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How I Learned to Write HTML

and still retain a small degree of sanity.

It all started when I decided that a really great way to advertize my antenna company would be to put up a Web site.   
I had already watched a few episodes of CNET on the tube, visited their WWW site and subscribed to their weekly news e-zine. Then it happened - the e-zine came - and it mentioned a tutorial on WWW authoring. BINGO! e-zine:
The e-mail equivilant
of a magazine.
At around 8:00 AM on a rainy Saturday morning, I re-read that e-zine, clicked on the link, was transfered to the CNET site, located the notice of the tutorial, again clicked on the link and there it was - the tutorial on HTML... HTML:
Hyper-Text Markup
Language.
After doing a little browsing through the tutorial, I knew this was going to be a l-o-n-g session... checked the supplies of COFFEE, cheese crackers w/ peanut-butter, Mountain Dew®, frozen pizza, etc... This is the
normal diet
of computer
programmers.
After reading the CNET tutorial, I started surfing. My starting point was a link to the NCSA at the University of Illinois, where I down-loaded and printed "A Beginners Guide to HTML" - it's only 24 pages... Links to all of
these sites can
be found on my
links page.
(If you click on
this link, it will
open in another
window.
You can then
switch between
windows by
using [alt+tab].
Next stop was the WDG for a copy of the "Wilbur" specification. Yup, I printed the whole 36 page book... This is also available as a Windows '.HLP' format file...
Then I started reading. I surfed a couple of WWW sites, went to 'View' 'Doccument Source' and read the HTML code. After a while, it all started making sense...
I picked up a copy of my antenna catalog, looked it over and asked myself, "Could I put this on a Web site?" The answer was a resounding "YES!" Not only could I do it but I could make changes and additions without encuring printing costs, delays, etc.
Now came the question, "Would I need special software for writing/editing HTML?" It turns out the answer is "No!" All I really needed was a text editor - and I already had one. "Note-Pad" works just fine. If I open my browser (Netscape 3.04 Gold), switch windows back to "Program Manager" and launch "Note-Pad", I can write the code, save it, switch to the browser and see what it looks like... When I make a change, the sequence is - save - switch - reload... Netscape Gold
has a built-in
HTML editor...
I don't use it.
So - here I was with all the tools and supplies I would need for a long haul. It was going to be "learn as you go" and I dove in head first. This total imersion method of learning works for some people (I'm one) but not for others. It takes a particular mind-set.

Twenty-three hours, a case of Dew, a couple gallons of coffee and two large pizzas later, I had an HTML program, complete with photographs, drawings and text. You can see it at http://www.angelfire.com/biz/AntVentures/.

A couple of weeks later I started writing this site. If you're reading this, I don't have to tell you where it is - you're already here...

I'm still learning some of the different ways to use HTML, styling, etc. One thing I learned very early on is K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid). Too many pictures or graphics, complex backgrounds and a lot of fancy stuff make for a long down-load. Large, hi-res pictures take a long time to load and are beyond the capabilities of most browsers to display them. - A 75K picture better be worth waiting for. I use HIGH compression JPEGs. They load faster.

 
A couple of things I found out after I had my site 'up and running':
  1. Not all computers are created equal.
      There are a lot of computers that have 640 × 480 displays - By setting the browser window to show a 580 pixel wide 'horizontal rule', I am able to see what my page would look like on a 640 × 480 display.

  2. Not all browsers are created equal.
    • A lot of them cannot properly display animations (ani-GIFs). It is necessary to make sure that enough information is contained in the first and last frames so they can 'stand alone' and still convey what you want the viewer to see.
    • Colors may be displayed differently on different computers/browsers. By using only the 216 "Net-Safe Standard" colors, most computers and browsers will display the desired colors.
Read my Quick Guide to HTML for more information.
I built a set of
tables showing
the Netscape
colors. You can
see it here.


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© 1997 Paul Graham