HTML for dummies
bright, scared people

  1. What you have learnt
  2. An infinite resource
  3. A few frills
  4. Things you still must learn  
  6. BACK to the first page!

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1. What you have learnt

This is the last page. In the preceding tutorials you did the following:
  1. You made your first page, and saw that it was good. You learnt what tags are, and how to write them simply using a text editor.
  2. You found out how to point to other pages. You found out how to point within a page, and how to refer to another page that you have created, using both relative and absolute addresses. You also discovered other anchors, including those allowing file transfer and sending of mail.
  3. You found out about the <br> and <title> tags. You even know how to suppress the highlighting of links.
  4. You learnt how to dress up text. This included emboldening, italicising and underlining. But more than this, you found out how to change fonts, also catering for Mac users!
  5. You learnt a lot about superscripts and subscripts, as well as how to colour text, and how hexadecimal works. You read a general introduction to colours and how to get them to work, including 'colour-fastness' and the 216-colour cube.
  6. You learnt how to align things on the page.
  7. You now know how to represent all sorts of fancy characters in HTML - copyright © pound £ plusminus ± and so on.. including of course the ubiquitous SPACE CHARACTER &nbsp;
  8. You know how to insert pictures into your HTML code, including JPEG and GIF images. You know all the things to be careful of, even where you use a background image for your page.
  9. You can now make both ordered and unordered lists.
  10. You also found an easy way to create tables. You can even merge rows and columns. You can also change the cell padding and spacing in a table, and even the background colours of individual cells.

My aren't you smart! The above list isn't however merely there to congratulate you. In time, you will forget something, but you can always come back to the above list and use it to quickly find the thing you've forgotten.


2. An infinite resource

There is an infinite resource of good HTML ideas out there for the taking! The way you access this resource is as follows - get out there on the web, find pages that you like, and view their source code (Most browsers allow you to click on View and then Page Source, or an equivalent). If the worst comes to the worst, then your browser almost certainly caches the pages as they come in, and you should be able to find these cached pages on your hard drive!

There's a lot we haven't yet discussed. You'll find a list below, but don't regard this list as definitive. The web and HTML is continually changing - the best way to keep up is to go out there and surf selectively. Find and characterise not only the things you like, but also pages that are slow, clumsy and ugly, and avoid similar errors on your pages. Go get it!


3. Minor frills (and one major one)

There is a lot we haven't told you, but we believe we've given you a good introduction to HTML. We haven't told you about ugly (but occasionally useful) things such as frames, nor have we discussed cute and complex things such as
JavaScript, nor indeed sexy things like Perl and Java applets. Here however are two things we left out in our haste, one minor and one of greater consequence. The minor one is:


All this does is create a horizontal rule on the screen. The default is that the rule occupies the whole of the screen (or the whole of the current subdivision). You can specify the width (for example, <hr width="40%">, and also the alignment which by default is in the centre of the screen.

Of greater importance is the meta tag. You put this tag in the <head> of your web-page, and it contains "meta-information" about the page. It says something about the contents of the page. There are several types of information that can be contained in this tag, but by far the most important are keywords. Many search engines rely on your keywords when deciding how to index your page - if your keywords are inadequate, then the chances are that few people will ever view the page! An example (that you might use were you to publish a web-page on writing web-pages) is:

<meta name="keywords" content="web page, design your own page, how to write HTML, hypertext markup language, How do I create a web page, make, code, encode, coding, design, primer, tutorial, teach, learn HTML, basic, introduction, tag, table, list, ordered, unordered, color, colour, text, picture, image">

Note that the above list could be extended a lot. Think about what a person might type into his search engine when looking for a page like yours (But note that some search engines will clobber your page if it has too many such terms)!

The above isn't sufficient to ensure that would-be readers of your web-page find it. You should submit the address of your page to the major search engines (where the page still probably will not figure prominently), and try and think up novel ways of advertising your page. Even more important is to get other sites to link to your page (you might make reciprocal agreements). Think up ideas that will make visitors come to your page again and again!


4. Still to learn

We've given you a brief introduction to HTML. A lot of HTML coding is simply practice - go out there, write and publish, get criticised, but above all else, criticise yourself mercilessly until you become as good as you want to be.

But there are other skills you simply must learn if you want to be really good. We would suggest the following:

  1. Learn all you can about forms - how to create web-pages that give feedback (data) to the person who created them. If you really want to become good at this then you will also have to learn something about:
  2. Perl. Perl is a beautiful computer language. Okay, you can get by without it (just), but if you want to become good, and also have a lot of fun, learn Perl. There are lots of tutorials out there on the web. Some of them are even good!
  3. JavaScript is a must. Microsoft has a competing scripting language called VB script. If you don't want Netscape users to be able to use your web-page, then by all means write in VB script. But why bother, when you can do things in JavaScript. Admittedly, Internet Explorer sometimes screws things up when it encounters JavaScript, but even it generally makes sense of your code. Learn to use basic JavaScript. (If you want to create really powerful applications, consider learning Java, and how to make Java applets. They really add punch to some applications). But remember to Use JavaScript sparingly. Too many web-pages are disfigured or even crippled by wanton use of screeds of JavaScript.
  4. Frames can occasionally be useful. Another technology that is over-used, and often produces confusing and user-hostile pages, frames can be quite sexy if used correctly. Most people use them poorly and inappropriately.
  5. Cascading style sheets. If you're making an enormous web-site, these can be used to ensure that all the pages on the site look and feel similar, with minimal coding overheads. Maintenance should be easy, too, although there are many traps for the unwary.
  6. Advanced topics that you may want to dip into far down the line include things like dynamic HTML, and the recently-born XML. Tread carefully!
You can find more information on web tutorials at sites like:

A simple way of finding more tutorials is to go to your favourite search engine (for example, google and typing in search terms such as

learn html tutorial

A smarter way of refining your search is to use terms like:

meta tag html tutorial table list anchor

The above search should be pretty sensitive and specific in selecting (several hundred) sites that contain information about writing HTML. Play around and refine this search a bit more.


5. Publishing your page!

The tricks and traps involved in publishing your page on the web have filled lots of books. Here are our suggestions, in a few lines..

  1. Find a host (Okay, you can spend hundreds of grand acquiring and maintaining your own server, but why do this when you can get an almost identical service for under ten dollars a month?). There are hundreds. Some will even host your page for nothing (or for the price of having an advertisement or two cluttering up your pages). The way we suggest going about finding a host is to search the net for lists of "the top fifty hosts" or whatever, read about these hosts, visit their websites, and then rank them for helpfulness, information content, and so on. We personally would avoid the real 'biggies' like AOL, simply because we feel you are less likely to get quick personalised service. Look at what sort of connectivity the host has to the Internet, and what goodies they offer. Then make a list of features that you would like to have (essentials are things like full FTP access to your site, and a decent allocation of space on the server, say 10 megabytes or more).

  2. Once you have a short-list of hosts, mail them (preferably ask a lot of technical questions that may or may not be answered on their website). Time their response, and assess the content of their reply. If they don't appear to know what's going on, or indeed if they don't gently slap you for asking a question that's already answered on their site, look elsewhere! Choose your host. (We chose DigiHost).

  3. Get a domain name. We would suggest that you still go for a dot com - many wise kibitzers will tell you these are now passé - not so. Admittedly, many of the good names are already taken, but a creative person can always think up a new, pithy, mnemonic name. You can register your dot com for only $35 per year by visiting worldnic (or less, at some other sites). Once you've decided on your site name, don't delay. Grab it. There are a few technicalities to doing the registration - once you've sweated through your first registration, it becomes relatively easy. What you will need for this registration are certain vital details that can only be provided by your host. These details include:
    • A technical contact
    • A primary domain nameserver (DNS) and secondary DNS. Each DNS will be described in two ways - several numbers with dots between them, and also names. To see what these look like, go to WorldNic, click on the 'WhoIs' picture, and look some arbitrary entry (eg netscape.com).

    If your host cannot provide you with this information, look elsewhere. Don't be scared of seeming ignorant, in fact, a bit of deliberate ignorance often tells you a lot about the person you are dealing with!

  4. Once you've registered your dot com (or whatever), and your host has set things up (this setup should be almost instantaneous), you are ready to publish your first page. Although there are a variety of tools that you can use, we have been quite happy with ws-ftp. You can find copies all over the internet (look for the file ws_ftp32.zip). Your host should be able to help you with the various settings needed to connect to their machine - generally, it's easy, unless you're a dummy.

  5. After some experimenting, AVOID the temptation to knock your site together willy-nilly. You should carefully structure your website from the start. Have index.htm or index.html pages in every directory. Don't try and cram too much into a single directory. Keep your images in separate sub-directories, called images. Structure your web-site intelligently. And good luck!

Web page author jvs@anaesthetist.com Date of last update: 2001/9/29