March 09, 2007

HTML vs an editor

American Libraries Direct (February 28 issue) linked to a posting on blog titled "CMSes, WYSIWYG -- why learn HTML?" The question is with editors like FrontPage and DreamWeaver why do you need to know HTML? I didn't learn to do HTML until I took a graduate class on web design as part of the program for my MLS. My instructor was of the opinion that you learn to code it, then you can use an editor. His reasoning was more than sound - if you can code it, then you can look at someone else's (or something else's) code to identify where problems are coming from. He also contended that if you code it yourself, it keeps the coding cleaner, making it easier for others to know what you have done. So, I learned HTML, some Java script, and some ASP.

Shortly after starting my first professional librarian position, I wound up re-designing my library's website. I tried using the university's template, but without their style sheet it wasn't feasible. So, I took our new design and I coded it out. In HTML. Using a simple text editor (a step up from Notepad). It won't win awards, but it was a definite improvement over the six year-old design of the existing website. I used cascading style sheets and a tad of ASP.

After I'd been doing it awhile, I was given MS Frontpage. Then I knew what my instructor was talking about. I simply used this as an enhanced editor. And, it did forms nicely. But, if you tried to use the visual interface, the coding was worse than messy. And, it can take what you've done and basically throw it out the window. I also looked at the process for cascading style sheets in FrontPage. I decided I was better off doing it myself. I learned quickly why I was taught to code it and why coding it is still probably the best way to go.

Here's a link to the blog posting: