The benefits of knowing HTML

A recent interview with the design director of NYTimes.com revealed something wonderful, they still write their HTML by hand.

It’s our preference to use a text editor, like HomeSite, TextPad or TextMate, to “hand code” everything, rather than to use a wysiwyg (what you see is what you get) HTML and CSS authoring program, like Dreamweaver. We just find it yields better and faster results.

Hell yeah, it does.

The nerds can get a bit macho about their coding skillz, as can be witnessed in the comments thread over at LifeHacker, but don’t be fooled – HTML is not just for 21st century gearheads.

Sixth W, in HTML

Why we care

It is nearly impossible to write tight code with software like Dreamweaver unless you’re already a HTML guru. But so what, as long as it looks pretty, it’s fine, right?

Wrong. A well-coded site loads much faster, is easier to maintain and will be more findable by search engines. The files will be smaller, keeping your hosting costs down because you’re using less bandwidth.

Plus you don’t have to buy all that software! The finest text editor on the market, TextMate, costs $63. Dreamweaver costs $399. I use the very simple gedit, a free and open source text editor for Linux, and Windows users have the excellent and also free Notepad++.

Finally, even if you are just writing a blog (or using any other content management system), a knowledge of some basic HTML will make an enormous difference in the visual consistency of your work.

A BMW and a Pontiac aren’t all that different – except in the details. Users notice build quality, even if they’ve got no idea what’s going on under the hood.

If I’ve sold you

Jeffrey Zeldman’s fantastic book Designing with Web Standards is the best place to start. Zeldman explains the benefits of good code in a elegant, human-friendly fashion.

Then, once you’re drinking the kool-aid, pick up Web Standards Solutions: The Markup and Style Handbook by Dan Cederholm. It’s jam-packed with clear and pragmatic examples of well-written HTML.

And once you’re swinging a mean axe, A List Apart will make you stronger, faster, and more powerful.

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2 thoughts on “The benefits of knowing HTML

  1. Thanks, Sol!

    That is a very cool video – Web 2.0 is hard concept for a lot of folks to understand. Perhaps we should watch this in class.

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