Getting Started with HyperText Markup Language
  June 8, 2002

Dear Cheryl,

Months ago you asked me some questions about web sites and HTML. I hope the following is worth the wait.

Best wishes,


In March 2002, I began an 18-week training program in web site design. I knew nothing about setting up a site and hadn't even been able to figure out the book, "Setting Up an Internet Site for Dummies." I found the book complicated and useless.

The classes are small, just eight students and a very patient teacher, George Battle. Each module lasts for two or three weeks and are on-going. When I started they were finishing Dreamweaver and about to start three weeks in Fireworks.

I soon realized that I needed to know something about HTML and the very basic structure that gets a web page working. The class wouldn't get to HTML for another 12 weeks so I went and found yet another "Dummies" book, "Creating Web Pages for Dummies." It was better for me than the one mentioned above. And it has a chapter called "Just Enough HTML."

This was what I needed and a week later I had a free website from Yahoo/Geocities and my own domain name. This first attempt worked and was entirely hand coded in HTML.

The book gave me "Just Enough HTML" to get started and soon I wanted to know more. I found it on-line.

The best source of advice was the "HTML Primer." It is on the University of Illinois' web site at their National Center for Supercomputing Applications. Because it has been archived on the UICU site it is hard to link to, so I put it on my site.

I began at the beginning and coded every example and made my own HTML primer. And so should you.

Before you start making your own primer, print the whole thing out both as text and in the HTML code. It's a lot of pages but well worth it.

On my site you will see other HTML help sites and there are a lot more out there. "Bare Bones" is very good.

The very best book is "HTML, Your Visual Blueprint for Designing Effective Web Pages" by Maran Graphics. I got it at Office Max for $25. The ISBN is 0-7645-3471-8. Get it.

It's published by the "Dummies" people--www.idgbooks.com--but is a little bit more advanced. Each HTML concept is visually presented on a two-page spread and shows both the code you enter and the final display.

My current site uses a combination of Dreamweaver and hand coding. I couldn't have done it with either one alone. I am now paying Yahoo/Geocities for my site--a small monthly fee. The free site comes with lots of ad banners but it's a great way to get started.


1. Save your pages with the extension html not htm. Unless I am entering text in Dreamweaver I use Notepad not Word. I found saving Word files as text brought up too many annoying warning messages.

2. Enter all HTML code in lowercase even if the older books say to use all caps.

3. To prerview your HTML page, save it, then go to "My Computer" and click on the HTML file. It runs your web browser without having to get on-line and shows you exactly what your page looks like. At least what it looks like on your computer.