This is going to be a multi-part series, which will be updated over the next couple of days.
- Part one: Why bother with HTML at all?
- Part two: The building blocks of HTML
- Part three: Good HTML etiquette (the accessible link)
This series isn’t intended to be an in depth course all about HTML and markup langages and how to build websites because there are plenty of resources that can do that far better than I can – W3 Schools is one really good place.
Rather, what I do want to do is try and dispel some of the mystery and fear that surrounds HTML, because knowing a little can be really useful and once you know a little, you will hopefully feel more confident and who knows where that could lead? Understanding HTML will make learning/understanding XML so much easier, which in turn will open the wide open vistas of ePub and apps and codes and games and… Oh, the possibilities are endless. Trust me. I am a computer geek.
Above all, I want you to remember this golden rule: IT IS ACTUALLY REALLY PRETTY HARD TO BREAK COMPUTERS AND SOFTWARE THESE DAYS. So play. What is the worst that can happen?
(Caveat – if you are planning on tinkering with a live website, ALWAYS make a copy of what was there before you started tweaking. Things can happen to the best of us).
Part one: Why bother with HTML at all?
Most blogs run using platform such as WordPress (what we use here), Blogger, Drupal, or maybe your company has their own CMS. When you write new content, you are most likely using a WYSIWYG editor, which stands for “What You See Is What You Get”. Often it is referred to as the “Visual Editor”. Microsoft Word could be described as a WYSIWYG, or Visual editor: if you want to make a word bold, you highlight it and press the “B” button and it becomes bold. Simple. This is a little screen shot of what the visual editor looks like in WordPress. It does the magic of coding for you, so all you have to worry about is writing your blog post.
So, I hear you ask, if your blogging platform has a visual editor, why need to bother with HTML?
Well, have you ever copied and pasted text from one word document to another, and the formating Just. Won’t. Behave.?
That is probably due to unseen codes causing problems. The same thing can happen on websites. This is because every visual editor codes things just a little bit differently. Added to that, every type of web browser (IE, Crome, Firefox, Safari etc) displays HTML a little bit differently. Some are more forgiving than others -they make a best guess at what you meant – but sometimes things can get a little bit jumbled.
Also, sometimes you want to do a little bit more than the standard editor can cope with, controlling things a little bit more precisely. (I will go into more depth about this and accessibility in Part Three). You need to think of HTML as the grammar, spelling, and punctuation of blogging. And we’re all in publishing here, so shouldn’t we care about the grammar and spelling?
When you get a flat tire, you could call the AA – but isn’t it easier (and cheaper) just to change it yourself?
As I have run out of analogies, hopefully I have persuaded you all to at least look at the HTML version of the editor. So let’s move onto the basics in Part Two…