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Creating Portable Web Pages

It is possible to create and edit web pages in a number of ways. For example, we could edit HTML tags by hand, use a visual editor such as Dreamweaver or use an HTML generator to edit a layout and then create the HTML from it.
Discuss the relative advantages and disadvantages of these three approaches.

How would you ensure that a web page can be understood by viewers using different browsers which may not be able to interpret all content?

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You need to emphasize standards compliance. By complying with existing standards, rather than relying upon browser specific extensions, you can make sure that the web sites you design will be readable by all browsers supporting those standards, not just the ones you have time to test it on, and that your page designs won't break when new browsers and versions come into existence. HTML tags that go through the standards process are evaluated more thoroughly and designed for graceful degradation on older browsers.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is the focal point for web standards- see their pages (and some other useful resources) for more details:

W3C - The World Wide Web Consortium (Information on current and proposed HTML specifications)

HTML 2.0

HTML 3.2

HTML 4.0

Web Design Group - Standards for HTML Authoring for the World Wide Web
The WDVL: HTML Standards Compliance - Why Bother?

When writing to an HTML standard, make sure to use the one most appropriate to your needs. If you don't need any extended features, or expect to have a lot of visitors with very old browsers, you may want to follow HTML 2.0 compliance. Most currently updated browsers have support for HTML 3.2, so it is generally the best to use if you want to use features not in HTML 2.0 (don't forget to plan for graceful degradation - see "Graceful Degradation" section below). If you need some of the newest features of HTML, like frames, HTML 4.0 is what you should use, but remember that most browsers do not support most of the new features included in HTML 4.0 yet, and you should setup your pages to degrade gracefully.

Accessible Design Tools
It is almost always best to use a text-based editor rather than a graphical editor. There are cases in which a graphical editor may be necessary, but if you can use a text-based editor, you have a lot more control over the accessibility of your site.

Graphical Tools
Choose an editor which doesn't rewrite your code without your permission (FrontPage for example is a major culprit for this), that creates pages based on standards (and preferably allows you to specify which standards you are targetting), and that allows you to take advantage of the standard accessibility features of HTML, such as ALT and NOFRAMES.

Make sure to run your pages through a validator (see, "Web Site Testing" section below) at least the first times even if the program has a built in checker, since the checker that is built in may not be thorough, and you can't really tell without running a comparison check. Also, I recommend against using the graphical editors distributed by the major browser vendors (Netscape's Composer and Microsoft's FrontPage) as they tend to have a bias towards coding for their own browser. If you can give me some information on which tools are good and which should be avoided, please let me know. If you must use a graphical editor which produces poor HTML, it is highly recommended to use HTML Tidy to clean it up before posting or editing it by hand.

* Amaya (W3C, Windows and Unix)
"Amaya is the name of W3C's own test-bed browser/authoring tool and is used to demonstrate and test many of the new developments in Web protocols and data formats. Given the very fast moving ...