There are many web programming languages in existence, each with its own specific purpose. If you are new to web design, however, Hyper Text Markup Language, or HTML, is the best place to start.
Although many people mistakenly label HTML as a programming language, it is actually a markup language. It consists of a set of markup tags that tell the web browser how to display the page, rather than lines of code that execute to produce an end result, as a programming language does.
These markup tags in HTML are called “elements” and are always enclosed in angle brackets: <>. Nearly every HTML element has an “opening” tag and a “closing” or “end” tag, and the tags are used in a hierarchical or nested fashion. You combine HTML tags and plain text to create an HTML document, which describes a web page. An HTML document ends in the “.html” file extension.
You don’t need any special software to design a website using HTML. You can use something like Notepad or Microsoft Word. There are also free and open source HTML editors which provide feedback as you create your document and allow you to see how it will look with a What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) feature. In addition, there are commercial programs you can purchase that provide the same functionality, such as Adobe Dreamweaver and Microsoft FrontPage.
There are two HTML elements that every web page document must include: the “html” element and the “body” element. These two elements must always contain both opening and closing tags: and . You must also always maintain the hierarchy of these elements. The “html” element is always at the highest level of the hierarchy. In other words, must be the very first tag in your document, and must be the very last tag. This then defines the entire document as an HTML document. Inside this pair of tags are the “body” element and any other elements you use to generate your web page. The tag defines where the main body content of the document begins.
HTML element names are not, strictly speaking, case sensitive. Your web browser will read them whether they are lower or upper case and render them properly. However, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) recommends upper case for element names and lower case for attributes (definable characteristics of those elements). The W3C is a global organization dedicated to creating and maintaining unified guidelines, specifications, standards, and tools for web development.
Here is an example of a very basic HTML document:
<h1>This is a Heading</h1>
<p>This is a paragraph.</p>
The <h1> tag is a “heading” element, of which there are six, h1 being the largest, h6 being the smallest. Search engines such as Google use the headings to index the page’s content when providing search results. The
tag is a “paragraph” element. Be aware when using this element that web browsers automatically add a blank line prior to the text included in it. Both of these elements, and any other such elements controlling the main text of the page, must appear within the tags. There are many HTML elements that allow you to design the page as you wish: adding tables, links to other web pages, images, changing font styles, sizes, or colors.
HTML is a versatile language. With it, you can begin to learn web design without spending any money. It is not difficult to learn, and there are loads of resources on the internet to help you get started.