Basic Theory - A Proper Introduction to Web Design

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First, we need to have a very, very basic understanding of what exactly is happening when you visit a web page. Either by clicking a link or typing the address directly into your browser’s address bar, you send a request for a certain URI to a webserver. The server interprets this address and sends back some data that your browser can understand. For our purposes, this will generally be HTML, although there will also be images, CSS, and Javascript.

Since we will be writing HTML directly (rather than writing programs that generate it), there’s no need for special web server software; you can do all of this on your home machine with minimal setup.

Uniform Resource Locator. An address we use to identify a location.
Example: .
HyperText Markup Language. The primary type of code we use to design webpages.

HTML (and the other things I mentioned, as well) is interpreted by the browser to create what you view and interact with. This leads to one of the most important issues in web design - your code will look different to different people.

Traditionally, compilers and interpreters (roughly speaking, the programs that turn your code into something we can use) have been rather strict about what they will accept as input, leading to much frustration on the part of beginner programmers. During the browser wars of the 90s, then, the makers of the two most popular browsers began to insert code into their products that would attempt to “figure out” what programmers meant when encountering mistakes in the code, in the hope that, as more and more incorrectly-coded websites appeared, users would choose the browser that appeared to work more often. While Microsoft won that war, we are still dealing with the after effects, one of which is that the webpage you can spent many hours painstakingly crafting may look completely broken when viewed by someone else. Yay!

Also, since we are guaranteed a small number of fonts from machine to machine, and screen resolutions vary from large-screen televisions to cellphones, we have to build incredibly flexible designs. This is actually good, because it forces us to focus on the user, someone we often have a tendency to forget.

So, if you’re still feeling up to the challenge, let us begin!

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