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Make Your Own Website

Part 2: Your First HTML Page

Part: 0 1 2 3 4 5


Plainest Possible HTML file

The plainest possible HTML file that will "work" is a text file with some characters of text in it, saved with the extension .html.

hello world


This should open in a web browser and display the characters that you entered on the screen. Success!

But this is not yet a 'valid' HTML file. The reason it works at all is that your web browser tries really hard to show you something when you open a file. It will ignore its own rules about what makes an HTML file valid and show the text anyway.

Really, your browser would prefer you gave it 'proper' HTML and proper HTML is made up of "HTML elements".

HTML Elements

An HTML element represents one piece of an HTML document, or some information about it.

The start and end of an element are marked by "tags" - an opening tag at the beginning and a closing tag at the end.

An opening tag is a one or more characters, the tag-name, which might be followed by additional information, called 'attributes'. The start of a tag is marked with a < (called the left- or opening angle-bracket) and ending with a > (called the right- or closing angle bracket).


( p tag)

<img src="./blah.jpg">

(img tag with attribute)

In a 'closing tag' the tag name has a / (usually called a 'backslash') before it. The tag-name should match an opening tag that comes somewhere before it. Closing tags don't have attributes.


(a p closing-tag)


(an img closing tag)

There are lots of different kinds of elements, each indicated by a different tag.

Some types of element represent the different kinds of content that make up a web page, such as different kinds of text, pictures, lists, and buttons.

The simplest kind of text element is a "paragraph" element. Its tag-name is p. To create a paragraph element, we can wrap our text in "p tags", like so;

<p>hello world</p>

If you edit your file so it looks like this, save it and (re)load it in a browser, you should see... no change at all, because paragraphs just look like regular text.

Instead we could display it as a heading, by swapping our paragraph element for a 'h1' element (a main, or "level 1" heading), like so;

<h1>hello world!</h1>

Save and re-load again and you should see the difference.

The Body, Head and Html Tags

HTML elements like the one we just made are pieces of content - they are meant to be displayed on the page for users to see.

The other kind of elements are those that contain information about the document that might not be displayed on the screen at all. This type of data is called "meta-data" and includes things like the title and information about how the document should be styled for display.

Usually these two types of data are separated by grouping all the meta-data together inside an element called the head and all the content together inside an element called the body. The head and body elements are then grouped together inside another element called simply html, like so.

  <p>Hello World!</p>

If we want to add more elements to our "page body" - the things that will appear on the screen - we can put them 'alongside' the 'p' element, meaning that they are inside the body element, but not inside the 'p' element.

The order we put elements in will be the order they get drawn on the screen.

  <p>Welcome to my website</p>
  <p>When I grow up I want to be a programmer</p>

The html element is also called the "root" element because it contains all the others. Usually the only things it contains are a single head element and a single body element.

Adding a Title

The title of your document is "meta-data", information about the document and not something that is necessarily part of the document itself, so it goes in the head element.

  <title>My First Webpage</title>
  <p>Welcome to my website</p>
  <p>When I grow up I want to be a programmer</p>

Wrapping and Nesting

In the same way that we talked about the text being "wrapped in" tags, we might also talk about one element wrapping another.

Here, we might say that " the p element is being wrapped by the body element", meaning that the body element starts before the p element and finishes after it.

The other way that we could say the same thing is to say that "the p element is nested inside the html element", meaning that it is completely contained inside it (like an egg, in a nest)

The Doctype Declaration

The simplest valid HTML page: Example

Simplest conventional page: Example

Don't be confused by...

  • the difference between 'head' and 'headings'
  • the difference between tags and elements