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HTML - A Website Language Explained - For Over 35s

This is a very perfunctory look at the website code HTML, for those who never did any kind of Computer Studies at school and have never had the need or opportunity to look 'under the skirt' of your average website. There's nothing that an experienced webmaster will find here that's not very basic, but for those who have just begun to discover the 'website' and especially those venturing into... maybe starting one of their own, here's a basic understanding to pique the interest and possibly kick-start the learning process.

If you don't even know what I'm talking about when I say HTML, as a means to follow what we're talking about as we go, then just go to this page - Home Based Business & Affiliate Center and click on the 'View' option at the top of your browser and select 'Source' or 'Page Source' (depending on your browser type) from the drop-down menu. You will be confronted by a Notepad document with silly looking symbols, letters and numbers on it. Well, that is HTML code. It's the coded 'blueprint' for the web PAGE (not the whole website) that you're looking at. Keep the Notepad document open to refer to as we discuss each part.

P.S. I have had to add some spaces into the example codes that wouldn't normally be there, otherwise the example codes would actually 'work' and influence the way the article looked in those article websites that accept their article submission with html code ability. But you'll get the idea...

HTML is nothing more than a set of instruction for your browser program (or any program used to read web pages) to interpret and present the web page in a visual form for you to see. It's made up of individual symbols, with each either have a meaning in itself or sometimes a set of them (often many characters long) representing a simple instruction to place any part of the web page, say... an image in a certain spot or to perform a function.

Firstly, at the top, you'll see the < html> tag, which is identifying the language being used. Then you see a tag. That's comparable to the 'header' on a letter, where your company name, address and phone number would go. It's there for the Search Engines, like Google and Yahoo etc, so they can, at a glance, see what the web page is and what it's about. Under the < head> tag there are < meta> tags, each of which contains information about different aspects of the web page like, the title, a short description, the program used to create it, copyright information, keywords that relate to the subject matter on the web page and other instruction that are meant solely for the Search Engine robots (spiders, crawlers - they have different names) when they visit.

The < head> section is then closed off with a < /head>. That's an important part of the html code. Every tag that contains an instruction needs to be 'finished' by using the same tag with a '/' in front. This is telling the program that this particular instruction type is finished. It's like saying 'over' at the end of a radio transmission.

There are too many different types of instructional tags to cover in a simple article, but covering a few of the most common ones will give you the basic idea. Next is the < body> tag. This is the start of the part of the web page that will be visible in the browser. In the case of my webpage example, the tag is long because it contains some specific instruction, which apply to the entire web page. They concern the background of the page (in this case an image is being used for a background that forms the vertical stripes), the color of the page text and the different colors of any 'hyperlinks' on the page (before during and after they are being clicked by someone).

Obviously, it would be a huge task to systematically explain each entry as I have done up to now, but suffice to say, there are various kinds of tags containing coded instruction that tell the browser (or whatever program is used to produce the visual representation of the HTML code) what to put in the web page, where to put it, what color to make it etc. Just with regard to colors, all colors of the rainbow are represented by a six digit system called the 'hexadecimal' system, which we don't need to get into except to say that each code that looks like '#A1B2C3' represents a particular color.

The more oft used coded instruction found on a web page are:

< font> - A font tag is the instruction to the browser concerning what type, size and color the text in between these tags is to be. When anything about the font changes, you will see the new tag containing the new instruction, which may simply be a color change. For example:

< font face ="Arial" color="#FFFFFF size=" 4">.

This represents text written in Arial font, colored white (#FFFFFF), size 4 (which is 14pt text).

< b>, < i>, < u> - Text can also have other tags within the < font> tag, which denote, as these do respectively, bold type, italic type and underlined type. When the bold, italic or underlined type is discontinued, there needs to be a corresponding < /b> or < /i> etc, to instruct the program to go back to the standard type.

< p> - is a paragraph break. It can also contain extra information like where to align the entry (left, right, center or justify). For example: < p align=" left">

< br> - is a single line break. It doesn't carry any extra instruction.

< table> - A table is simply a box. It can be any size, in any position and have borders or not, which are colored or plain, dotted or solid etc. It can have a specific background color, which is different from the main page background. It can contain different numbers of rows or columns or just be a single open box. If the table is divided into rows or columns, the different section within the table are called 'cells' which can all have the border, size and background option as the table.

< tr> - Defines a row within a table. It is always contained between a < table> and < /table> tag.

< td> - Defines the attributes of any given cell within a table. Again, it can only be between a < table> and < /table> tag. For instance: a 'cell' or < td> tag might look like this:

< td width="100%" height="64" bgcolor="#FFFFFF" style="border: 1 solid #BF0000; padding: 2" >

In this particular code the width indicates 100% (of the table in which it is contained), the height is represented as 64 pixels - both percentages or exact pixel measurements can be chosen. The background color is, as you can see, #FFFFFF, which is white and it has a solid border, 1 pixel thick and the border color is #BF0000, which is a red/brown color. You also see another attribute - padding, which in this case is '2' pixels. This is the 'buffer' zone around the inside edge of the cell so that the contents of the cell (text, image or whatever) don't sit right up against the edge of the cell border.

< a> - is an 'anchor' TAG. It is more often used to create a hyperlink to another webpage (in the same site) or another website altogether. The 'hyperlink' anchor will have the tag < a href>. Hyperlink tags will contain the location the user is to be taken. For instance, a link to my example website would look like this:

< a href="" target="_new">Whatever text is to contain the link

You will also notice a 'target' attribute, which determines whether the destination of the link opens in a 'new' browser window (in this case) or it can be designated to open in the same window.

The < a> tag can also be used to 'link' to another point on the SAME web page. In this case the tag used will still be the < a href> tag but the point to which you wish it to go to will have a < a name> tag. For example:

< a href="whatever">The text to be the link< /a> and the point in the page to which it links will have a tag < a name="whatever" >Word or image at that point linked to< /a>

< img> - Is the instruction to insert an image. Of course, the program needs to know which image to insert so, this tag will contain the location of the image (using 'src', meaning source), which will generally be within a folder on the server, which hosts the website. However, essentially, the address (URL) of ANY image on any public server can be inserted and that image will appear on the web page. It is represented like this:

< img border="0" src="images/logo1.png" width="195" height="66" >

This instruction says the image (with the file name 'logo1.png') has no border ("0"), it's source (where it's located is the 'images' folder within this website). It also has the measurements of the image in pixels. If an image from another website needed to be inserted, the full URL of the image would appear. For instance, if this image was located on another website server, instead of the 'src' being just 'images/logo1.png' (which is a local website address), it would need to be 'http://www.other-website .com/images/logo1.png', so the program would know exactly where to go to retrieve the image.

That's about all that can be covered in a short (or not so short article) however, I hope that to those who have either never seen HTML code or those who have conidered it some mysterious secret technical jargon, will now see it as more friendly and understandable.

In my earlier days I found such websites as W3Schools as an invaluable source in the process of understanding what all the 'gobbledygook' meant. There is also a full list of all the different HTML tags and their meanings. I'm sure my over 35's peers (and possibly even younger ones) will too.

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