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Take HTML Seriously!

Sunday 30 November, 2003 ( 6:33PM GMT)

A few days ago I accidentally found myself being interviewed for a job.
The role was a design and HTML / CSS development role with an emphasis on standards and accessibility. In fact, the job description was a perfect match with my skill set.
These specific jobs don't come along very often (not in London anyway) and as the interview drew to a close it was clear that supply was just as rare as demand as I was told I was the only candidate they had seen that really fitted what they were looking for.

As far as I can tell most people think HTML is easy - 'anyone can do it'. It is a language that most potential web professionals will learn first before moving on to something 'more difficult' such as ASP, JAVA or whatever. But I have been specialising in these technologies for around five years now and I still find challenges every day. The basics may be easy but to really master HTML, CSS, standards, semantics and the separation of content from presentation is a great challenge and I for one enjoy HTML and I am proud with what I can achieve with it.

It isn't a surprise to me that there aren't more specialists when the speciality isn't taken seriously by employers who then don't see the need to seek such specialists.

But why don't they take it seriously? Whatever happens on the back end, HTML and CSS are usually what the server spits out at the user and the more streamlined it is, the faster it will load and the more cross-compatible it is, the more people will be able to see it and the more accessible it is, the more people will be able to see, or as the case may be, hear it.

This is important stuff.


Comment 1

Having read this post about taking HTML seriously on a site so well put together as html dog makes me feel better about myself. I am a web designer currently in transition from newbie to oldbie and am frequently discouraged that HTML sometimes gets the better of me. Through the years (2 of them) I have slowly come to respect HTML (and more recently XHTML) as a language and not a mere annoyance that gets in the way of the fun stuff (, javascript). I've learned that HTML can either facilitate or hinder the fast construction of a clean site depending on how much attention you give it. Thank you, html dog, for validating my feelings that HTML is not dumb.

So said Sam on Tuesday 2 December, 2003 at 1:36AM GMT.

Comment 2

I couldn't agree more. Starting out, I always felt like HTML was just a jumping off point for the bigger, badder web technologies. But, since getting hooked on CSS/XHTML last year, I've come to understand how powerful it can be. And, since I didn't think much of HTML then, I overly relied on Dreamweaver and such. This last year, though, I've been breaking a lot of bad habits, learning a lot of the basics I never did, handcoding a lot more, and really enjoying the work again.

So said Sharif on Tuesday 2 December, 2003 at 3:02AM GMT.

Comment 3

XHTML, HTML,CSS, et al, won't be taken seriously until it affects a company's profits.

So said greg on Tuesday 2 December, 2003 at 8:54PM GMT.

Comment 4

But that's just it - it can affect profits. Faster pages due to better HTML increase usability and so should result in a more successful site. In an immediate, more tangible example, lighter pages mean lower bandwidth and so lower hosting costs. And then of course there's the fact that the more cross-compatible and accessible HTML is the more people can actually use the site, meaning more potential customers meaning more profit.

So said Patrick on Tuesday 2 December, 2003 at 9:06PM GMT.

Comment 5

I hear what you are saying, and I agree. I guess I am just as curious as you are as to the reasons why.

I am struggling with this same question as I face the end of a contract job because I just don't see an acceptance in the near future, so long as a person can be hired to run a WYSIWYG editor cheaper than a "specialist" can hand-craft code.

I could tell stories, but my therapist says I need to let go and move on. :)

So said greg on Tuesday 2 December, 2003 at 11:02PM GMT.

Comment 6

It's true that most employers simply don't see the advantage of hiring an expert html hand-coder who specialises in this field and doesn't have 5+ years experience in java/vbs/asp etc. It's also entirely true that well written xhtml/css can have a definite impact on a company's profits. I guess we just have to keep our fingers crossed ( and keep breaking down doors) until web standards are given the attention and respect they deserve. At the moment we are all losing out: designers because they can't find work that fits their skills and clients because they're choosing old school wysiwyg flashy gif type sites over modern w3c compliant alternatives. Yes, it sucks.

So said jim on Saturday 6 December, 2003 at 5:38AM GMT.

Comment 7

In my experience, most managers and salesmen only seem to see the length a project takes to complete as affecting the profits. Plus they seem to expect web pages to mimic the interface of a windows forms app, which means we result in using non standard browser specific features to get things done within deadlines.

The same standards story is present in software world, where we don't have W3C to tell us how things should be done.

So said Fenn on Monday 8 December, 2003 at 3:51PM GMT.

Comment 8

Designing with web standards shouldn't take any longer than other non-standard methods. In fact, I would suggest that they speed up the process more often than not .

I was working on a large-scale project recently on which I became involved at quite a late stage. Many changes needed to be made but that process was slow and resulted in inconsitency because the web site did not use CSS properly. One of the benefits of separating content and presentation is that you can have the presentation of the whole web site sitting in one manageable CSS file, which can be altered quickly, adjusting presentation across the web site, which also has the added benefit of assuring consistency in the design.

So said Patrick on Monday 8 December, 2003 at 4:03PM GMT.

Comment 9

To give you all a bit of hope, I'm definately seeing a rise in the need for HTML/CSS specialists due to the rise of interest in the issue of accessibilty. Now that this has become a buzz word amoungst the ignorant manager types people are realising that bodging together nasty HTML that looks fine is just not good enough. No matter what Macromedia say, the "unskilled" use of Dreamweaver just isn't enough to make pages fully accessible.

This, I believe, is the initial hook for specialist HTML coders to get in. Once you are in an organisation I've found it is becoming increasingly easier to demonstrate the other advantages of standards based web design and to convince the ignorant management types it has a real business benefit.

So said Dan Webb on Friday 12 December, 2003 at 11:47AM GMT.

Comment 10

You folks give me hope. Very much a part-timer, creating sites for my self, I've moved from simple WYSiWYG editors (Ace) to Front Page (spending most of my time sorting out the compiled HTML by hand afterwards) and then to Dreamweaver (mostly as a more controllable tool for managing the files on my machine and on the host).

I am far more interested in content, usability and SEM than in automating the way pages get served (that's database and transaction manager programming -not my scene).

I bought a couple of CSS books, but your tutorials beat them hands down. All I need now is the time to create style sheets and use them for all my new pages. Keep up the good work, and here's hoping I'll soon be able to earn a few quid to supplement my meagre pension by adding HTML/CSS skills to technical writing and photography . Neither of these has yet contributed serious revenue, but I keep knocking on doors.

So said Mike Kingdom-Hockings on Monday 16 February, 2004 at 12:35PM GMT.

Comment 11

Hi. The main problem is that companies don't really care about their Intenet pages. The ones that do have upmarket flashey stuff with integated vb applications and such like.

However the gap between them and the ones without a clue is significent. There is little middle ground and once companies realise they need simplicity context over squashed up and messy context then CSS would be more widely accepted.

I've noticed a load of CSS pre-requisists recently but unfortunealty they seem to think that it's staple that you should have every other element under your hood.

I.e. .ASP; Flash, C++, VB (I only know a little), Javascript, CGI, DHTML and XHTML. They neglect hand coding!! For someone who was told that only Dreamweaver Advanced course would be neccesary to get a job it is ludicres.

I still need Photoshop and/ or Quark to get anywhere. Companies need to realise that it's more efficient for them to get several people working on these projects with a master programmer as a co-ordinator. That way they'll save loads and there would be more opportunities to train the intermediate.

It's messy. - Tom.

So said Tom on Thursday 4 March, 2004 at 2:15PM GMT.

Comment 12


As August 2004 draws to a close, it seems that things haven't changed a whole lot. I'm amazed @ how many people still misuse HTML, even among the experts. Also, W3C isn't helping either. I really believe that they fumbled the ball with their standards for definition lists.

Even right now, my brother is developing a content management system for people who can't code HTML & CSS. Thus, they can cut & paste & adjust the positioning. It's sad.

I am in complete agreement with you about the difficulty of HTML. It isn't about programming & some may think that it is. It's about interpretation of the text & how it relates to the entire document.

So said Eugene T.S. Wong on Tuesday 31 August, 2004 at 8:34AM GMT.

Comment 13

I have also experience the same. Whenever I had been interviewd for html devloper, i was also asksed if i had knowledge of PHP/ASP or any other language as well. I am an expert in HTML and can do wonders with HTML and my design skill...

So said Bhupendra on Wednesday 8 September, 2004 at 8:01AM GMT.

Comment 14

hypertext markup language is just not a web based language. its more than that. it has completly changed the world. without html internet would not have been so user friendly. i think we should definatly take html seriously and must try to learn this fantastic language. :)))

So said florence on Monday 13 September, 2004 at 10:55AM GMT.

Comment 15

There seem to be a lot of XHTML accessible coders out there. Are any of you freelancers working in London? Do any of you have space between contracts? I need someone to work with me in building some accessible sites to AAA standard. Any takers?

So said Joanna on Tuesday 19 October, 2004 at 12:26PM GMT.

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