Getting to Know HTML -
With our introduction to HTML and CSS complete, it’s time to dig a little deeper into HTML and examine the different components that make up this language.
In order to start building websites, we need to learn a little about which HTML elements are best used to display different types of content. It’s also important to understand how elements are visually displayed on a web page, as well as what different elements mean semantically.
Using the proper element for the job goes a long way, and we’ll want to make well-informed decisions in the process.
Semantics Overview -
So what exactly are semantics? Semantics within HTML is the practice of giving content on the page meaning and structure by using the proper element. Semantic code describes the value of content on a page, regardless of the style or appearance of that content. There are several benefits to using semantic elements, including enabling computers, screen readers, search engines, and other devices to adequately read and understand the content on a web page. Additionally, semantic HTML is easier to manage and work with, as it shows clearly what each piece of content is about.
Moving forward, as new elements are introduced, we’ll talk about what those elements actually mean and the type of content they best represent. Before we do that, though, let’s look at two elements—<div>s and <span>s—that actually don’t hold any semantic value. They exist for styling purposes only.
Identifying Divisions & Spans -
Divisions, or <div>s, and <span>s are HTML elements that act as containers solely for styling purposes. As generic containers, they do not come with any overarching meaning or semantic value. Paragraphs are semantic in that content wrapped within a <p> element is known and understood as a paragraph. <div>s and <span>s do not hold any such meaning and are simply containers.
Block vs. Inline Elements -
Most elements are either block- or inline-level elements. What’s the difference?
Block-level elements begin on a new line, stacking one on top of the other, and occupy any available width. Block-level elements may be nested inside one another and may wrap inline-level elements. We’ll most commonly see block-level elements used for larger pieces of content, such as paragraphs.
Inline-level elements do not begin on a new line. They fall into the normal flow of a document, lining up one after the other, and only maintain the width of their content. Inline-level elements may be nested inside one another; however, they cannot wrap block-level elements. We’ll usually see inline-level elements with smaller pieces of content, such as a few words.
Both <div>s and <span>s, however, are extremely valuable when building a website in that they give us the ability to apply targeted styles to a contained set of content.
A <div> is a block-level element that is commonly used to identify large groupings of content, and which helps to build a web page’s layout and design. A <span>, on the other hand, is an inline-level element commonly used to identify smaller groupings of text within a block-level element.
We’ll commonly see <div>s and <span>s with class or id attributes for styling purposes. Choosing a class or id attribute value, or name, requires a bit of care. We want to choose a value that refers to the content of an element, not necessarily the appearance of an element.
For example, if we have a <div> with an orange background that contains social media links, our first thought might be to give the <div> a class value of orange. What happens if that orange background is later changed to blue? Having a class value of orange no longer makes sense. A more sensible choice for a class value would be social, as it pertains to the contents of the <div>, not the style.
<!-- Division --><div class="social"><p>I may be found on...</p><p>Additionally, I have a profile on...</p></div><!-- Span --><p>Soon we'll be <span class="tooltip">writing HTML</span> with the best of them.</p>
Comments within HTML & CSS -
The previous code includes exclamation points within the HTML, and that’s all right. Those are not elements, those are comments.
HTML and CSS give us the ability to leave comments within our code, and any content wrapped within a comment will not be displayed on the web page. Comments help keep our files organized, allow us to set reminders, and provide a way for us to more effectively manage our code. Comments become especially useful when there are multiple people working on the same files.
HTML comments start with <!-- and end with -->. CSS comments start with /* and end with */.
Using Text-Based Elements -
Many different forms of media and content exist online; however, text is predominant. Accordingly, there are a number of different elements for displaying text on a web page. For now we’ll focus on the more popular elements, including headings, paragraphs, bold text to show importance, and italics for emphasis. Later, within Lesson 6, “Working with Typography,” we’ll take a closer look at how to style text.
Headings are block-level elements, and they come in six different rankings, <h1> through <h6>. Headings help to quickly break up content and establish hierarchy, and they are key identifiers for users reading a page. They also help search engines to index and determine the content on a page.
Headings should be used in an order that is relevant to the content of a page. The primary heading of a page or section should be marked up with an <h1> element, and subsequent headings should use <h2>, <h3>, <h4>, <h5>, and <h6> elements as necessary.
Each heading level should be used where it is semantically valued, and should not be used to make text bold or big—there are other, better ways to do that.
Here is an example of HTML for all the different heading levels and the resulting display on a web page.
<h1>Heading Level 1 </h1> <h2>Heading Level 2 </h2> <h3>Heading Level 3 </h3> <h4>Heading Level 4 </h4> <h5>Heading Level 5 </h5> <h6>Heading Level 6 </h6>
Heading Level 1
Heading Level 2
Heading Level 3
Heading Level 4
Heading Level 5
Heading Level 6
Headings are often followed by supporting paragraphs. Paragraphs are defined using the <p> block-level element. Paragraphs can appear one after the other, adding information to a page as desired. Here is an example of how to set up paragraphs.
<p>Steve Jobs was a co-founder and longtime chief executive officer at Apple. On June 12, 2005, Steve gave the commencement address at Stanford University.</p> <p>In his address Steve urged graduates to follow their dreams and, despite any setbacks, to never give up–advice which he sincerely took to heart.</p>
Steve Jobs was a co-founder and longtime chief executive officer at Apple. On June 12, 2005, Steve gave the commencement address at Stanford University.
In his address Steve urged graduates to follow their dreams and, despite any setbacks, to never give up–advice which he sincerely took to heart.
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