VOL. 111 | NO. 107 | Wednesday, June 11, 1997
By CAMILLE H
Web sites, books and classes
help teach the basics of HTML
to future Web page designers
By CAMILLE H. GAMBLE
The Daily News
Just a few years ago, people were taking classes and reading up on how to navigate the Internet. Now, some of those same people are in the market to learn how to design their own Web pages.
For those who would like to get started learning the language, there are several places to start.
HTML, or hypertext markup language, is the language used in Web page design. In practical terms, HTML is a collection of platform-independent styles (indicated by markup tags) that define the various components of a World Wide Web document. The language was invented by Tim Berners-Lee while at CERN, the European Laboratory for Particle Physics in Geneva.
HTML documents are plain-text files that can be created using any text editor, some of which include Emacs or vi on UNIX machines BBEdit on a Macintosh and Notepad on a Windows machine. Word-processing software also can be used.
There are several books that can be purchased that teach HTML, in addition to classes offered locally by the University of Memphis, State Technical Institute and computer training companies such as Executrain.
But before spending time and money driving to class or buying books, there is a cheaper way to learn the basics the Internet.
The National Center for Supercomputing Applications, a unit of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has created a Web site designed specifically to teach the basics of HTML. ìA Beginnerís Guide to HTMLî(www.ncsa.uiuc.edu/general/internet/www/htmlprimer.html) is published in three parts on the site and can be printed for personal use.
The guide is the most frequently requested file on NCSAís Web servers per statistics distributed in December 1996.
Although there are several Web page design tools on the market or which are available free from the Internet, most instructors recommend the beginning Web page author know at least the basic HTML tags before using a WYSIWIG (what you see is what you get) editor.
The NCSA was established in 1985 with a grant from the National Science Foundation.
The NCSA is developing and implementing a strategy to create, use and transfer advanced computing and communication tools and information technologies. These advances serve the centerís set of constituencies in the areas of science, engineering, education and business.
Someone interested in learning HTML from the NCSA Web site neednít be an engineer or teacher or business executive. However, the primer does assume users know how to use NCSA Mosaic or some other Web browser, have a general understanding of how Web servers and client browsers work, and have access to a Web server.
The same prerequisites are needed to take some local classes on Web page design.
The University of Memphis offers a continuing education course on the subject.
ìIf we didnít put prerequisites down, we would have people who had not even touched a computer come in there,î said Libby Keenan, who teaches the U of M class.
ìThe more experience of course the better, because then the students have a better idea of what they want. Itís better if they have an idea of what they want to do and what they want to use the Web site for.î
Keenan said the attendance is growing each semester.
She said the class is strictly a basic class on constructing using HTML.
ìWe use an HTML editor, but that is strictly for convenience,î she said. ìWhat we cover is the basic HTML language, going out on the Internet and capturing graphics, backgrounds and background colors and links.î
Keenan said she does cover the basic elements of page design ìthings to look for, what is irritating to people and some tips and techniques.î
She said people take the class for different reasons.
ìSome people just want to know about it, but I guess it is getting more toward people wanting to design a Web page for their business,î she said. ìWeb consultant fees are very high. Some people just donít have the time, so they need the consulting.
ìThe last time I taught the class I had an attendee who was having their Web page designed but wanted to know enough about it so they could go in and update it if they wanted to and wouldnít have to get the designer every time a little change needed to be made,î she said. ìThatís something else about what I teach help in maintaining a Web page. It can be very time-consuming, and it can be expensive if you donít know how to do it yourself.î
The U of M continuing education course is taught this summer in two sessions June 21 from 8:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. and July 14 and 16 from 4:30 p.m. until 6:30 p.m. each day. The cost for the class is $55.
State Technical Institute teaches a similar class titled ìDesign Your Own Web Page.î The one-day seminar is offered Thursday and on July 24, from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. The cost is $64.
Bill Hawkins, who teaches the class, said he begins the course with the basic HTML tags and then, near the end of the class, demonstrates the method of constructing a Web page with a Web authoring program.
There are several Web authoring programs that make it easier to construct a Web page. The programs include such software as Adobe Pagemill, Netscape Gold, Claris Home Page and Front Page. The software ranges in price from $79 to $150.
Hawkins said Netobjects Fusion is a newer program which retails for about $700 and is used for some of the more advanced Web pages.
ìBasically, when I am doing Web pages I use a Web authoring program,î he said. "But I really think you need to understand how the tags work so you at least know what is behind the scenes.î
Hawkins said there also are several HTML books on the market. One he recommends is part of the Visual Quick Start series on HTML 3.2, which is the latest version of HTML. The book is authored by Elizabeth Castro.