WEB PAGE CREATION FAQ

Last updated: 10 July 2016

A compilation of some of the most frequently asked questions by beginning Web Page Creators/Authors/Developers.

Q. What is the WWW?
A. The World Wide Web -- consists of a body of hypertext documents (Web pages containing text, images and multi media, navigable using hyperlinks) that can be accessed, navigated and manipulated via the Internet using a variety of User Agents (Graphical Browsers, Textual Browsers or Screen Readers). "The Web" was created in 1989 by Tim Berners-Lee and developed by Robert Cailliau.
Q. What is the Internet?
A. It is a worldwide facility that employs a system of protocols to connect computers together so that they can communicate with each other using Servers that deliver specially formatted Documents, the most common ones being hypertext documents that employ HTML (HyperText Markup Language). See Webopedia - The Difference Between the Internet and the World Wide Web.
Q. What is the W3C?
A. World Wide Web Consortium -- an international group of leading purveyors of hardware and software, augmented by Research Institutions, that fund a professional staff of recognized experts responsible for, amongst other activities, the creation and maintenance of Web standards and guidelines.
Q. What does the acronym HTML stand for?
A. The Hyper Text Markup Language that utilizes an array of pre-defined elements & attributes (tags) to facilitate interchange of text between documents residing on computers linked together on the Web via Hyperlinks. The latest iteration of W3C HTML is the HTML 4.01 Specification - the core HTML standard is ISO-HTML.
Q. What does the term "Markup" mean?
A. It is a frequently used term indicating the HTML language and its constructs.
Q. Are there any good, free, online HTML Tutorials?
A. Yes, an excellent starter is the W3C Tutorial by Dave Raggett: Getting started with HTML. Follow the header links to "Advanced HTML" and "Adding a touch of style". Use popular Search Engines to find other online Tutorials.
Q. What does the acronym SGML stand for?
A. Standard Generalized Markup Language. The syntax scheme for markup languages - in this instance for HTML. W3C Note: Comparison of SGML and XML
Q. What is a hyperlink?
A. Clickable link to a document or file that uses the HTTP protocol to access it via a URL.
Q. What is HREF as used in hyperlinks?
A. Hyper REFerence. It relates to the document address in the URL and is anchored by the A attribute. Example: <a href="http://www.jp29.org/index.htm">. A closing anchor can be used to add a textual description of the hyperlink. Example: <a href="http://www.jp29.org/index.htm">Link to the Home page</a>.
Q. What do HTTP and URL stand for?
A. Hyper Text Transfer Protocol -- used in conjunction with a Uniform Resource Locator to retrieve documents from Servers or to provide hyperlinks to other documents. A URL consists of the Server identifier (Domain name), folder identifier and file name.
Q. What does FTP stand for?
A. File Transfer Protocol -- used to transfer hypertext documents and files -- especially to upload them to a Server.
Q. What is "tag soup"?
A. Web authoring community description for implementations of non-standard HTML -- proprietary -- elements/attributes usually formulated by purveyors of automatic code generating software. Just about all extant Graphical Browsers (one type of User Agent) such as MSIE, Firefox, Opera, Safari, et al. are so configured that they will recognize (in quirks mode) "tag soup" and render documents that contain non-standard HTML Markup in an acceptable manner.
Q. What other types of User Agents are there?
A. Text mode Browsers that only display text, Screen Readers that read pages from left to right -- top to bottom -- and render the text as synthesized speech or transport it to a Braille reader, Search Engines and hand held (PDA) processing devices.
Q. What is "accessibility" and how do you make web pages accessible?
A. I cover this subject in depth on my page Web Content Accessibility (WCA).
Q. Is there a way for me to see how Screen Readers will view my pages?
A. You can get a good idea of what users will see if they view your page using a screen reader -- and pretty much how it will be interpreted by a Braille reader -- by reading your page content aloud left to right, top to bottom, you can get a good approximation of how your page will be rendered to blind or vision impaired people who use audio Browsers. This is also pretty much how search engine robots will read your page.
Q. What is interoperability?
A. Concept advanced by the W3C asserting that hypertext documents (Web pages) that are composed using valid HTML markup -- measured against established standards -- will function satisfactorily in all User Agents.
Q. Is there a good source for up to date Browser Information and Usage?
A. Yes, Chuck Upsdell's Browser News is the definitive reference that is constantly updated (be sure to read the caveats).
Q. What is Markup validation and how does it work?
A. The document is parsed (scanned) -- The document elements/attributes/constructs are verified against an associated DTD (Document Type Definition) consisting of standards compliant Markup.
Q. Why Validate Markup?
A. Validation enhances Interoperability -- correct rendering in all user agents. However, web pages can, and do, fail validation and still display pretty much as expected in graphical Browsers anyway due to their built-in Markup discrepancy compensation -- thereby relying on the often unreliable error correcting properties of individual graphical Browsers. Validation does catch many easily corrected Markup errors and the resultant code is consequently easy to maintain or change. Pages containing invalid Markup may not display or function correctly in Screen Readers, BRAILLE interpreters and Textual Browsers or when incorporated into other applications. As we move toward the Semantic Web, the rigors of XML will result in a greater requirement for Valid Markup. Valid and well formed Markup also bespeaks careful craftsmanship and that appeals to many web authors.
Q. How is a DTD added to a document for validation purposes?
A. It is embeded in a DOCTYPE declaration header. Example: <!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01//EN">
Q. What are style sheets (CSS)?
A. Compilation of style elements (font style & color, text size, background color, page layout parameters ..... and so on) to accompany HTML/XHTML documents in order to separate content from presentation. Style sheets can be embedded in Web pages or externally linked. W3C Cascading Style Sheets
Q. Why should content be separated from presentation?
A. HTML was not designed to effect presentation -- document layout -- but rather it is a language for rendering text and hyperlinks in a logical manner. Presentation elements/attributes (such as Table, Background color, Align, etc.) have been added since its inception. A great feature of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) is the ease of page layout management they afford.
Q. What are Strictly Conforming HTML/XHTML Documents?
A. Web pages that successfully validate against a DTD consisting of strictly defined elements/attributes. Care should be exercised when using Transitional DTDs as they contain deprecated elements/attributes that will eventually become obsolete (leading to tag soup).
Q. How do I validate Web page Markup?
A. There are two widely used (free) HTML/XHTML Validators available: the W3C Markup Validation Service and the WDG HTML Validator. IMO both are equally good -- the WDG validator has the advantage of multi-page validation and presents the Markup source code very nicely. Both Validators identify errors and link to corrective action suggestions.
Q. Is there a comprehensive online listing of all Graphical Browsers and their versions?
A. The W3C compilation and tabulation XHTML media type test - results is a pretty good representation that coincidentally illustrates how various Graphical Browsers render XHTML document MIME/Media types.
Q. Is there an online facility for quick checking of Markup syntax for errors?
A. Yes, HTML Tidy is the de-facto standard HTML syntax error checking and clean-up program. It is not only a Markup syntax error checker, it also checks for document well-formedness; can convert HTML to XHTML; convert Uppercase Markup to lowercase; effect code "Pretty Printing" (indentation and spacing), etc. Although Tidy is one of the most popular and useful Web authoring utilities, it is not a Validator -- it will not check Markup against specific DTDs and offer corrective action -- although running documents through Tidy first is an important step toward successful Validation. I run all my Web pages through Tidy and use it for code "pretty printing".
Q. How can I insure that visitors will view my Web pages exactly as I designed them?
A. You can't. Web authors have little control over how their Web pages will be viewed and displayed in graphical Browsers these days. Users can now selectively, via drop-down menus, turn off image display; view only alternate text for images; resize the entire page layout; disable animation; enlarge or reduce text size; turn off or modify coloration and even substitute the user's own personal style sheet -- procedures that will alter the page layout altogether. Those using Firefox 2.x (and maybe 1.x) & MSIE 7.x Browsers can alter the size of the text and images at will via the keyboard (may be slight delay while images resize).
Q. How can I determine how my Web pages are being served?
A. By using the View HTTP Request and Response Header facility -- specify Browser (User agent).
Q. What is XHTML?
A. It is the W3C reformulation of HTML as an XML (eXtensible Markup Language) application. Documents must be served as Media (MIME) type application/xhtml+xml to function that way. If they are served as Media (MIME) type text/html and are well formed as defined in the W3C XHTML Recommendation they will be syntactically compliant HTML documents without XML functionality. Practically all extant XHTML pages are being served this way. This situation will prevail until Microsoft changes its stance on support for the Media (MIME)type application/xhtml+xml per IE Blog of September 15, 2005. Reference/resource: MIME Types and Content Negotiation (Note: this was written in 2003 -- in the Summary, MS Internet Explorer 7 should be added as non-supportive of MIME type application/xhtml+xml)
Q. What is XML?
A. eXtensible Markup Language as explained at O'Reilly XML.com.
Q. What is an .htaccess file?
A. It is a special configuration file that is loaded on the Server software (if permitted). The Server checks it at the start of each HTTP retrieval session for file associations. My own Server associated both file extension types -- .htm & .html with Media (MIME) type text/html. I added the following line to the .htaccess file: AddType application/xhtml+xml html so that .html files (XHTML documents) will be associated with Media (MIME) type application/xhtml+xml and therefor .htm files (HTML documents) will be associated with Media (MIME) type text/html. Here is the definitive Comprehensive guide to .htaccess
Q. What are Web scripting applications?
A. Simple programming languages that are used in conjunction with HTML/XHTML documents to perform a variety of document delivery, data processing and display enhancing tasks. There are two kinds of scripting: Client-side that is interactive and takes place via Browsers on user computers and Server-side that runs on the Web author's Server delivering the output to user Browsers. JavaScript is the most popular Client-side scripting language and PHP (Hypertext Preprocessor) is the most popular Server-side scripting language.
Q. What are the International Standard Date & Time formats for the Web?
A. ISO Standard 8601 Prescribes the International date format as YYYY-MM-DD and the time format as hh:mm:ss I employ these International Standard notations on my Web pages whenever applicable or appropriate.

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