What is HTML Anyway?

By Vince Barnes

Can't Find the Starting Gate? -- Read on!

"To begin at the beginning" was Dylan Thomas' choice for starting his wonderful "Under Milk Wood". And why not?! It's an excellent place to start. I wonder why it is then, that we so frequently gloss over the beginnings of things as if they didn't really matter so much. With a view to making sure we don't do that here at HTML Goodies, we're going to begin at the beginning, again, of a new web site. There are tons of tips, lists, primers, tutorials, references and helpful or interesting articles in the HTML Goodies website. It's a veritable cornucopia of help for the new and growing web developer! We've tried very hard to lay it out so that you can find what you need, but with so much in here, it is very possible that you might not know where to start.

So here's a tip:

By the way... if you've already completed any step, feel free to continue with the next!

Like a new born, the first thing you'll want is a name. This probably means a domain name. A domain name is one of those names ending with ".com", ".net", ".tv" or any one of those other suffixes. A name like this would give you something like www.yourdomain.name (".name" is one of the available options!) You can register a name at any of dozens of Domain Name Registrars. You can find a list of registrars at www.internic.net and there's also a nice non-technical explanation of the name system there too. Read, learn and enjoy! I said before "probably" to a domain name because it would be possible to hang off someone else's name as in www.theirdomain.name/yourwebsite This works, but it's not very elegant and it really doesn't save you much, as you'll see in a moment.

If your web site is going to be seen by anyone other than you -- and why else would you put so much effort into it?! -- you'll need space on a web server to host it. What kind of space -- and what kind of server -- is going to depend largely on what kind of site you want to build. For a personal site, you could use one of the free web hosting services (for example www.angelfire.com or www.geocities.com ) , but you'll be inundated with advertising every time you (or someone else) visit your site. The advertising pays for it. You could pay them, or any other web hosting service (see webhosts.thelist.com  There is a very low cost alternative. You remember those Registrars you looked at? Many of them offer site hosting at a very low price. I have used www.DirectNic.com for quite a long time and they offer registration for $15.00 and hosting for a year for another $15.00. They do the DNS, explain all that to you so you can understand it and enable you to set it all up with a couple of clicks. There are similar offers from several of those registrars so you don't have to take my word for it -- check 'em out and find yourself a good deal!

OK, you now have space with a name and you want to put something into it. There are several options open to you for this step also. First, if you used www.DirectNic.com or one of the other registrar's with a similar feature you could used their site creator which, for a few bucks, will help you, step by step, build your initial site. You could lay out some bucks for a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) generator like Dreamweaver or Frontpage (see www.htmlgoodies.com/articles/frontpagep1.html) The only problem with these programs for this type of situation is that unless you already understand the basics of web page design, the method to use to get started is not entirely intuitive. That having been said, these programs do have some good wizards to help you generate some pages, and they have excellent help systems. There just doesn't seem to be a good substitute for some hand-holding and step by step instructions.

Here's what I recommend at this point: use HTML Goodies! This was the first purpose of this site. In here you will find * FOR FREE * step by step Primers and Tutorials for each aspect of your new site. These Primers and Tutorials were written with you in mind. They have been organized such that you can use only those you need for your particular choices of design strategy, or you could browse through them for ideas for things to include in your site. I recommend that you start with the HTML Primer Series (see the links at the left) and then create your first page.

In the last of the HTML series (You Graduated!) there is some discussion about getting email, telnet and newsgroup access with your hosting account. Note that this would only apply to a standard UNIX (a server operating system) hosting service, and that these days most hosting service providers don't bundle all these things together anymore. The essential things you need are the space and either FrontPage or FTP upload access. FTP (File Transfer Protocol -- see www.htmlgoodies.com/beyond/ftp.html) is the most common; FrontPage (and programs that utilize the "FrontPage Extensions") has another method of uploading built in. There is more about FrontPage here: www.htmlgoodies.com/articles/frontpagep1.html

Once you have started your site, these basics will all fall into place for you. At that point you will want to skip around the various other Primers and Tutorials (see the links in the left margin) to find all kinds of other things you can add into it. For a great reference resource, take a look at The Master List (towards the bottom of the left margin), and if you get stuck, take advantage of our Mentors (see the bottom of the left margin); they do an amazing job of responding to questions with great solutions and are always willing to help you out.

You are now on your way to mastery of the art of publishing on the World Wide Web! Congratulations!!

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