HTML- The language of the web

Many of us here at WPI would admit that the web has become an integral, and in some cases necessary, part of our daily lives.  Many of us surf web sites on a daily basis, relying on the web for diverse content ranging from world news to peer reviewed research articles.

However, a basic understanding of how web pages are made can allow us to become more than just consumers on the web.  This understanding can help us to become contributors too! The primary language behind the web is HTML or Hyper Text Markup Language.  According to Wikipedia:

[HTML] provides a means to create structured documents by denoting structural semantics for text such as headings, paragraphs, lists, links, quotes and other items. It allows images and objects to be embedded and can be used to create interactive forms. It is written in the form of HTML elements consisting of “tags” surrounded by angle brackets within the web page content. It can embed scripts in languages such as JavaScript which affect the behavior of HTML web pages. HTML can also be used to include Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) to define the appearance and layout of text and other material.

You might be asking yourself right now “Why might I want to become a contributor to the web?” and we have a few good answers for that!

  1. Want to get noticed?  Produce a digital portfolio of your work to show to potential collaborators, employers, or just to show off what you can do
  2. Are you an expert in your field or just have something to say?  HTML can be handy for customizing a blog
  3. Always wanted your own personal or professional page? HTML and CSS can help you to build the perfect page that reflects who you are and your accomplishments

You do not need to be an expert in HTML to begin contributing to the web!  Many HTML editing programs such as Adobe Dreamweaver are accessible for users of all levels.  For new users Dreamweaver offers a WYSIWYG (pronounced “Wizzy Wig” — What You See Is What You Get) interface that functions similar to Microsoft Word.  However, as you progress in Dreamweaver, you can choose to see the WYSIWYG screen alongside the HTML code view, which will show you the HTML code behind your page. This is a great way to begin learning how to code HTML.

But what if you want to know more before you just jump in?  Luckily there are a plethora of resources for you as well!  While you can probably Google for HTML tutorials on the web, we thought we would offer a few of our favorites here:

  • The W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) has tutorials on both HTML and CSS available
  • Books 24X7 (available through the WPI Gordon Library) has a number of titles available for you to begin learning HTML or taking your skills to the next level
  • Dynamic Drive is a great resource once you are ready to start adding more dynamic content to your site. It features well-documented examples, and very clear instructions on how to integrate the code for each interactive feature into your site