Do We Still Need To Teach HTML

Brian Scarbeau asks "Should html be taught in a web design course?" The comments at his blog are all a resounding "yes" which surprises me. While I do agree that there is a lot of value in learning the underlying HTML in a first course I expected others to disagree. Am I really that main stream?

I expected people to say that the focus would be on design or perhaps on concepts independent of HTML. Or perhaps people would reject the use of HTML in an editor with a preference for tools that hide it all.

Just how important is knowing HTML these days? Look at how much one can do without it. Major mashups with Popfly. Personal site customization with Facebook, My Spaces and many easily skinable sites for people of all ages. Tools for creating websites that are drag and drop designers seem to be increasing in pervasiveness. Do students really need to know HTML?

Honestly I think they do because of the language being so foundational. But with so much possible without knowing raw HTML couldn't it really wait until a later course? Leave a comment with your opinion here. Or drop it over at Brian's blog - especially if you disagree about needing to teach HTML.

Comments (6)

  1. Saleh says:

    I think they should teach HTML as foundamental course for designing web application/pages. It gives some start up knowledge for students on how web pages are designed even for RIAs courses.

    Even now big companies are still relying on HTML to build their website. We cannot trust tools and programs to do eveything for us. We still need to do some tweaks here and there.

    P.S: HTML knowledge is critical for debugging RIAs.

  2. Rachel says:

    I just finished teaching my students HTML in web design – now we’re moving on to CSS and then design concepts. I honestly think it is very important to know HTML (and CSS) before you ever get your feet wet in a WYSIWIG so that you know what is going on when you use the WYSIWIG. That puts you more in control of your website, ultimately.

  3. David Morris says:

    It depends what is meant by HTML. When some people say that they mean something like HTML 4.01, but others use it in a more generic sense. I think it’s more important for students to learn XHTML that conforms with standards as well as CSS. Once they’ve learned that they can go onto some of the scripting languages such as JavaScript and PHP. Having a knowledge of that means you can have more control when designing websites. If you relied on WYSIWYG editors, you can get poor code.

  4. Brandon says:

    Yes, HTML/XHTML is very crucial to a web-design course. It is still the fundamental way to format text, and as such is still used, even within the Web 2.0 technologies. So, in a sense, if they don’t know HTML/XHTML, they WILL be absolutely screwed.

    I mean, you look at Ruby on Rails, Django, TurboGears, etc… They all still require that the person who utilizes these frameworks to know HTML/XHTML, or have a reference on hand.

  5. GregM says:

    Absolutely HTML needs to be taught first, with special emphasis on content markup over presentational markup.  If you don’t know HTML, you have no idea what is possible in a portable fashion, you only know what you can do in the particular editor or environment that you’re using.

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