Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Why Web editors need to know HTML

With all the WYSIWYG editors and tools out there, you’d think basic HTML was a lost art – after all, the applications can do all the coding for you, right? But in fact, you may be surprised to know that I use HTML daily in my work, and for things that I’m unable to accomplish just by using the tools at hand. Even basic knowledge of HTML will help web editors be more efficient and more knowledgeable about what they’re doing.

Once upon a time, in the dark ages of the web, creating websites was a democratic process available to all – it took very little time and knowledge to learn the basics of HTML (hypertext markup language, if you didn’t know before, and it’s a markup tool as opposed to actual code), and you could throw up a site quickly and easily, even if it was very basic-looking. (Really, they all were.) You still can, of course, but the web has been taken over by fancy code and even fancier graphics, and designing such sites is beyond the skill set of most of us. But the basic text and link formatting is still in HTML, and whether you’re using an editor such as Dreamweaver or a content management system, you can access that portion of the site’s code to edit the formatting at its most basic.

Here are just a few of the things I use HTML for in my day-to-day work:

• Add external links (to avoid the cumbersome tool offered by my CMS)
• Fix CSS formatting issues – layering things like bolding and colours over links in a CMS can often end up in funny issues that can be easily fixed in the code
• Strip extra code that’s been added by cutting and pasting from Word

These may sound complex, but with some basic HTML skills and training they’re not a problem at all. Learn the basics in the learning style of your choice: pick up a book, take a course (maybe your company will send you to one), or browse some online tutorials. You can try out your skills using a text editor on your computer without even accessing the web.

- Kat Tancock
About Me
Kat Tancock
Kat Tancock is a freelance writer, editor and digital consultant based in Toronto. She has worked on the sites of major brands including Reader's Digest, Best Health, Canadian Living, Homemakers, Elle Canada and Style at Home and teaches the course Creating Website Editorial at Ryerson University.
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