Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Assignment 3

For this assignment we got a little practice writing our own HTML. Even if you want to work with mostly pre-made tools for your online presence, it's good to know at least a little HTML so you're not completely at the mercy of the tools you're using.

Confession time: this is not my first HTML rodeo. I actually had a GeoCities page back in my younger days, and I would suspect many people who first discovered the Web in the mid-90's can tell you about at least one freebie web page provider they worked with (Tripod and Angelfire are some others).

These sites typically provided simplified, graphically-based editors (known as WYSIWYG for "what you see is what you get") to help you create your pages. The main advantage of these editors was that they allowed you to get a page up quickly. The main disadvantage is that they didn't allow for much customization. Getting away from the WYSIWYG editors meant creating your own HTML in a no-frills text editor like Notepad (there were allegedly advanced HTML editors available at the time, but they were generally terrible).

HTML has changed somewhat since my first forays into web page creation. The biggest change I've noticed since then is the separation of content from presentation, or styling. Styling is usually handled now by some combination of JavaScript and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), which were in embryonic stages in my GeoCities days. For a great illustration of how different stylesheets radically change the look of the same HTML file, take a look at CSS Zen Garden.

If you spend any time working with web content creation, you're almost certain to run into the limitations of pre-existing templates eventually. Knowing at least a little HTML (and probably some CSS, too, but that's outside the scope of this post) will help you know where to look when you need to customize a template to suit your needs or create a page from scratch.

If you want to be old-school about it (and there's nothing wrong with that!), check out the HTML Tutorial at W3Schools. It's pretty thorough, and you should probably bookmark it for reference purposes, if nothing else.

If you prefer a more hands-on, game-like style with lots of small challenges, check out Codecademy's HTML & CSS tutorial. It's actually part of a larger track where you learn more about web design, which is why CSS is included. Both this tutorial and the one from W3Schools are completely free, as are all the tutorials on both sites, so check them out!

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