HTML For Beginners

 

HTML for Beginners – You must learn it.

From the small business owner to the student creating a class project, or even casual individuals working on a blog or personal project online, HTML knowledge is incredibly useful. Although the prospect of having to learn a programming language certainly does seem daunting, the good news is that HTML uses common words so that it is fairly simple to pick up.

In this guide we cover the basics in a (hopefully) easy-to-understand manner, perfect for the absolute beginner. However, we don’t stop at the basics — even seasoned webmasters will find useful tips to expand your working knowledge of HTML.

Start reading below, or use the navigation on the right to jump to a specific topic.
1. HTML Basics

This chapter introduces HTML, the language used to author web pages, and provides a little background regarding its history and the reason it is used.
What is HTML?

HTML is Hypertext Markup Language, a format for creating documents and web pages. It was originally invented in the early 1990s by Tim Berners-Lee, and was based on an earlier markup language called SGML (Standard Generalized Markup Language), which was was based on an earlier format simply called GML (Generalized Markup Language) developed at IBM in the 1960s.

HTML consists primarily of matching pairs of angle-bracketed tags surrounding human-meaningful text (like this). The tags provide meaning, context, and display information to the text they surround.
What is a Markup Language?

Imagine any text-based document you have ever read: a website, a book, a PDF, a Word doc, a church bulletin. There is the text, of course — but there’s something else: how the text is displayed. Some of the words are larger or smaller, some are italicized or in bold, some are a different color or a different font.

The file that one of these documents is saved into has to contain both the human-readable text and also the information about the display. A number of different ways to accomplish this have been tried, and the most convenient way to do it is to store the information in line with the text itself.

So, for example, if you want to make some text bold or italic, you might do something like this:

I want to make [start bold]these words bold[end bold] and [start italic]these other words italic[end italic].

Which, in theory, should produce something like:

I want to make these words bold and these other words italic.

These inline matching pairs of style declarations are called tags, and something like this is the basis of almost every markup language. But this format shown above isn’t HTML, its just a little made-up example.

The example above has many problems with it, and the inventors of HTML (and SGML and GML) came up with something similar, but much better:

Square brackets are often used in text, so reserving them for use in tags could cause problems. Instead HTML uses angle brackets: < and >.
Writing start and end over and over is very tedious. HTML simplifies this by using the tag name itself as “start” declaration. The tag name with a slash in front of it ( / ) is used as the ending tag.
Rather than the whole words “bold” and “italic,” HTML uses abbreviations to make it faster to type and less obtrusive to read.

So, taking these things into account, the above example would look like:

I want to make these words bold and these other words italic.

I want to make these words bold and these other words italic.

Recently, there has been a move away from explicitly declaring typographical details (like bold and italic) and instead using the markup to convey the meaning, not just the look. Therefore, the and tags are no longer recommended for use. Instead, the preferred tags are and (emphasis). So in contemporary documents the sentence above would be:

I want to make these words stand out and to emphasize these words.

I want to make these words stand out and to emphasize these words.

HTML is, at its core, nothing more complicated than a set of defined markup tags.
What is hypertext?

Hypertext is a word that was invented in the 1960s to describe documents that contain links that allow the reader to jump to other places in the document or to another document altogether. These links, which we now take for granted in the modern web, were a big deal when computers were first coming into maturity.

The “hyper” concept of internal and external linking was so revolutionary to the way content is organized on the internet that the word shows up in a number of places:

HTML is the “HyperText markup language”
http:// stands for “HyperText Transfer Protocol
A link from one page to another is called a “hyperlink,” and the data attribute that specifies where a link is pointing to is called a “hyper reference.”

Where and How is HTML used?

HTML is used for almost all web pages. The web page you are reading right now uses HTML. It is the default language of websites.

It can also be used for other types of documents, like ebooks.

HTML documents are rendered by a a web browser (the application you are using to read this page). HTML rendering hides all the tags, and changes the display of the rest of the content based on what those tags say it should look like.

Do I need to learn HTML to run my website?

Unless you plan to become a web developer, and build pages from scratch, you don’t need to know all the intricate details of HTML.

If you are just using a blogging platform, a site builder, or a Content Management System (CMS) set up by someone else, you may be able to get by without knowing any HTML — there are “graphic” editors available that make adding content to a blog similar to writing in Microsoft Word or email.

However, sometimes those graphical editors don’t work exactly the right way, and sometimes you will want to do something and not understand why you can’t. Therefore, it is highly recommended that if you are going to be writing for the web, even just regular blog posts and announcements, that you get a good understanding of basic HTML concepts.

Additionally, there are details of how HTML documents are structured that have an effect on things like SEO and data aggregation. If you are interested in staying informed about how your website appears to non-human visitors, understanding HTML is an important skill.

Similarly, website accessibility — the ability for a website to be navigated successfully by people with visual or other handicaps — is an increasingly important consideration. The blind rely on computerized screen readers to translate web sites into sound, and the quality and structure of the underlying HTML document has a big impact on the ability of the screen reader to work properly.

Mostly, HTML is the common underlying language of the contemporary internet. If you want to understand how the world works, it is a good idea to at least have some familiarity with HTML.

Summary

HTML — Hypertext Markup Language — is the language used for creating web pages and other web-based documents. It consists mainly of matching pairs of angle-bracketed tags, enclosing sections of human-meaningful text. The tags, which are not displayed by web browsers, are used to provide information about how the text and page should be displayed.

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