3 Editors, Templates and HTML/XHTML Tutorials - Web Design Guide - Brent's Place

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How to Create a Web Page the Right Way

Step 2: Use a Web Standards-Compliant and Accessibility-Friendly Editor or Template, or Learn HTML 4.01 Strict or XHTML 1.1

WYSIWYG Editors

WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editors allow you to create a web page without having to learn and use HTML or XHTML code (more on them later), but they don't allow you to have as much control over its appearance. skip

If you don't mind that limitation, and want to comply with web standards, use only one of the following WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) web page editors or the TypePad web service (for web journals, photo albums, etc.).

All other WYSIWYG editors create HTML and XHTML that isn't standards-compliant, and as a result is inaccessible to visitors with disabilities.)

Templates

As with WYSIWYG editors, using a standards-compliant and accessibility-friendly template allows you to create a web page without having to learn and use HTML or XHTML code, but with limited control over its appearance.

If you don't mind that limitation, and want to comply with web standards, use only one of the following sites' templates. skip

HTML and XHTML

Learning and editing HTML or XHTML code in a nonWYSIWYG editor gives you more control over how your web page looks.

The original purpose of web page code was to make it easy for database servers, search engines, etc. to find what they and you are looking for and to exchange and share that data.

To do that, a set of standard specifications called GML (Generalized Markup Language) was created, which evolved into SGML (Standard Generalized Markup Language). It tells devices, web browsers and other software what's called the structure of a web page, a description of its content, as opposed to its presentation, or how it looks.

But it's so complex and hard to learn, that the web standards folks at the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) created HTML, a limited but easy-to-learn programming language.

Unfortunately however, due to fierce browser wars, Microsoft and Netscape later added code to it designed to present or display data, instead of describe them, which made them less searchable.

And unfortunately W3C incorporated Netscape's and Microsoft's extensions in HTML 3.2. Because of that, people got used to coding their web pages improperly, instead of keeping structure and presentation separate.

To correct that mistake and bring us slowly and painfully but surely back to where data is easy to search again, the folks at W3C separated it into three forms, signified by Document Type Definitions, commonly referred to as DTD: Strict, which doesn't have any presentational code in it, and Transitional and Frames, which do, for backwards compatability.

They also created XML, a version of SGML that's slightly easier, but still difficult, to learn, and XHTML, a replacement for HTML and a bridge between HTML and XML, designed to both describe data and display them, without making them less searchable.

So web browser programmers, as well-meaning as they were, got us away from the original purpose. HTML Transitional and Frames, because of the presentational code they added to them, aren't able to make data easy to find.

But now there's XHTML 1.0 Strict and XHTML 1.1, which are. And the way it's done is by keeping presentation (colors, fonts, layout, positioning) separate from structure, which includes using CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) and coding for semantics, and depending on your point of view, keeping structure separate from content as well.

But there's a catch. Most servers are serving XHTML web pages to web browsers as regular, but invalid, HTML, or as some programmers call it, tag soup. And only the addition of a bit of code will get your web site's server to serve your web pages as XHTML.

The problem is, all versions of Internet Explorer - including 7.0 - are currently unable to render, or process, pages served as XHTML (actually ''application/xml+xhtml'' - this is called a MIME type and is in the web server's "Content-type" HTTP header - HTML uses a ''text/html'' MIME type).

And Mozilla-based browsers are currently unable to display such pages as they render them. They only display them after rendering the whole page, which causes a delay of a dozen seconds or more on a dialup connection.

So others may disagree, but I personally recommend coding with HTML 4.01 Strict for now to get used to keeping structure and presentation separate with CSS, and consider implementing HTML5 (Web Applications 1.0) when it's issued, until you can someday serve your XHTML pages to Internet Explorer as XHTML and to Mozilla-based browsers without a delay.

If in spite of those and other drawbacks you decide to create your web page with XHTML 1.1, the current standard, and your hosting account has access to PHP, Python or an .htaccess file, you can serve XHTML pages to Internet Explorer as text/html with one of the following methods, but that'll make the code invalid, so I don't recommend it.

(some more information on XHTML's ''dirty little secret,'' the bit of code to serve a page as text/html to Internet Explorer, and as valid XHTML 1.1 to XHTML-supporting browsers, and what's required to make it work)

If your hosting account doesn't have access to PHP, Python or an .htaccess file, I recommend converting your XHTML pages to HTML 4.01 Strict instead for Internet Explorer. If you're willing to learn a new language, convert XHTML pages to HTML 4.01 Strict with XSLT via one of these implementations for PHP, Python and other server-side languages. XSLT stands for eXtensible Stylesheet Language Transformations and is a complex language that requires in-depth knowledge of XSLT functions and other related technologies like XPath.)

If you don't want to learn XSLT, use one of the following free XSLT tools: skip



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