Linking up with HTML

Nearly eleven years ago, I met Patti Shank through a listserv. I’d asked some question about training on the web. The list at the time may have had 3,000 members. I don’t remember how many replied on-list, but I still have Patti’s one-to-one reply.

Like Patti, it was candid, practical, and helpful. One resource she suggested was an HTML tutorial developed by the indefatigable Alan Levine when he was at the Maricopa Center for Learning and Instruction. It’s sort of the big brother of Stephen Downes’s explanation of how to create your own RSS feed with a text editor, a web server, and a beer.

I learned how to write HTML with the tutorial (which requires only a browser and a text editor). I don’t earn my living building web pages, but I had an immediate need, and the tutorial helped me meet and exceed it.

I mention it in part because it was then — and now — an outstanding example of a simple, effective design. The idea is that you learn HTML by building a web site about volcanoes. If you’re completely new, there’s a nice logical structure to follow.

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can skip ahead. What does the tutorial care?

Actually, it does care. It cares enough that if you jump from Lesson 6 (making lists) to Lesson 18 (spiffing up text), you’ll see this:

After this lesson you will be able to:

  • Change the size of specific portions of text in a web page
  • Change the color of specific portions of text in a web page
  • Create superscripts and subscripts for text in a web page
  • Specify the font for portions of text on a web page

Note: If you do not have the working documents from the previous lessons, download a copy now.

(Yep, that download link in the example above works.)

So if you think you want to learn how to tinker with the appearance of text before you learn how to use blockquotes, have at it.  But since Lesson 18 builds on previous lessons, in case you didn’t do them yet, there’s a copy of what you’ll need.

Naturally, at the end of each lesson, you can check your own work with a sample of how it should look.

I haven’t re-taken the tutorial, and I’m not trying to enlist people to take it. I just wanted to highlight a superlative example of self-paced training suitable for novices (sensible structure) and for those who’ve acquired some skill (ability to explore and do things out of sequence). And you get to decide which category suits you.

I don’t think there’s any sound. I know there’s no tracking or scoring. All the thing will do is let an interested person with a browser and a text editor create web pages.

Well, that, and occasionally challenge people who develop training.

2 thoughts on “Linking up with HTML

  1. Thanks for the nice words about my old tutorial. I am glad it is still available. The structure of it deserves a lot of credit to an Instructional Designer named Tom Super who gave me some suggestions, though the backlinking to the previous content was my idea.

    This was first published in 1994 as part of the first HTML workshop I did and it struck me that it would make sense to have it as web content available for anyone– it was about the first 8 lessons, and the rest were added over the next 5 years.

  2. Alan, you won’t recall, but I tracked you down way back then to compliment you on the tutorial. (So I’m not surprised at all that you give Tom Super credit.)

    I don’t remember how long it took me, but I was able to create a format of online quick-update pages for my company’s sales force (sort of Product Basics 101 for half a dozen or so of our products). I don’t think I had completed eight whole lessons before I was able to create a standard structure (product list page, links to a four-page structure for each product, links between the four and back to the product list) and crank out a 101 in half a day.

    That’s improving performance.

    …it would make sense to have it as web content available for anyone…

    See, what you should have done is gotten a trademark on HTML Tutorial, branded yourself, and started monetizing things.

    Especially for the days before CSS and easy embedding of graphics and video, your tutorial was an order of magnitude more effective than terabytes of distance learning, online learning, CBT, and repurposed PowerPoint.

    I don’t hand-code much HTML any more, but I’ve greatly benefitted from knowing how it works; I’ve applied the same concepts to tinkering with style sheets and even (oh so carefully) with PHP inside WordPress.

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