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Saturday, March 2, 2013

HTML Part 1

Over the past several hundred years, the list of skills an artist might acquire in order to succeed have gradually increased along with the complexity of our modern world. For instance, the advent of photography alone added substantially to this skills list, whether one works from photos, employs them as part of the work itself, or merely photographs one's own work. But almost nothing on the list is absolutely necessary for success. There's little in the way of artistic or business services that money won't buy. However there are quite a few skills for which an artist has to pay dearly if he or she chooses not to get involved in that area of expertise. Photography is only one. Framing is another. Bookkeeping comes to mind. And still another is Web design services. Fortunately, none of these skills is beyond the intellectual grasp of even the average artist if that individual has the will to devote a little precious time to pursuing them.

In my book, Art THINK, I touched briefly on one of these skills--Web site design. I talked about the why, when, where, who, and even if an artists should have a Web site. But I did not mention the  "how." Despite the common usage of WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) software designed to make site construction as simple as possible, before an artist can write, or even edit HTML he or she must first be able to read it. In the interest of helping along this line, I'm going to begin a highly simplified discourse on the subject.   

HTML stands for Hypertext Markup Language. It's not rocket science. It sounds pretty intimidating but really it's merely a means of editing text so various browsers can read and present the contents in something like a consistent manner, given the hundreds of software and hardware configurations out there online. This editing function is accomplished by means of the use of "tags." The tags are contained in sets of "less than" and "greater than" symbols, "<" and ">." An example is the first tag at the top of an HTML document.  This tells the browser what it's looking at. It's called an "opening" tag (above, left). At the end of the document, is a closing tag which is identical  
With few exceptions, in HTML coding, every opening tag must be followed at some point by a closing tag.

In future episodes, (in small doses) I'll continue helping would-be artist become masters of their own Web destinies. I'll go as slowly as I can, not as a tutorial, but so artists can get past the fear of the unknown. Hopefully, if you can read it, you may one day be able to edit it, and perhaps beyond that, even write it. (Even with a WYSIWYG program, editing skills are quite valuable.)  In the meantime, if you've never looked at HTML code before, try right-clicking in any blank area of this or any Web page, then selecting "View source" from the window that appears. (This blog was created using BlogSpot's WYSIWYG software.) Within seconds your eyes will glaze over as you scan down over the page behind the page. Reread the text above then try it again. Try to separate content from tags. Compare the source code to the Web page. Concentrate on the similarities. Don't try to understand all the tags, just try to identify what each section does.  Now, close the page, uncross your eyes, and go lie down. It gets easier.

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