Our guide to HTML
Hotcourses Editor

Our guide to HTML

First published date November 13 2013 Amended date November 13 2013

You might not have heard of HTML, but the chances are that you use it every day without realising it. Indeed, this page on the Hotcourses website was created using HTML, just like the rest of our site. Press CTRL and U at the same time on your PC’s keyboard, and a text box will pop up, featuring lines of multi-coloured words, angular brackets and abbreviations. This is HTML, and it is a programming language used all around the world, forming a key building block of every website you visit.


Making its mark

HTML stands for Hyper Text Markup Language, and it is related to the method by which data is sent across the Internet – Hyper Text Transfer Protocol, or HTTP. You might recognise this abbreviation, since it forms the start of every website address, usually followed by the abbreviation for the World Wide Web.


What’s in a name?

The first two words in HTML’s name refer to clickable pieces of text that hyperlink to another web page. The Markup part outlines what happens to the text in terms of formatting, and the word Language identifies HTML as using code-words and syntax that pass on instructions to your computer’s Internet browser, through basic phrases and terms. For instance, when

appears in HTML coding, it tells the computer that a new paragraph is beginning, whereas the

instruction signifies that this paragraph is over and a new line should begin.


Each set of HTML instructions tells your computer how things should look, where they should appear, and what needs to happen if someone clicks on a particular part of the page or enters information into a text box. HTML can also support other types of website programming, allowing things like videos or slideshows to work. Since pretty much every page on the internet requires HTML to function, being able to program in this language is an essential skill for many computing and IT jobs. However, because this language uses English words and phrases, it is relatively easy to learn, and it is generally considered to be less daunting than more technical programming languages.


IT’s really quite simple

Studying an HTML course can be an invaluable stepping stone towards other computing languages, such as programming courses in C++ or JavaScript courses. These languages are more complicated than HTML, but also more powerful, as they allow websites to become stylish and animated. Indeed, HTML is a useful skill to have before starting any advanced or undergraduate computing courses, where prospective students are often expected to be fluent computer users, rather than simply being able to surf the web and create a document in Microsoft Excel.

Computers are driving the global economy nowadays, and many of the world’s biggest companies are internet-based. The IT sector continues to grow rapidly, making it a very useful industry to hold academic qualifications in. There is a constant need and demand for people who are good at computer programming, and since HTML is arguably the most important programming language in the world, doing an HTML course could act as a springboard to a successful (and well-paid!) career in computing.


Future-proof your knowledge

One of the biggest advantages of taking an HTML course is that there is no likely replacement for it in the pipeline, so any programming skills learned today will still be of use in a decade’s time. That isn’t always the case in the famously fast-moving world of computing, where languages sometimes die out or get replaced.


Four fascinating facts about HTML

History: HTML was invented by the same man who created the World Wide Web, which allows us to view and surf the internet. In 1990, while working for a nuclear research organisation in Switzerland, Tim Berners-Lee devised a new programming language that allowed web browsers to lay out website pages according to detailed coded instructions.


Timeline: Like many things, this programming language is constantly evolving. Today, HTML4.01 is the latest version, but version 5 is in the final stages of development. It has also mutated into a separate (but related) language called XHTML, which was created to allow more compatibility with other programming languages and formats.


Money: It costs nothing to program in HTML. There is no need to buy expensive proprietary software, because anyone can create his or her own code and make a simple website. Basic instructions are fairly easy to grasp, but this language can also achieve far more complex things.


Legacy: Because HTML is what programmers call backwards-compatible, old versions of the language still work in today’s web browsers like Chrome, Safari and Internet Explorer. Some really old websites might look dated by modern standards, but they continue to display and operate as they always have done – we’re just used to more stylish sites nowadays…


By Neil Cumins

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