This article is for readers who have either no prior experience of Web Design or very little time.
The best way to write Web pages is to get your hands dirty and write the code yourself.
Programs that produce HTML often do so badly. They often produce Web pages that go long way round about doing things. When you code the pages by hand you have an intimate understanding of what you are doing and can make the actual size of the Web page file as small as possible. This reduces download times so the pages load quicker and the users are happier.
When you use a program to generate HTML, understand how the page is built internally because it does it for you. This is not a problem as long as everything works. But what about when it doesn’t? If you find that the Web page doesn’t display properly in Internet Explorer 4, and many of the users use that browser, you are going to have to sort it out. This means forgetting about the program and looking at the code.
The Internet is no longer limited to people with computers viewing Web sites through one or two different Web browsers. Everything has a Web browser in it these days. Mobile phones, Televisions, Personal Digital Assistants, Cars, even fridges. Blind users “view” Web sites using speech synthesis or Braille devices. There is no way you can test each page you produce in all of the possible ways it may be used. But there is a way to give the best chance that they will work. This is achieved through producing pages using the standards laid out by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the people who work on XHTML and other Internet standards. Once you have produced the pages the W3C provide a validation service to check that the page meets the standards and therefore has the best chance of being used on any device.
Since 1990 HTML or Hyper Text Markup Language has been the language recommended for writing Web pages in. And it has been very successful .But HTML has its problems. To sort this mess out the World Wide Web Consortium, the standards body for the Web, came up with XHTML in 1999. XHTML stands for eXtensible Hyper Text Markup Language and is written in a language called XML or eXtensible Markup Language.
As the name implies XHTML has the capability of being extended. You can use extra modules to do things with the pages that weren’t possible with HTML. The long-term goal is that the Web pages will be able to be understood by computers as well as humans.
Computers already understand Web pages because you use a computer to view them. This is true. But computers only understand how to display the pages, not what they mean. Imagine if computers understood what they meant, you could tell your computer to go and visit all of your local supermarket’s Web sites and tell which one is the cheapest for this weeks shopping. Your computer could visit the news sites around the world and bring back the latest headlines that relate to things you are interested in. The possibilities are endless.
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