The Lost Art of HTML

According to MDN, HTML “is the most basic building block of a webpage”. It’s the foundation of the web. The first webpage was built on less than 75 lines of HTML. Yet for such a fundamental part of the web, I find that many front-end developers don’t have a good handle on it.

Editors, templates, and frameworks produce HTML that enable a developer to get content on the page but the resulting code often lacks the features and nuances of the language such as semantics to convey meaning and enhance SEO or attributes and meta data to improve accessibility.

As Jeffrey Zeldman eluded to in his talk at An Event Apart, many of us work in a world where we are spoiled by the technology and access we have. We quickly jump to take advantage of advanced CSS and Javascript to create rich experiences but we don’t take the time to craft that layer of HTML on which we build everything else on.

Building a good foundation using HTML is like building a good foundation for a house. Without it, you run the risk of having to deal with issues that are difficult and expensive to fix later on. For example, poor HTML may lead to SEO or accessibility issues that require you to re-write your HTML. If you’ve built your CSS and/or Javascript on top of that poor foundation, you then have to also rework that code as well.

Even as someone who spends a lot of time thinking of how to write HTML, I can understand the lack of appeal to work on it. It’s not as sexy or cool as CSS or Javascript. But I do believe that we it’s important that we take the time to learn and focus on writing good HTML, not only to save ourselves from headaches later on but also to help build a better web.

If you’d like to learn more about HTML, I find that the MDN docs are a great starting point. You can also hit me up on Twitter as I love talking about this sort of thing.