Now that you've spent time discovering the World Wide Web, you may have become curious about how all that content finds its way 'up there'. At one time, only those who paid for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and were fairly computer-savvy had the privilege of personal home pages. With the growth of no-cost ISP's (such as NetZero and AltaVista) as well as online communities like IVillage and Yahoo, anyone can create a web page without having to know how to compose HyperText Markup Language, or HTML.
The two most popular browsers, Internet Explorer and Netscape, have FrontPage and Composer, respectively, as companion applications for page building. They are commonly referred to as WYSIWYG (pronounced "WIH-see-wig"), or "What You See Is What You Get" HTML editors.
HTML code was originally developed as a tool that enabled Swiss engineers at the Center for High Energy Physics to share papers online. They stopped short of all the razzle-dazzle we see today in web pages, such as animations, patterned backgrounds, and interactive tools. After all, their material was mostly text and simple graphics.
Breaking down the acronym HTML, the 'HT', or HyperText, allows you to link to a place inside a document with the click of your mouse. In this way, you can hop from one spot in a web site to another with ease. The 'ML', or Markup Language part of HTML, refers to a standardized way of composing the code that corresponds to the format of your document. Computers only understand strings of 1's and 0's, but you do not have to know how to write computer languages in order to write HTML.
HTML is like a 'computer language shortcut' to how your web page is supposed to look: the fonts, the colors and pictures that appear – even video and sound! To get a web page online, you will need four key ingredients.
First, you need a space on a server. Your audience will then log on through their ISP's and navigate to the IP (Internet Protocol) address of that server. To computers, IP addresses appear as number sets separated by dots, such as Most IP addresses correspond to a www (World Wide Web) address via HTTP (HyperText Transfer Protocol) – hence the typical "http://www." that you see before many domain names ("wherever.com").
A number of online communities offer a web site as part of your free membership and web-based email account. In exchange, you provide them with an outlet for 'pop-up' and/or banner advertisements that display to every visitor. If you have an internet access account, you get a free web site included, based upon your plan. Your page, however, must be created before it can be posted, or 'put' on the Web. You can either pay a professional or do it yourself; the latter is more fun!
Second, you need a browser, or an application that presents HTML documents as words, pictures, animations and sounds. There are dozens, including the market leaders Internet Explorer and Netscape, plus MacWeb (for Macintosh), Lynx (text-only, mainly used in Unix-based systems), and Mosaic, which is compatible with either Windows, Mac or Unix.
As you progress, you view your work in the browser to ensure that it appears the way you intend. While most browsers are distributed as freeware (software that you do not have to pay for), some require a small cost, particularly if you want them on compact disc instead of via download.
Some browsers include HTML code that is not picked up on by others, such as scrolling marquees and flashing fonts, so keep this in mind when you are creating dynamic web content.
Third, you will need some sort of graphics software.
There are tons of graphics programs and clipart (image) collections available in stores and online. For a start, there are even web sites that feature free clipart such as www.iconbazaar.com. You can also place scanned logos, photographs and your own drawings into your HTML document. For online purposes, the ".gif" or ".jpg" (or ".jpeg" as an alternate spelling) formats are among the best for images, with the former being the more economical, byte-wise.
Be aware of the fact that artwork and other intellectual property online should be considered copyrighted material. A careful reading of the terms by the webmaster will let you know how much, if any, art can be downloaded for your use.
Finally, you will need a plain text editor, such as Windows Notepad or Wordpad, Mac's TeachText or SimpleText, or Unix's vi or pico (Unix is a lower-case world!) on which to write your HTML. Another option is an HTML editor with buttons that will insert commands automatically, or converters, which let you turn a formatted document into HTML. You are now ready to build your online home! If you do not plan on having this done for you, be here for the next installment and HTML made easy!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here