Learning HTML & CSS

A collection of info and resources for the course: "Making Fun, Simple Websites with Handwritten HTML/CSS" on Polyphase Portal. This is a community wiki; if you have a Polyphase login, you can edit or add to these pages if you feel so inspired.

🌀 Course Info

About the course: Making Fun, Simple Websites with Handwritten HTML/CSS

In an age where most websites are both boring to look at, and unnecessarily complex under the hood, we’ll be reclaiming the fun and simplicity of the early web by creating websites the old-fashioned way: writing pure HTML and CSS, by hand.

In this course, we will learn how to create simple websites by writing HTML code. We will learn to write CSS to style our webpages. This is an introductory course for beginners, or those wishing to refresh their skills. At the end of the course, everyone will have created their own site.

To get our pages online easily, we will use the Neocities platform which offers both hosting and a code editor within the browser. (If you’ve created HTML pages before, and you already have a preferred method for editing your code or a preferred hosting provider, you’re free to use that.)

We will cover:

We will NOT cover:

We’ll each create a site during the first class, and we’ll work on expanding it each week, with an instruction period as well as free work time with opportunities for Q&A. It’s great to come to this class with a vague idea for your site — or just have fun with it and see what happens 🙂

Materials

For this course, you will need:

Optional but helpful:

About the Teacher

This course is led by Paloma Kop, a multimedia artist and computer programmer. They've created many websites over the years, both professionally and for fun. Last winter, they completely redid my own artist website in plain HTML/CSS, and wrote a little about how and why. They enjoyed the process and wanted to help others do the same — thus the idea for this class was born.

📖 References & Resources

Knowing how to find the info you need

The main skill of creating websites with HTML & CSS isn't memorizing all of the names of every tag and property. It's knowing how to search for and find the info you need to do what you want to do in a given moment. Searching on your preferred search engine, and knowing the search terms to use, is a good starting point. There are also many more specific collections of reliable reference materials, and online guides and tutorials. Below are some of the ones we've found most helpful; we'll keep adding to them as we find more.

References

W3Schools

The number one point of reference I'd recommend for both HTML and CSS is W3Schools. If you are looking to find info on a specific HTML tag or CSS property, there is a search function; or just visit the HTML or CSS sections and browse the lists of pages in the left sidebar.

There is also a pretty cool CSS demo page here.

https://www.w3schools.com/

Guides and Tutorials

General HTML & CSS Tutorials

Guides for Handmade/DIY Websites

Specific How-Tos

Advanced CSS Topics

CSS Fonts

Using web fonts (providing your own font file — this allows for more customization):

Using system fonts (using fonts already installed on whatever device the page is being viewed on — this allows for faster page load):

CSS Flex & Grid

Flex and Grid can be very powerful tools for creating layouts, but potentially confusing. Even after using them many times, I still always refer to these two pages:

These are some cute games to help you get the hang of using them:

Embedding Audio and Video

Many 3rd party websites, such as Youtube, Vimeo, and Bandcamp, offer an embed code that you can copy and paste into your HTML in order to include a video or audio embed on your site. However, since these are basically embedded frames of their website inside your website, there are a lot of limitations on how much control you have over the appearance and behavior of this type of embed. Additionally, since visitors to your website will also be loading the 3rd party's website, this can allow the 3rd party to track and monitor your visitors' activity.

It is also possible to embed video and audio files directly on your site with the HTML "audio" and "video" tags. This allows you to have more control over the embed, though the default appearance of the controls will be determined by the browser. This is also a more advanced option since it requires a deeper understanding of files and encoding types, and you will also need to host your own media files which can be a lot larger than plain HTML files.

To get started embedding your own media files using HTML tags, check out these links:

If you want to customize the appearance of the player, you'll need to use javascript, which is outside the scope of our class. But, here's a tutorial just in case anyone wants to dig into that:

Media Queries

Media queries are used to change how your webpage looks based on the size of the screen it's being viewed on. They can come in really handy, but if your layout is simple enough it should work well on all devices without needing a lot of them.

CSS :target Selector

A fancy CSS feature that lets you highlight or affect an element with a target ID in the current URL. If this doesn't make any sense to you please ignore it.

🛠️ Useful Tools

Favicon generator

HTML Color Picker

W3C Validator

✨ Inspiring Websites

Artist Portfolios & Digital Gardens

Web-based Art

Retro-style Sites

Brutally Simple Sites

Webrings and Directories

Example Sites

🏠 Web Hosting Services

Web Hosting

A web host is a server that hosts the files of your website, and serves them when someone visits your site. Because we are creating sites that are just simple HTML & CSS files, and maybe some images or other assets, our websites are static, so the type of web hosting service we need is called static hosting. Below are a few options for static hosting services, along with some pros and cons of each one; this will be expanded as we gather more information.

Neocities.org

This is the web host that we are using in class. It is a great service to start out on because they provide a web interface for editing your HTML and CSS files, but you can also easily download your whole site and move it to another service if you'd like.

https://neocities.org/

Pros
Cons

Github Pages

With a bit of technical know-how, it is possible to publish a static website through Microsoft's GitHub.

https://docs.github.com/en/pages/quickstart

Pros
Cons

🔖 Domains

About Custom Domains

Let's say you want your website URL to be something that doesn't end in '.neocities.com'. This is called a custom domain. Generally, to get a custom domain, you need to buy one from a registrar, and keep paying for it annually in order to keep it active. The last part of the domain — for example, '.com', '.net', or '.xyz' — is called a TLD (top-level domain). Often, different TLDs will be priced differently; some are very expensive, while many common ones can be purchased for less than $20 USD per year.

Here are some common steps you'll need to follow in order to set up a custom domain for your site:

Domain Registrars

Here are a few registrars you can purchase a domain from. You might want to compare their prices for your chosen domain on a few different registrars before purchasing one.

Registrars we have heard are OK

Registrars to avoid

🔮 Beyond Handwritten HTML & CSS

Potential Growing Pains

While creating websites by creating HTML and CSS files by hand can be fun, educational, and sufficient for many use cases, there are certain situations where using this method can result in an excessive amount of tedious copy-pasting.

Here are some situations you may run into that may suggest your site is outgrowing the handcrafted HTML/CSS medium:

There are many website building tools out there — so many, in fact, that trying to find or pick one can be extremely overwhelming. However, I'd like to focus SSGs as a type of tool that you might want to look into if you've already started your site and run into the above limitations.

Static Site Generators

One type of tool that seems like a natural progression from plain HTML/CSS is a Static Site Generator, or SSG. These are pieces of software that take in source data from some files (formats can vary), and output a static website (usually simply a bunch of HTML and CSS files). When you want to update your site, you would usually update the source data, and then run the SSG to generate a new version of your site. You can then upload your site to a static web host in the exact same way you would with a handcrafted site.

The most simple version of an SSG would be a script that takes the following pieces of information and combines them together into an HTML file for each page:

If you enjoy coding your own tools, it can be a fun project to roll your own static site generator. If you want to use an existing tool, see below for a list of SSGs that you can check out.

Even if your site may outgrow plain HTML/CSS, or you plan to use an SSG for your site, it can be useful to create a few pages by hand anyway, so that you can experiment with the design and layout for your site. This is called prototyping. Then, once you are ready to implement your site using an SSG or similar tool, you'll already have much of the code for your template.

Additionally, basic knowledge of CSS and HTML will go a long way in helping you build a site with many SSGs.

List of SSGs & Site-Builder Resources