The Lapidary Lemur

Musings from Brandon Weaver

HTML: The Basics

Welcome to my lesson, HTML: The Basics. It is my goal to explain HTML in the clearest and most concise manner without wasting your time on complicated jargon and useless tags that have been long since depricated.

It should be noted that this is a redux of my older post, and I have gone through and updated everything to HTML5 Standards. The original article was written in 2011, and is availible here:

HTML should not take anyone more than a few hours to learn, but be well aware it will take some time to master. In this series we will get to the point of learning HTML.

What is HTML?

HTML stands for Hyper Text Markup Language. Notice how is says markup language, this means that HTML is not a programming language by any means. What a markup language is is a means to semantically divide content into logical sections and set forth a structure for a page. The design and actual look of a page is covered in CSS (Cascading Style Sheets.)

You can think of HTML as the structure of your building, the solid pieces and framing on which CSS is used to turn this from just a structure to a design.

What Do I Need?

What you’re going to need to get started on your learning is a simple copy of notepad or a similar program. When I was still using Windows I would prefer Notepad++ myself, which can be found here:

When I started into Unix Platforms, I acquired a taste for Vim, but this is notably far and overkill for any newbie without some chops in it already.

Macs have some nice tools as well such as Textmate and Sublime, but it would be best to avoid relying on the code completion tools and utilities as much as possible when learning.

What Do I Need to Avoid?

I do not advocate the usage of such tools as Dreamweaver, Aptana, and especially Frontpage to any starting learner. These programs develop severe handicaps that will cripple you on the road to truly mastering HTML. I know this from experience after relearning several times thanks to bad habits.

Using a plain notepad like program teaches you to learn your code properly and to memorize it as well. This is an invaluable strength as you progress onwards.

Personally I would advocate for Vim, but it is most certainly an acquired taste.

Getting Started

The most basic page you can have contains the html tag:

The HTML Tag
<html>Hello, World!</html>

Saving as an HTML File

To save an HTML file, simply add the extension .html to your file after selecting “Save As > all files” in notepad, or select the option from a dropdown box in notepad++.

In HTML all tags have an opening and a closing tag, denoting an area that is marked semantically as a part of it. The HTML tag marks the area inside of it as HTML. There are exceptions to the closing tag, but these will be covered later on.

A Basic Page

Your most basic page will consist of a handful of tags, and it will look like this:

A Basic Page
  <title>My Site's Name</title>


  <p>My text here <a href="">Google!</a></p>
  <img src="myimage.jpg" alt="my image" height="100px" width="100px" />

<head>: The head of your site, not to be confused with where a banner or navigation should go. This is for your sites title, meta information, scripts, and stylesheets.

<meta>: Meta is a tag that contains information about your site, such as keywords, descriptions, and most importantly your content type.

<title>: The title tag contains the title of your site. This will display in the top bar of your browser, or on the tab your site is loaded under.

<body>: The body tag contains the entirety of your site that is displayed to the user.

<h1>: A header tag. H1 is the largest of 6 tags, H1 to H6. These tags are to be used not for making larger font, but for sectioning off headers for news or other such posts on your site. Google keeps a keen eye trained on H tags to show titles of posts and to get an idea of the pages structure so be sure to use them well.

<p>: The paragraph tag. Every paragraph of your writing is contained in a separate <p> tag. This contains basic text.

<a>: The anchor tag. This creates links. You’ll notice inside the tag there is href. This is a tag attribute, designating a certain behavior of the tag. In this case href shows where the text inside the <a> tag links to.

<img>: The astute reader will recognize that this has no closing tag. That is correct, it is among a group of tags that are self-closing. The attributes for this tag are:

  • src: The source of the image.
  • alt: Text describing the image
  • height/width: The dimensions of the image. Can serve as a placeholder for broken images.

In Conclusion

Now this makes for a rather small page, but with just this you have a substantial amount of base in HTML already covered. The rest is all downhill from here.

In the next section we’ll be covering the <div> and <span> tags and their usage as well as others to prepare for CSS. Newer versions of the next tutorial include the HTML5 tags for section, article, aside, and more.