Friday, March 02, 2007

HTML Tips Pt. I - Writing HTML vs. Using a Webpage Editor

HTML has the reputation for being a tool for ‘advanced’ web designers or computer programmers. The truth is HTML is nothing more than a way to tell a web browser how to format content. Web browsers can’t distinguish between bold type, italics, paragraphs, or other formatting options on their own, so they depend on HTML ‘tags’.

Tags work like quotes. When a writer wants you to know that someone says something, he or she uses quotes. Likewise, when a web designer wants a browser to display something like bold type, he or she uses ‘tags’. We’ll get into more detail with tags in future blogs.

Frontpage, Dreamweaver, and even Word automatically create HTML for you, so why should you spend time trying to learn HTML?

  • Knowing some basic HTML will save you time. Webpage editors don’t always give you the result you expect. You will be able to spot the problem and fix it immediately rather than spending time trying to make it work (or settling for what you get) in a webpage editor.
  • HTML generated by editors is inefficient. Inefficient code can cause some parts of your page to be inaccessible to certain browsers, and can also cause excessive load times.
Take these two sentences for example:

This is sentence one.
This is sentence two.

If you put these sentences into Word and save it as a web page you will end up with a file that contains over 100 lines of HTML. You could get the same visual result writing your own HTML in just six lines. The extra HTML causes the Word file to be over 50 times larger than necessary, and even these simple sentences may not be formatted as you expect in certain browsers.

It’s not necessary to code your entire site by hand (or even know every HTML tag) to make your page more effective and efficient. Next time we’ll take a look at the various tags and how simple it is to write your own HTML. In the meantime, here are some great HTML resources:

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