Basic web site concepts by Alistair Banks & Matt Ottewill

What is HTML (Hyper Text Mark-Up Language)?

Web sites are built using a language called HTML which uses a system of tags to define and style page elements. The concept of a mark-up language derives from pre-digital dtp process when a graphic designer, or paste-up artist, would "markup" a page of typewritten text with instructions on how it should be typeset by a phototypesetting machine. Instructions would include attributes such as ...

  • Paragraph width
  • Typeface
  • Font styles
  • Font size
  • Leading
  • Tracking
  • Kerning
  • etc

What is HTTP (Hyper Text Transfer Protocol)

HTML pages and the "media objects" that are linked to them (images, audio, video, Flash, AVIs etc) are transferred from servers to browser software on client computers via a transfer protocols called HTTP.

There are other protocols such as FTP, SMB and AFS, but in general, the vast majority of web pages you will view on a computer will be in a browser window transferred by HTTP.

What is FTP (File Transfer Protocol)?

Web sites (HTML pages and their "media objects") are usually "uploaded" from a web designers computer to a server using a protocol called FTP (File Transfer Protocol) . eg Dreamweaver has tools to help you build a local web site and then connect and FTP it to your web server.

However, whilst a browsers and HTTP are the usual method for retrieving and viewing files from a web server, FTP is not the only way of "uploading" them.

HTTP upload, Webdav, frontpage, FTP and disk sharing are just some of the other ways of getting pages onto sites. Despite being the most common, FTP is the oldest and least secure way of uploading. FTP over Secure Sockets solves some of the problems with the original FTP. FTP is horrible because it exposes unencrypted passwords on the wire, which means anyone snooping the wire can watch what you do, and break into your site.

What are Local & Remote sites ?

A local site is built on the hard drive of the web designers computer. It will consist of a structure of folders, HTML pages, and "media objects" organised exactly as they will appear when transferred to the web hosting server.

A remote site is an exact copy (mirror image) of a local site that has been uploaded to a web server.

This definition of local and remote sites is relevant to the model of a web site builder but not to all situations. You can have networked “local” disks, and you can have a localhost http server on your own machine.

What is a homepage?

A homepage is the first HTML page that a surfer will see when they navigate to a website (top level domain). It will be located on the root level of the site and usually be entitled either "index.html" or "default.html".

eg. If you surf to http://www.planetoftunes.com you will automatically see the page http://www.planetoftunes.com/index.html

Media types for websites

Web sites are made from HTML documents which contain a mixture of invisible "code" elements (including tags and media links) and visible elements such as text, simple lines and table borders. All other "media objects" are linked to the HTML page, typically from their stored location in a "media" folder. Typical "media objects" types include ...

  • JPEGs (.jpg) for photographic type images
  • GIFs (.gif) for flat colour graphical logo type images
  • MP3 (.mp3) compressed audio files
  • Video files (.mov, .wmv, .avi, .mpg etc)
  • Flash movies (.swf)
  • Shockwave movies (.swf)
  • Adobe Acrobat documents (.pdf)
  • etc

What is linking & embedding?

Click here to find out.