What is HTML?

HTML is a coding language used to create and update websites. It stands for HyperText Markup Language, and it is the standard markup language used on the web. It has a wide variety of features that allow people to structure web content.

Looking at the coding of websites or creating a website can be an intimidating task, but HTML has some basic components and an established structure that makes this process easier than you would expect. HTML does have some more complicated features involving the use of CSS and JavaScript. However, just learning the basics of HTML can be very beneficial and powerful as you can make useful websites and fix common website mistakes by knowing some basic coding principles.

How does HTML work?

HTML uses a series of codes that act as instructions to browsers such as Google Chrome or Firefox. These instructions tell the browsers about the structure of the page, the content, how the page looks, and how the page acts. The browsers will interpret these instructions and make them visible to people on the internet.

The codes browsers are looking for are called tags. While the text will tell browsers what to put on the page, the tags will show them how it should look and act. Tags are differentiated in HTML from text using angle brackets (< >). The letters and text within these angle brackets won’t show up on the page; they will tell browsers what to do with the surrounding content.

In HTML, the content is put in between the opening and closing tags. The opening tags follow the form <> with the text inside indicating the start of some instruction for browsers. Then the closing tag, which uses the form </>, suggests that the instruction is over.

HTML structure

HTML follows a very organized structure that makes it easy to understand and implement. The main piece of HTML’s structure is the elements. These include an opening tag, the content, and finally a closing tag. All the information on an HTML file is contained in elements. Thus, they are essential to set up and close properly.

In addition to placing content within elements, you can also place smaller elements within more significant elements. These more prominent elements will still have opening and closing tags, but their content will be other elements instead of text. Furthermore, you can contain elements in multiple levels of elements. For instance, you could include a small element in a medium-sized element which is in turn contained in a large element.

This process of containing smaller elements within bigger ones is referred to as nesting, and on a well-created HTML page, there should be multiple levels of nesting. This structure is due to the main elements that set up a page; the HTML, head, body, and footer elements. The HTML element contains the head, body, and footer sections, which in turn will include the more traditional elements which contain your text.

HTML elements

Inside the head, body, and footer sections of an HTML page, there is a lot of common elements that dictate how the text will look and act. Although you can place any of these smaller elements in the head, body, or footer sections, certain elements should go in specific sections. For instance, you should only place the title tag element in the header section.

The title element uses the opening tag <title> followed by what you want the title of your page to be, and finally the closing tag; </title>. Doing this will automatically format the text in this section to stand out and look like a title should.

Along with implementing a title, you should also implement headers throughout the body content. Heading tags help to divide up pages and keep them organized. Headings follow the format <h1> content </h1>, and in HTML, you can use six different sizes of headings. H1 indicates the most important headings, and h6 indicates the least important subheadings.

Along with the heading element, a few more important elements are:

  • <p> indicates a paragraph </p>
  • <ul> indicates an unordered list </ul>
  • <ol> indicates an ordered list </ol>
  • <li> indicates a list item </li>

Nested elements

Inside the common elements mentioned above, more specific nested elements can be used to format specific text within those elements. These put an opening and closing tag around a section of text to emphasize that part of the text in some way.

Common types of nested elements:

  • <strong> words are strongly emphasized </strong>
  • <b> words are bolded </b>
  • <i> words are italicized </i>
  • <center> centers text </center>

HTML attributes

Inside of elements, there can be more specific information called attributes. These provide browsers with more information to modify the elements they are contained in.

To format an attribute, you will need an input and value. The name indicates what is going to be changed about the element while the value indicates how it will be changed.

Attributes require a format that is different from elements and tags as they are placed into the opening tags of elements. First, they require space from the element name; then the attribute name will be listed followed by an equal sign and the attribute value in parentheses. Then finally, the opening tag will be closed off with the second angle bracket (>). For instance, <p font=”Arial”>.

To learn more about common HTML elements and attributes and how to implement them, try out code academy’s HTML courses.

Why HTML is important

Websites and reaching customers online have become a critical part of business today. Thus, creating a good website is more important now than ever before. Although there are lots of tools that allow you to create websites without doing all the coding, it is still very beneficial to learn HTML.

Learning HTML gives you a better understanding of how websites work and how to set them up, so you will be better prepared to make your own using different software. Also, it allows you to customize your websites in ways you can’t on a website creator.

HTML when combined with knowledge of CSS and JavaScript, is a potent tool. Using these three coding programs, you can create and format content, style it, and implement how users will interact with it. With the importance of websites today, and the number of well-created websites out today, it is crucial to make your website stand out in any way possible.

HTML and SEO

HTML is the language the internet uses in explaining the content. Thus, just knowing about HTML will help you determine what search engines will see on your site. This knowledge can be used to change the code of your site to appeal to search engine bots, and it is very beneficial to appeal to search engines from an SEO perspective as they are the ones who will put your sites in the search rankings.

Certain HTML elements such as the title tag, meta description, header tags, image alt tags, anchor text, and more are vital parts of SEO. These elements can make or break a site in the rankings, thus learning how to do HTML and how to optimize these elements is crucial for your website to be successful.

If there are any significant problems with a site’s coding, it will be challenging to rank well, or the site might not get indexed at all, and if it’s not indexed no one will find your site. Thus, making sure the site’s HTML code is correct and knowing how to fix it when there is a problem is extremely important.

To learn more about HTML and how it impacts SEO, read why Google says that valid HTML matters.

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