What is a Web Page?
Web pages, browsers and servers, oh my!
Alrighty then, so you've decided to venture forth into the land of high falutin' webmaster jibber-jabber and figure out exactly what a web page is, eh? Congratulations!
Now most of us who have been on the internet can describe what a web page looks like (and sounds like.) You know that you are looking at a web page now and you know that when you use a computer to surf around the internet, your screen displays a page (usually with scroll bars on the right) that may contain formatted text, graphics, coloured backgrounds, animations, and sounds.
What a web page also contains and what separates it from other media is interactive 'links' and 'buttons' that you can either move over or click on using a pointing device. These actions, in turn, will either have a dynamic effect on the current page you're viewing or will —more commonly— take you to another web page. All web pages contain hyperlinks
to other web pages. The gargantuan international collection of all these hyperlinked web pages is what constitutes the World Wide Web
So that's what a web page looks like and where you can find one. Most people know this.
But what exactly is a web page?
Web Hosting Servers
In effect, a web page is actually an electronic text file stored on the hard drive of a computer that is constantly hooked up to the World Wide Web. Such a computer is called a web hosting server
. When you call up a web page, usually by clicking on a link from another web page, your computer uses the internet to contact this web hosting server and retrieves or downloads
this text file. It then reads this text file through the aid of a program called a 'web browser' and displays it on the screen according to the formatting and specifications laid out in it. For example, the name of the electronic text file producing the web page that you are currently viewing is called whatis.htm
. This file name is normally at the end of the URL
that appears in the address bar that runs across the top of your web browser:
These electronic text files are written in a special language called H
anguage or HTML
for short. The file extension for these text files can be either
. This file extension indicates to any computer trying to open up the respective file that this is a web page and it should be opened using a web browser.
HTML is not some kind of indecipherable hexadecimal computer code but rather is just plain English, i.e. it is comprised almost entirely of alphanumeric characters (a, b, c... 1, 2, 3... etc.) and some character symbols like # or %. One of the key components of HTML is angle brackets like this:
. These angle brackets contain HTML elements
or commands which your web browser intreprets and follows to create the respective web page. Using these HTML elements
, contained in the angle brackets
, you can convert any composition, article or technical reference into a web page and you can also use it to include graphics, sounds and a host of media formats.
This HTML text file contains what is known as the source code
of a web page. Most web browsers offer a method of immediately viewing the source code of the web page that is currently loaded. For example, if you're using Internet Explorer
then you can view the source code of this very page by clicking on View » Source
Click on View » Source for Internet Explorer
(View » Page Source for Netscape, Mozilla and Firefox.)
And this is what you'll see:
<!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Transitional//EN"
<title>How Browsers Interact with Web Hosting Servers to Make Web Pages</title>
<META http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=ISO-8859-1">
<META NAME="description" CONTENT="A brief article describing what a web page actually is (part of the IRON SPIDER Creating a Web Page series)...">
<META NAME="keywords" CONTENT="web page, internet explorer, formatted text, coloured backgrounds, interactive links, source code, electronic text file, server, ironspider, hypertext markup language, html elements, wysiwyg">
<META NAME="robots" CONTENT="all">
<link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="../ispider8.css">
<body onload="pageLoad();"><a name="top"></a>
<div id="MainContainer" class="MenuSprites">
<!-- ============ Header DIV ============== -->
<div id="Header" class="HeaderFooterSprites">
<a id="HomeLink" href="../index.htm" title=" Go to the Iron Spider home page "> </a>
(...the rest of the source code...)
It may appear complicated at first glance but really HTML is just a kind of standardized shorthand using key words and abbreviations wrapped in angle brackets. Once you learn the language, it becomes like second nature.
There are a number of specialized editors that can greatly facilitate the task of producing the source code that creates web pages. These are known as HTML editors
. There are also a number of specialized web design programs that don't require that you know any HTML coding. These programs rarely take you behind the scenes into the source code of a web page but rather work 'on top' using an interface that directly emulates the finished page itself. These web page editors are known as W
et editors or WYSIWYG editors
There are many who swear that the only true web designers are those who work at the source code level using HTML editors (I run with this crowd.) Conversely there are many others who say that it doesn't make a difference and that WYSIWYG editors are the way to go.
Of course the choice is entirely up to you as to which kind of web authoring tool you should select. Most HTML editors
are freeware. There are also several freeware WYSIWYG editors out there and some full-featured commercial WYSIWYG editors like Dreamweaver that enjoy use by amateur and pro alike. Be aware though that most professional web designers who use WYSIWYG editors still recommend having a sound knowledge of HTML coding.
At this point, however, you may be wondering why you should make a web page
in the first place...