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HTML Best Practices, Guidelines, and Resources for Your Development Career

Ufuoma Ogono - October 01, 2022


HTML is one of the pillars of web development. It plays a significant role in the front end of most websites, so it’s important for every developer to learn this coding language. However, like with every other programming language, there are frameworks, rules, and guidelines that need to be followed.

This article will teach you everything you need to know about HTML best practices, starting with the meaning of HTML and the technical terms you’ll need to understand to learn HTML . We’ll also cover some of the common challenges that you can overcome by applying these best practices and HTML guidelines.

What Is HTML?

HTML is an acronym that stands for hypertext markup language. It is the programming language that determines the content structure of a website. It is used for both static and dynamic web pages and usually goes hand-in-hand with cascading style sheets (CSS) and JavaScript. It helps developers keep a common theme throughout the entirety of the website.

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HTML is what allows website content to be structured into headlines, miscellaneous introductory content, subheadings, and bullet points. Apart from adding structure to websites, HTML is also used to hyperlink to different parts of a website. HTML is also used as a base for navigation bars, which are crucial for a website’s navigation menu.

It’s been the gold standard for web development since 1993. Over the years, different versions of HTML have been designed. These include HTML 1.0, HTML 2.0, HTML 3.2, HTML 4.01 and HTML5.

5 Concepts You Need to Understand for HTML Best Practices

If you are new to HTML, there are some concepts you need to understand before you start studying HTML guidelines. These concepts will give you a clearer picture of how HTML works and how you can apply it to your projects. Five of these key concepts are listed below.

  1. Tags. A tag is one of the most important elements of HTML because it is used to define characters for commands on a web page. HTML tags determine the quality and structure of the visual content that is displayed on a web page. When you view a web page in HTML format, you should be able to see the tags in your browser bar.
  2. Quirks mode. When a web browser can’t read and validate the doctype on a website, it automatically switches to quirks mode. Some modern browsers maintain backward compatibility when the programmer puts an outdated doctype declaration, but this is bad practice for search engine optimization and web crawling.
  3. Source code. In HTML programming, source code refers to the human-readable lines of code crafted by a programmer and saved as a file. This source code is used to give instructions to computers through a compiler. It is the rawest form of code and should be written with the utmost care.
  4. Inline style. Adding inline styles to your HTML code is a practice that involves adding styling rules directly to a unique element in the code’s start tag. Thanks to inline styling, only the single element that has been manipulated will be affected, rather than the entire web page.
  5. Div tags. Division tags, popularly called div tags, are HTML tags used to divide portions of a website and to divide content on a single web page. Div is usually used to separate tags on a template, such as header, content block, footer, and image tags. Think about the div tag as a container for separate elements of HTML.

5 Common Challenges That HTML Guidelines Can Address

HTML is one of the most basic programming languages, which means beginners often choose to start with it. Often, however, this also means that programming, in general, is new to them. Best practices exist to promote all-around efficiency during the software development process. Coding practice using the tips we’ve mentioned is the best policy and will generally get your website development skills out of the bad practice column and into the expert web developer column. As you practice your skills, we’ve listed below the top five issues that you’ll see. All of these issues can be solved by implementing HTML best practices.

Creating Dynamic Pages

On its own, HTML is a static markup language, so it can’t produce dynamic output. But if you know HTML best practices, you will learn how to combine HTML with other programming languages and frameworks to create dynamic pages.

Doctype Misrepresentation

If you don’t understand the HTML best practices for correct doctype declaration, you won’t be able to properly construct pages that will appear the way you want them to on various web browsers. With the wrong doctype or no declaration at all, the document will automatically go to quirks mode.

Poor Search Engine Ranking

There are currently about 576,000 websites being designed every day , according to Website Setup. But your website needs to rank high on search engines. One way you can stay relevant on search engines is by following HTML best practices when you are designing a website.

High Bounce Rate

Each time your website or web-based application is visited, an automatic timer takes note of how long a visitor spends on the site. If people simply visit and leave without browsing through the content, your bounce rate increases. Most of the factors that increase a website’s bounce rate can be fixed if HTML best practices are applied.

Coding Against W3C Standards

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is a global community that comes up with best practices and guidelines for ensuring the continuity of the Internet. This body recommends coding best practices for HTML, among other things. If you have a solid knowledge of HTML best practices, your websites and web applications will meet W3C standards.

Top 10 HTML Best Practices and Guidelines

three people at a desk working on laptops
HTML best practices can include anything from creating fallback content to learning how to write absolute paths and incorporate assistive technologies during your web development process.

HTML best practices aren’t in one rule book or authored by a single developer. Different HTML experts can add to the best practices by recommending them to the community. With time, you can also write reviews about discoveries and changes that can make HTML programming better. For now, the list below will help you get started with HTML.

Don’t Underestimate Doctype Declaration

As stated above, there are different versions of HTML. Doctype or document type declaration is simply the instructions you put in place to make sure that the web browser understands which version of HTML you used while creating the web page.

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If you mess up your doctype declaration or if you ignore it altogether, your page may not follow the correct path, so it won’t look the way you intended. After choosing your doctype, make sure you add it to the top of your document, before the language tag and header. When used properly, the doctype declaration helps the W3C HTML validator determine how to validate the document.

Optimize Tags for Website Structure

You can’t use HTML if you don’t know how to manipulate tags in the content hierarchy. There are different tags available for HTML, and when used appropriately, they can either make or break a web page. After the doctype declaration, the next tag should be your header, followed by the body and footer tags.

Apart from structure tags, you should also include tags to add other formatting details to your website. These include title tags, image tags, break tags, bold and italic tags. Adding these to the original HTML source code of your website will make the end product more clear, functional, and readable. Using tags correctly is also important for search engine optimization.

Avoid Clutter on Your Page

The elements of your web page must look and function properly. However, if there are too many elements or if they are poorly organized, the clutter can significantly increase the page size. An unnecessarily large website will take too much time to load, so you should get rid of clutter by optimizing the semantic code.

Apart from removing unnecessary elements, some other measures you can take to prevent this are developing responsive fonts, defining page hierarchy, and reducing color fonts and palettes. It also helps if you start optimizing clutter from the beginning of the web development process, rather than waiting until after you have completed the project to tidy it up.

Be Wary of Inline Styles

Something as simple as inline styles can mess your entire website up when it comes time for an upgrade. Inline styles allow you to customize your design from the source code. Unfortunately, this type of styling poses a challenge if you have to make a major upgrade to the site.

As an alternative to inline policies, you should consider using external style sheets. External stylesheets are customizable, functional, and easy to change without the need to overhaul the original website’s code. Using external stylesheets isn’t just part of HTML best practice, it’s a CSS best practice as well.

Optimize Meta Tags

Meta tags are used to make pages more meaningful and insightful. They show that you code with SEO in mind because they tell search engines and other user agents what the website is about. You can optimize your meta tags by making them more descriptive. These tags make room for meta titles and meta descriptions that are added to each post on a website.

When you are writing your meta tags, use active keywords that clearly describe the services the website will offer. For example, if the website provides homework assistance, make sure that the words homework help or homework assistance appear in the meta description.

Mind How You Use Divs

Div tags are excellent for providing structure and containing different HTML elements in a template. However, using too many or using them inappropriately is only going to mess up your template. Use div tags only when necessary and when there is absolutely no other way to make the template work.

You should use div tags when you start designing your template, otherwise, you will have to find the appropriate places to insert them later, which will be more time-consuming.

Rely on CSS for Styling

In web development, CSS and HTML are meant to complement each other. While CSS can be used with any XML attribute-based markup language, it is most commonly used with HTML, and for good reason. Major search engines like Google and Bing tend to favor websites that are developed with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

You can implement CSS files in three different ways for visual context. These include inline, external, and internal files. Each option has its pros and cons, depending on your plans for the project. Make sure you learn how to use CSS and stick to one style per template.

Stick to Lowercase Letters

Professional HTML developers believe that it is better to use lowercase markup as opposed to combining lowercase and uppercase in the same block of code. This best practice is more of a hack than a rule because mixing lowercase with uppercase markup simply makes your code less readable, although it does not affect formatting or page rendering.

Lowercase markup is also compatible with XHTML and is ideal for HTTP and GZIP compression. Code readability is important when you’re a web designer, so make sure to learn early on how to use these best practices. It will make your job easier as you learn more complex coding languages.

Consider Automatic Markup Validation

Code validation is another crucial part of the entire programming process that you shouldn’t overlook. Simply put, code validation involves checking the quality of a written code to ensure that it meets the global W3C standards.

The W3C provides free automatic markup validation, but meeting W3C coding standards doesn’t mean that your website is perfect. You should only use it as a guide, and make improvements when necessary.

Close Every Tag

When you write HTML codes, make sure to close every tag if you want the website to be rendered correctly on web browsers. Adding closing tags is one of the most important W3C specifications. If you don’t do this, some web browsers may render your website in quirks mode but most common browsers will just shun your website or present it in the wrong format.

How to Learn HTML Best Practices

If you study HTML, you will learn best practices as part of your lessons. You can turn to bootcamps, online courses, or a formal software development degree to learn HTML guidelines and best practices.

Can a Bootcamp Help You Learn HTML Best Practices?

Yes, you can learn HTML guidelines and best practices in a coding bootcamp. Most bootcamps will have a website and app development course that includes HTML as part of their curriculum along with JavaScript and CSS.

It’s unlikely that you’ll find a bootcamp with a standalone program for learning HTML best practices, so you will likely need to take a more broad web development class to learn.

Searching for the best HTML bootcamps on Google may not yield many direct results, but you will find the top coding bootcamps . Some great options are Flatiron School, Thinkful, and Nucamp.

Best Courses and Training Programs to Learn HTML Best Practices

Provider Course Price
edX HTML5 Coding Essentials and Best Practices Free
Coursera HTML, CSS, and Javascript for Web Developers $79
edX HTML5 and CSS Fundamentals Free
Udemy The Complete Web Developer in 2022: Zero to Mastery $90
Udemy Build Modern Responsive Website With HTML5, CSS3 & Bootstrap $9.99

Should You Learn HTML Best Practices?

Yes, you should learn as many best practices for HTML as possible if you intend to thrive in web development. HTML is one of the most important codes in the world and the best practices have been fine-tuned over time by developers. Learning one or two best practices probably won’t cut it, but if you learn all 10 best practices listed above, you’ll be off to a great start.

HTML Best Practices and Guidelines FAQ

What are five essential skills every web developer should have?

HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, plus software testing and soft skills are the three most important things you should learn as a web developer. Soft skills are nontechnical skills like time management, problem-solving, attention to detail, and critical thinking. Learning the best practices of each of these is vital.

What are the three types of HTML tags?

The three main types of HTML tags are utility-based tags, self-closing tags, and paired or unpaired tags. As the name implies, utility-based tags are categorized based on their purpose. Self-closing tags are tags that don’t need partner tags for formatting. Paired tags have opening and closing tags, while unpaired tags have only opening tags and don’t need closing tags.

What careers use HTML?

Careers like JavaScript development, Java development, and .Net development require that you use HTML, but all app and website developers will benefit from learning HTML. Even business analysts can benefit from learning how to use HTML efficiently.

How much do HTML programmers make?

HTML programmers make an average of $94,491 annually , according to ZipRecruiter. Salaries can range from $49,500 to $159,500, depending on the developer’s level of experience, job description, and location. Currently, the cities with the highest salaries for developers are Santa Clara, San Francisco, and Fremont, California.

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Ufuoma Ogono

About the author: Ufuoma, a certified Career Coach by the International Association of Professions Career College, is a veteran freelance writer whose work has also appeared in Smartereum, Cyber Jam Limited, and Binance. Her goal as a content writer is to help readers chase their careers in technology and follow their dreams. Ufuoma attended Delta State University, where she earned her BSc in Sociology and Psychology.

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