menu and some body text, those parts of the page might look like this in HTML:

<div class="menu">
<div class="menuitem"><a href="/">home</a></div>
<div class="menuitem"><a href="/about">about us</a></div>
</div>
<div class="bodytext">
We are a fabulous company selling t-shirts of all sizes
</div>

Note that nowhere does it say where the menu should go or what it should look like - the HTML just provides content and defines the purpose of the content - e.g. "menuitem", for the CSS to get to work on.

HTML is good because it provides a simple, text-editable way of getting content online, readable, and linking with other content.

The bad part is that there are so many legitimate ways of expressing the same thing, and despite attempts to tidy up everyone's usage, because of the number of websites out there that use antiquated methods of displaying information, it's difficult to break away from the old.

So for example, <i> means italic, but so does <em>, and so does <span style="font-style:italic">. Or if I want to organise something into a list, I could use a list tag, a table, or just div tags one on top of the other.

To write good HTML I'd recommend packing Dreamweaver back into its box and buying a book specifically aimed at HTML 5 and CSS (at time of writing HTML 5 is the most up-to-date version). This will help you on your way to write standards-driven (and therefore future-proof) web pages.

What is HTML?

14th November 2011
Categories: basics, html

There are many huge and cumbersome problems with the internet; one of them is HTML.

Allow me to explain. In the beginning, the internet was not synonymous with the world wide web. The internet was a network of computers, as you might have in any office. The communication between those computers was typically related to transfer of files, or instructions, or people running text-based programs on a remote computer.

Independently of the internet, a system called 'Hypertext' was developed, which allowed you to create a document with 'forks' or 'links' to other parts of the document. Interestingly enough, Jorge Louis Borges is credited with developing the first 'hypertext novel', The garden of forking paths.

Tim Berners-Lee is the genius who put hypertext, the internet, and other elements together to create the world wide web. Using the web you could connect to a remote computer to look at scientific documents and browse around them following the links.

Web page creators needed nothing more than a text editor to create hypertext markup language (HTML) documents ('Markup' refers to the way that ordinary text is 'marked' or 'tagged'):

“<b>” means bold, while “</b>” means end bold. so in a web page, the markup:

come to my <b>party</b>

would look like:

come to my party

<i>is for italic, <u>for underline,

So the following HTML:

<p>Visit the <a href="http://www.oxford-web.co.uk/">oxford web website </a>for more <i>info</i>

would look like this on a web page:

Visit the oxford web website for more info

As HTML evolved, though, the markup became less about how things should look than about what sort of things they were. So as a simple example,

<h1>this is a header</h1>

but it's something else, a stylesheet, that tells the browser how to display “h1” headers. And we'll visit CSS in another blog post.

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