Want to save money while promoting your web-based business? Of course you do. Here's some advice on matter, from a freelance copywriter who knows: it pays to learn basics of HTML.
If you're like me (stubborn), you've probably been dodging HTML for many years. All that code mushed together... it's distressing to look at! But here's thing: HTML is your friend. He might be ugly, but he's a good guy to have on your side.
Once you get a basic understanding of how HTML works, gibberish starts to make sense. And that's when you'll realize how easy it is to create web pages for your own business without having to 1. pay a designer thousands of dollars, or 2. purchase one of those expensive web design programs.
Let's start with a general explanation. HTML stands for Hyper Text Markup Language. It's basis for every single design element you see on a web page: layout, copy, image placement, links, music, animation, etc. People who design their sites using fancy web page creators with buttons and copy/paste features are merely controlling HTML code via program's graphic overlay. Underneath it all, code's still there in its pure form. You can see it if you go to a webpage and then click View>Source from top menu.
Easy Web Page Creation
You can create a professional-looking web page using HTML and bare minimum of tools: a text program (such as Notepad) to write and save files in, a Web browser to view files, and a photo-editing program such as Photoshop.
Ever visit a webpage and then click View>Source so you can stare at "guts" and try to make sense of it? The text program that opens that page is same one you'll use to create your own web page from scratch. Keep in mind, a text program is NOT same as a word-processing program, such as Microsoft Word. If you use Word, you may accidentally save your file as a .DOC, and in doing so, create all kinds of coding problems that make your page look crazy. NEVER create web pages in Word!
Here are three salient points about writing HTML code.
1. Your text editing program does not recognize paragraph returns when you type them with Enter key. You will separate your text manually, using HTML tags such as < P > and < BR >.
2. HTML code does not differentiate between capitals and lowercase. Your tags can be typed either way and they'll still work no matter what.
3. HTML doesn't recognize Smart Quotes- those curly quote marks that Word and other word processing programs like to convert your straight quotes (or inch marks) into when you least expect it. HTML also doesn't recognize "curly" apostrophes (as opposed to straight ones, or footmarks). If you use these in your web documents, computer will interpret them as code and fill your web page with gibberish. So DON'T USE SMART QUOTES OR CURVED APOSTROPHES!
Creating a Text Document: Basis for Your Web Page
Start a new file in your text program such as Notepad, then save it with .html extension. For example, you might name your file, "myfirstwebpage.html". Later, after you've entered your code into text program, view page as it will appear on web by using a web browser such as Explorer or Netscape. Click File>Open, and then enter name of your file. Viola! There's web page that YOU created! The great thing about this feature is that you can keep on saving your text file and refreshing browser page to track your progress.
Keep in mind that pages you create and save as .html files won't be available for viewing on internet until you publish them. This is done by purchasing a web hosting package through one of major web hosting companies; for example, GoDaddy.com. You're required to "rent a space" for each web domain you own. But that's a topic for another article entirely.
Now comes fun part: uncovering "secret" to HTML! HTML is logic-based; and for those of us who love a good logic puzzle, this is truly a beautiful thing.
HTML Tags at Work
In viewing source of web pages, you may have noticed a lot of these things: < >. They're called HTML tags, and they're what computer uses to interpret HTML code.
NOTE: in this article I had to add spaces to all of my HTML tags so that I could display them without actually having them work. There are two HTML tricks to actually "shutting off" HTML tags, but neither of them function properly in this submission box.
The HTML tags shown here will display like so: < FAKE TAG > but in reality you're supposed to type them like so:
Moving along, a friend of mine describes HTML tags as "on/off switches." An easy example which you may be well-familiar with, is Bold command. To "turn on" Bold, type < B > (but with no spaces). All of text that comes after Bold tag, will then be Bolded. To "turn off" bold characteristic, type < /B >. Any text that comes after "bold off" tag will unbolded.
It's worth mentioning that in all cases, all text that falls between an "on" or "off" HTML tag will take on characteristic of that tag descriptor. How much text can you put in between two HTML tags? As much or as little as you want. That means, you can use just a couple of HTML tags to design paragraphs and paragraphs of text.
What are some other HTML tags that web designers frequently use?
< I > and < /I > (for italics) < U > and < /U > (for underline) < BR > (to create a single line break).