What is HTML? What is CSS?

What is HTML?

HTML is a set of predefined markers, or tags, that can be placed by a web site designer along with the web site contents to tell a browser how content should be laid out. It also tells the computer where all the bits of content are stored in order that it can find them in the first place.

The browser looks out for the HTML tags. It can recognise them because the tags are always placed between an angle bracket like this < and another angle bracket like this >. The browser doesn't actually show these tags on the page, but it uses the instructions in the tags to organize the content however the page designer wanted.

Now you know all about HTML, all that is left is to find out which predefined HTML tags you need to use in a given situation. There is a good reference guide at W3Schools.com/tags. Don't try and memorise the lot. Get a basic idea of what they do and how to use them and then you can refer to it on a need to know basis. I always keep it bookmarked at the top of my browser for easy reference. You may find their 'Try it yourself' button useful, which gives a simple example of how to make each tag work.

What is CSS?

HTML is excellent at laying out the content on the page, but the web has become ever more sophisticated. The HTML styling instructions became horribly exhaustive. A more concise method was needed to add colour and graphical control to each element on the page. It made sense to separate this styling control out from the content page itself.

This is where Cascade StyleSheets (CSS) come in. CSS is a way to add styling instructions to your content. Better still, once the style has been designed, you can apply the stylesheet to any content file and get it to repeat your styling - very handy if you are going to produce multiple pages of content and you want them to have the same look.

So to Summarize...

HTML sets the layout of the page contents - what should be on the page, where is it stored and where should it be placed.

CSS controls the styling of the contents - what colour, typeface, size, spacing, width, etc.