I’ve been thinking a lot about HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language) lately. It is a markup language for structuring the content of websites. Its syntax is in fact so simple that a lot of folks on the internet will get very upset if you call it a programming language. I don’t care. I need to collect zero nerd point over this. This is a sincere fan letter to HTML.
Are you older or younger than the internet? I grew up with it, and I think that is why the early stages of www feels so nostalgic to me. Pure HTML is how the internet looked when I first encountered it, and at a time when it was simpler in a lot of ways and felt like a more pure place to hang out than it does today. A perfect example is the very first website to ever be made. Did you know it is preserved for your enjoyment? Here it is in all its glory. This is what HTML gives us: content (headline, paragraphs, links, images, tables) with no styling whatsoever to make it pretty. Functional brutalist and beautiful!
Modern web development is constant flux. As a web developer, I need to keep up with a staggering amount of changes to the languages and frameworks I use for work. I also need to learn a couple of new ones every few years or so, in order to keep my skills current. In a world that is always changing, HTML is forever! I mean, isn’t it incredible that the first website ever created is written in such a simple and powerful markup language that it perfectly renderes in every browser known to man today — some 30+ years ago.
HTML is what you use to organize the content of a website with tags, such as headlines, paragraphs, links, images and lists. It is as versatile and box-shaped as LEGO bricks, simple and relatively beginner-friendly to learn. If you’re excited about learning how to build websites, this is the place to start and this. There is a finite number of tags you need to learn in order to create your very first website and see it render in the browser.
When building for the web, you need to keep inclusion and accessibility in mind. Just like a responsible architect should include ramps and escalators so that the finished building can be used by people with disabilities, web accessibility is about making sure web projects can be used by people with disabilities such as vision impairment, blind, deaf or people who can’t use a computer mouse. HTML, particularly semantic HTML is structured in a way that automatically makes it work for screen readers and enables keyboard navigation.
A lot of the challenges to make websites accessible, is that we keep adding more and more complexity. A lot of it is nice and makes your experience on the internet more interactive and visually immersive. Some of it is pure evil and centered around tracking your every move and selling you toothpaste. The simplest motherfucking website made with HTML will be the most accessible any day. Web accessibility is a big and really exciting topic in and of itself. I might dedicate a whole newsletter to the necessity, purpose and poetry of it.
What initially caught my interest in HTML was encountering a bunch of artists and designers that challenged me to think of it as an aesthetic. It all started When Johanne made me aware of the prolific artist, interaction designer and Princeton lecturer Laurel Schwulst. Listening to the interviews with artists and designer in her podcast, HTML Energy, reminds me how much fun it is to be able to draw something that fills the screen in my browser. It makes me question why technology have to be so hard. I am also inspired by designer Mindy Seu, artist Agnes Cameron, among many others.
Thanks for reading.
P.S. Did you ever make something with pure HTML? What was your earliest experiences building something? Do you have a favourite pure HTML website?
P.P.S. So many of you signed up for this! Thank you so much it has been a great pleasant surprise.