Welcome to Part 1 of 4 in the “Introduction to HTML” tutorials. If you find yourself here, you’re probably looking to learn how to build a website. My goal is to cut the fluff and get you going as soon as possible. I find that too much explanation can be confusing and that is what I’m going to try and avoid here. This first section is short, but it’s mostly just reading. Bear with me as I explain some things before moving in to writing some code. So let’s jump right on in!

HTML stands for HyperText Markup Language. What is important to understand is that if you write HTML you are not programming. It’s a markup language, not a programming language. You’ll want to go check out C++ or ASP.NET if you want to do some programming. Think of HTML as the frame of your house. Construction workers come in and put up stud frame walls to make rooms, a ceiling and a roof. HTML is the structure of which the rest of the website is built upon. You would then use CSS to style your “house”, much like an interior decorator would make the inside pretty. You can also add Javascript to add functionality to your house, such as an air condition unit or washer and dryer.

HTML is written with tags inside of angle brackets or less-than and greater-than signs, such as <html> or <div>. This tells your browser what needs to be done. The less-than sign opens the tag ‘<’ and the greater-than closes it ‘>’. From here out I will refer to them as open bracket ‘<’ and close bracket ‘>’.  You’ll close each tag with the  / symbol. Every tag that gets opened also need to be closed. For example, you’ll start every webpage with the <html> tag and close it like this: </html>. Some tags can be closed within itself, if it doesn’t need to wrap around something. For example if you’re using a line break tag, you’ll always close itself in the same tag: <br />. More on that to come.

The World Wide Web Consortium, or W3C, is the group that governs what is put out as a standard for HTML. The current standard is still 4.0.1. HTML 5 is still in draft form, though many browsers support quite a bit of the HTML 5 tags already available. This tutorial will focus on the basics of 4.0.1, which will almost entirely carry over to HTML 5, so it’s really no problem.

The last thing I want to mention is some terminology that will be important going forward.  A tag is made of elements, attributes and values. Earlier we looked at the <html> and <br /> where ‘html’ and ‘br’ are the elements of the tag. Each element can have multiple attributes, depending on which ones are available for that element. A good example is the anchor tag.

<a href=”http://www.google.com”>

The ‘a’ is the anchor element. The anchor can have an attribute called ‘href’, which is how we create a link to something else. The value of ‘href’ is what is inside the double quotes “http://www.google.com”. The element is always first followed by a space, then the attribute/value. Each value must be in quotes. You can have multiple attributes in a tag, separated by spaces.

This will all make more sense as we move forward. So let’s go on to “The Head and the Body“.