HTML stands for HyperText Markup Language. It is the language used to create basic websites.


Bulk HTML Validation

I’ve recently been working on a WordPress project in which I made the mistake of starting with a commercial theme that, while beautiful and feature-rich, was a complete mess in terms of code quality. HTML validation is always a requirement on my projects, but a poorly-written WordPress theme combined with WordPress’ own tendency to butcher code by inserting poorly nested <p>’s (more on that later) can make validation a real chore.

The W3C’s Validator is a great tool and the Web Developer Toolbar‘s quick access to it makes the process go even faster.  But with nearly 100 static pages to validate in addition to several hundred imported blog posts written by nontechnical authors, I needed something better.

Enter the Web Design Group’s HTML Validator. This validator isn’t that different from the W3C validator, but it provides an additional key feature: the “validate entire site” option.  By checking this box the validator will spider the URL you provide and validate the first 100 pages that it finds within the same domain.

A Reponse to “Web Programming is Hard!”

This article is a response to a blog post titled “Web Programming is Hard!” The author expresses her frustration at being denied interviews for web programming jobs because she comes from a desktop/embedded system development background.

Let me tell you a little story that may make you feel better about the difficulties of web programming.  I work at a school, and about a decade back (before I was hired) they commissioned a programmer to build a customized student information system.  You couldn’t meet a nicer guy, but he was an engineer who followed the money into Visual Basic development.  He’s a smart guy, but originally not a programmer by trade or training.

About four years back they reached the limitations of that program.  More people were using it over wireless, which caused the Access database on which the VB front-end relied to become corrupted.  It began getting slower.  His programming relied on a separate program that ran continuously on a server to calculate grades.  On top of that, some of the VB 6 controls have nasty rendering issues on Vista and Windows 7.  It was time for a rewrite.

The requirements set forth for this new application were, 1. It must be web-based, 2. It must use a full-fledged RDBMS (SQL Server was chosen), 3. It must have a parent module they can access from home. The programmer, having never developed a web application in his life, decided on a set of technologies he’d never used: C#, ASP.Net, Silverlight, and IIS.

It’s four years later and we don’t have a web application.  The desktop application we do have is alpha at best, still doesn’t have all the features of the original, doesn’t have a parent module, and requires me to install about 5 libraries (requiring 2 reboots) before I can install it.  The only requirement that was met was to use SQL Server, and we’re a little leary of that because he couldn’t make his program work without admin rights to our entire SQL Server. The only reason the project continues is because certain stakeholders feel too invested to throw in the towel.

This is the story of a perfectly intelligent man who bit off more than he could chew and failed to understand one simple idea: web applications run in a browser.  Web development is different.  As others have said, it’s not any more or less difficult than desktop development, but there is an entirely new set tools, requirements and obstacles that you need to understand going into it.

Even if you consider yourself an expert in other forms of programming my recommendation isstill  to start with HTML.  HTML is just markup and no logic (just like XML, it applies structure and meaning to data), so it’s generally easy to pick up.

Then learn CSS.  You don’t have to become an amazing designer, but understand positioning, the box model, and font sizing, before you move on.

Next learn JavaScript, and make sure to add jQuery or another framework to your toolbelt! It wasn’t so long ago that you could develop a successful web application with little to no JavaScript, but that’s not the case anymore.  JavaScript is an integral building block of the present and future web. Make sure you have a good understanding of JavaScript’s types (everything is an object), JavaScript scoping issues, closures, JSON (JavaScript Object Notation), and Ajax.

Once you have a good grasp of the client side, then pick a server-side tool, whether it be ASP.Net, PHP, Ruby or Java. Then start small.  Even if you already know the language from a desktop development standpoint, write a program that outputs a “hello world” HTML page first.  You can write the next Facebook tomorrow!

The World Wide Web

Since I was first exposed to the Internet back in 1995, people have erroneously had a tendency to use the terms Internet and World Wide Web interchangeably. It may take the mind of a true geek to really care about the difference, but the World Wide Web is actually only a small fraction of the Internet.

This article is the first in a series meant to supplement the web design course that I’m currently teaching at SUN Area Career & Technology Center. I will define the Internet and the World Wide Web, talk briefly about their history, and discuss a few of the web’s defining features.

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