What Is HTML?
HTML or Hypertext Markup Language, is the predominant language in which most Internet web pages are based. HTML accomplishes a number of tasks via a web page, including describing the structure of text based information to be displayed within the page (font sizes, text colors and formats, etc.), providing a means for the user to interact with the site via web forms, and embedding images and other types media for display to the user.
What Can HTML Do for Me?
HTML provides the basic structure for your website, so it’s the foundation for your business getting its message to customers and potential customers. When you understand the basic principles of HTML, you can begin to format your web pages to have a more unique and in- house appearance. Brand recognition is important in business, and a little HTML coding can change a template style web page into something that is unique and recognizable. In addition to displaying advertising copy, pictures, brochures and the like, you can also:
· Provide users with a feedback form to submit basic information to you through the website.· Generate an email· Offer a Guestbook
How Do I Learn HTML?
As you might suspect, there is a seemingly endless supply of web-based tutorials and instructional materials for learning about HTML. There are a number of Internet-based tutorials to get you started, and to instruct you on any particular detail or HTML feature that you’re interested in.
Another way to “learn” HTML is simply to create you website using a web-authoring program, and examine the HTML code behind it. We’ll talk about a few of the leading web-authoring programs later in this article.
Do I Need To Learn It?
Strictly speaking, you don’t need to become an HTML expert to build and administer your businesses website. Many of the most popular tools for website construction include powerful capabilities (including many that most websites may never utilize). As an added benefit, some of these programs are available at no cost.
Since the HTML that serves as the backbone of a website is basically just text, any text editor (including Microsoft’s Notepad) can be used to create a website. Even though writing HTML code directly in a text editor can eventually help you to better understand what’s going on “under the hood”, spending the time necessary to become a hardcore HTML coder might simply not be an option.
In contrast, there are also popular programs that make it much easier to create your website layout and design through graphical user interface. These programs do the heavy lifting, and will automatically assemble the HTML code based on the design you make.
On the other hand, Dreamweaver is expensive, compared to other commercial options. In addition, many feel that because there are so many features and functions available in the program, it can be intimidating for new users and designers.
Microsoft’s Expression Web (the successor to the venerable FrontPage software) is Microsoft’s web authoring tool and is considered to be one of the leading web design tool available today.
Expression Web has many (if not most) of the same tools as are available in Dreamweaver, and boasts strong integration with Microsoft’s other design and infrastructure products, such as Visual Studio, SharePoint, and the Office suite of products. In addition, Expression Web’s menu structures and look-and-feel will be familiar to users of other Microsoft Office products, which can make it easier for those already accustomed to Microsoft products.
Note, however, that the source code that Expression Web generates is sometimes not as clean as that created by Dreamweaver (or coded directly into HTML using a simple text editor), so this may result in some problems (or at least some additional time required) if you decide to use Dreamweaver to modify a page that was created in Expression Web. In addition, some page elements (such as tables) can require additional work if created in one program and then edited in another.
For those who want to create relatively simple websites, without some of the fancy features that are available with Dreamweaver and Expression Web might wish to consider the open source product Nvu. Nvu has a graphical user interface like Dreamweaver and Expression Web, and is very efficient at making much HTML coding easier and quicker. As an open source product, Nvu is free of charge, and relatively well supported by its user community.
Web-Based Programs and Templates
Finally, be aware that there are a number of web-based authoring programs (such as Homestead) and template services available. These options often require very little effort in terms of design and coding, and are generally available at very reasonable prices. Keep in mind, however, that because most templates are or have been available to other users, you might wind up with a design that is not unique, or doesn’t provide your website with a sufficiently distinct identity.
How to Move Forward
At the end of the day, any web authoring tool is likely to have both have pluses and minuses. Before committing to license any particular package, take a little time to try any available online or downloadable trial versions of the package. The key to deciding is to identify your current and future needs, and balance this against your budget for the project. While choosing a particular tool won’t forever tie you to using that same tool in the future, making a thoughtful decision at the outset can help you to avoid spending time making corrections and adjustments down the road.
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