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HTML for Kids: The Basics

Kids Can Build Web Pages—Get Them Started with HTML


Kid with Balloons

Kid with Balloons

Image courtesy iferrero from Stock.xchng

What is HTML?

You may have seen the acronym HTML before on a web page, in a book, or at the end of a website address (called a URL), but you probably don’t know what it means. HTML stands for HyperText Markup Language, and it is the name of the computer language that web pages are created from.

What Markup Means

The ’M’ in HTML stands for ’Markup’. Imagine that you are in charge of decorating your house and you need to tell the decorators how you want everything to look. You could “mark up” the room with your instructions.

You could do that by using a marker to write your choice of color on each wall or writing on the table that you want it in the center of the room. Or, you could write on the couch that you want it placed at a slight angle from where it is now. When the workers finish, your house and furniture won’t be different, but how it looks and where it’s located will look like the way you marked it.

That’s what HTML does—it decorates, moves, and changes code that a web page is made of. The code is not visible to someone reading the page. We only see the words, sentences and punctuation like in a book or a magazine. Only a web browser program like Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer or Safari looks at the HTML code and that is how the browser knows how to make the page look.

What Does HTML Do (or Not Do)?

If you can’t see the HTML code on a web page, what does it do, adjusts the appearance of words on the page to make them look or act differently. Here are some of the things that HTML can do:

  • HTML formats the page, which means that it creates paragraphs, headings, lists and tables. Basically, it changes the layout of the text and the way that the text looks.
  • HTML expresses the writer’s style and grammar, but it doesn’t choose it for her. The writer still needs to write the words, decide what elements need to be there and where they should go in order to express herself clearly.
  • HTML breaks up the sections and the words on the page to make it easier to read. For instance, you can use HTML to tell the web browser that a certain paragraph is a quotation from a person or a book or that one sentence should look bigger than the rest of the sentences or even that it should be placed all by itself in the middle of the page to start a new section.

Here are a few things that HTML can not do:

  • HTML cannot correct mistakes such as spelling, grammar, or punctuation.
  • HTML cannot be used to write a computer program. Since it’s simply a markup language, its job is not to calculate with numbers like some computer languages do. It does not have the features needed to perform functions like that.

How to See the HTML on a Web Page

Even though you do not see the HTML code when you are reading a web page, you can still view it if you want to. Here’s how:

In Firefox and Chrome browsers, place your mouse cursor on some of the text on the page and click your right mouse button. Then choose “view page source” from the menu that appears. (In Internet Explorer, the menu item will just say “view source”.) Source code is a phrase that means the HTML code that makes up the web page, and a new tab or window should open up that will show you the code.

What Did You See?

Depending on the web page that you are reading, when you right-clicked the page and chose to “view page source” should probably saw some plain text made up of paragraphs and sentences just like you would see on the screen.

You also should see other words in between angle brackets, which are the less than (<) and greater than (>) signs that you might have learned about in math class.

The angle brackets and the words in between them are called tags or elements, and the elements are the HTML parts of a web page. Elements tell the browser how the different parts of the web page should look and how it should be laid out. As you learn more about HTML and writing web pages, you will learn how to write a simple web page using HTML elements.

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