Before You Get Started with HTML Programming

Before you get started with HTML programming, you need to have a few elements on your side. You can learn HTML just by reading, but the truth really is that reading about HTML cannot do much for you. In order to truly learn HTML, you need to be able to use HTML in a practical setting. So I'm going to teach you how to set up your own web page to use as a sandbox. (In Internet terminology, a sandbox is a virtual testing site.)

Your Web Host

Your computer is not where your web page will live. Instead, it needs to be uploaded to a web host, a computer somewhere else that has a direct link to the rest of the Internet that can be accessed by other computers.

There are three ways to get web hosting. Certain internet service providers (ISPs) will give you a limited amount of free web space when you get an account with them. There are also thousands of hosting services that will provide you web space for a fee, depending on how much space you need and how much traffic (that is, how many people will be looking at your page) it will see.

For our purposes, however, you will be using the third option: free web hosting. This is space provided by a host, in exchange for which you will allow them to run advertising on the pages you create. Advertising is how most people make money online, and it can be lucrative (for proof, go to shoemoney.com's website).

Later, if you plan to do anything serious with your website, you'll need to get a professional web host to provide you with space you can run your own advertising and services on.

Some free web hosts you can choose from right now are:

  • Geocities.com
  • FreeWebs.com
  • Bravenet.com

These websites offer hosting free and for a fee. It really depends on what kinds of features you are looking for and need. They offer a certain amount of space for free, for example, Geocities offers 15 MB (Megabytes) of space free of charge. You are also allotted 4.2 Megabyes of Data Transfer usage per day. However, they do offer the ability to lift the limits, add more space, remove ads from the site, and so much more for an additional fee.

With most free web hosting providers, you will receive a domain that is an extension of that provider. For Geocities, you will choose a user name and your domain will become www.geocities.com/YourUserName. This is fine if you are just creating a personal website or just using one for practice, but for businesses this is not something you want to use.

But, if you are looking at a business model involving web publishing and internet marketing, then you should consider going in for a high value, low cost web hosting service provider. It would be ideal if someone can spoon-feed you with all the steps for a successful web publishing career. Site Build It is such a web hosting service which takes care of everything from keyword brainstorming to website building, marketing and monetization, etc.

Domain Names and IP Addresses

A web address (also called a URL, Universal Resource Locator) is divided into at least four parts.

http://www.yourdomain.com/yourfile.htm

The http:// part of your domain name is the protocol type your browser is supposed to use to decode the page; in this case, it's a Hypertext Transfer Protocol page, or HTML page. (There are several other options, like ftp and gopher.)

The www portion is a subgroup name used by your web server more to sort your page than anything. WWW in this name typically means the page is designed to be used on the World Wide Web, but almost anything can take its place. You can set this part at your server.

The "yourdomain" part is the core of your web page, and is one half of what you'd purchase if you bought a domain name. This piece cannot change.

The ".com" piece is called the extension (or by real geeks, the top-level domain - so you can see the importance of domain name pieces rises from left to right up to the slash), and is the other half of what you'd purchase in a domain name. This can be one of a list of extensions, usually .com, .net, and .org. You can also purchase a country-coded extension, like .co.uk, and the .edu, .gov, and .mil extensions are reserved for educational, government, and military purposes only. In most cases, you want to do whatever you can to pick up the .com address, as that's what most people assume is at the end of any given web address.

Most web hosts will also sell you your domain name. The going rate is around $10/year, but you can find them today as cheaply as $8 for a .com name, and some hosts give away domain name registration free if you sign a year or more contract for hosting.

You can choose to have a customized domain name as well. Many websites sell these fairly cheap and are great for businesses or someone who wants to be identified by their own domain, instead of an extension of another. Your domain name can be anything you would like. For example, you can use your own name, if it is available. You can use your business name or anything you would like.

Generally, you would go to a website that offers domains for sale. They will have a search tool available in most cases that will allow you to type your domain name in the search box and find out if it is available for use. You can usually choose which type of URL extension you would like such as .net, .com, .info, and so on. GoDaddy is a pioneer as a Domain Registrar and the best on the block. But, if you purchase hosting with many webhosting companies, like Inmotionhosting.com, then you do not need to purchase a domain name separately as the hosting price includes the price for domain registration.

HTML Editors

There are two basic types of HTML editors: the WYSIWYG editor and the text editor WYSIWYG stands for “what you see is what you get,” and allows you to create and edit a web page in an environment that looks very much like the page end result.

The other type, the text editor, uses various levels of HTML coding, and looks more like that page you pulled up in the last lesson when you Viewed Page Source. Some text editors use colored codes to make it easier to pick out your elements and tags.

The industry standard for the WYSIWYG editor is Dreamweaver, followed closely by Microsoft FrontPage. Both are good, but pricey. A free alternative is NVU, which is based on the also-free Mozilla Composer. I recommend using either of these before sinking hundreds of dollars into the others. Later, you may want to invest (Dreamweaver, in particular, is a fantastic program), but you may also decide that the free programs suit you just fine.

For text editing, you can stick with your ordinary Windows text editor, saving the file as an .htm or .html file. Do NOT create HTML in Word or WordPerfect without saving your documents as ASCII Text (.txt) files (then changing them to .htm before uploading), or you will create code that will mess up your web page. If you want a text editor that uses colors on coding, the free program Arachnophilia is excellent.

You may also be able to get online editors when you pick up your hosting, but if you're learning HTML, on no account should you use these. Online editors have limited functions, and you won't be able to create a great original page with them as you will using HTML.

No matter which method you choose to use, you will absolutely need all of these elements in order to implement a website onto the internet and before you get started with HTML programming.

Try This:

Go out and download one of the WYSIWYG editors, and install it. Play around in it for a while. You'll notice, if you're used to using a word processor, that it's not really too hard to use. You can get a text editor, or you can use the HTML Source tab at the bottom of the page if you have NVU, to manipulate hard code. Just make sure, before you go any further, that you have the ability to manipulate your HTML code by hand.