What is HTML?

HTML is one of the most widely used markup languages in web design worldwide. Its strengths lie in its uniform, clearly structured syntax, a free open-source approach, and a rapid learning curve. If you want to get a quick start in web design without a lot of effort, HTML is a great way to design a modern, appealing website with interactive elements.

What does HTML stand for?

HTML stands for “Hypertext Markup Language” and, along with Java and CSS, is one of the most widely used text-based markup languages in the world. Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, laid the foundation of HTML in 1992 with the first HTML specification. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) declared HTML 4.0 to be the official standard in December 1999. Since then, about 63% of all websites are based on HTML code. Currently (as of 2023), the versions XHTML and HTML5 are the most widely used for creating SEO-optimized websites.

HTML is based on these properties:

  • When creating web pages, HTML tags are used, which describe and structure page elements.
  • The syntax of HTML is uniform and text-based, and always consists of a start and end tag.
  • Because of this, HTML is considered a markup language.

Is HTML a programming language?

HTML isn’t a programming language. Unlike programming and scripting languages like PHP or JavaScript, HTML cannot be used to create algorithms, tasks, conditions, or loops due to its lack of command structure. That’s why HTML belongs to the markup languages. While HTML describes and structures a web page with text-based, static syntax, programming languages create dynamic content, complex logical tasks, commands, and algorithms.

What are the uses of HTML?

HTML is used to create and edit private or business websites. Due to its uniform syntax, the basic structure or source code always looks similar for HTML-based websites. Together with CSS (cascading style sheets), HTML source code tells browsers how to visually display and compose the web page, including layout, typography, and colors.

In the current version HTML5, you’ll find many new application options and HTML attributes compared to older HTML versions.

Among other things, HTML is used to:

  • Describe the layout and appearance of a web page
  • Execute HTML-embedded videos, audio elements, and spreadsheets
  • Integrate stylistic elements for text presentation
  • Navigate a website using hyperlinks
  • Create lead generation forms including registration forms, email newsletters, contact requests, or downloads
  • In combination with plugins, integrate search forms and reservation options
  • Execute dynamic page content through references to CSS stylesheets or JavaScript files

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What does HTML code structure look like?

The underlying HTML structure doesn’t vary much due to the uniformity of the syntax. HMTL documents always consist of these three basic tag elements:


The so-called document type declaration is always at the top and beginning of an HTML document. The marking DOCTYPE html is in the format <!DOCTYPE html>. It tells the browser which document type and which code syntax and HTML version it is. In the case of HTML5, for example, it may be <html5>. Since the DOCTYPE tag isn’t an HTML element, it’s the only one that precedes the HTML section of the document.

HTML header

The HTML header conveys important details and meta information about the document body to the browser. It’s marked as <head> and comes immediately after the <html> tag that opens the HTML section. The HTML header can contain, among other things, these elements:

  • Document title
  • Description
  • Author and copyright
  • Character set
  • Mobile scaling details
  • Style and script information about CSS or JavaScript files and other included resources
  • Meta robots specifications (indexing instructions for search engine crawlers)

HTML body

The HTML body opens with the <body> tag and contains all information about the visible layout and embedded dynamic page elements. The body uses HTML tags to describe everything that page visitors should see in the browser when they visit the website.

Basic structure of an HTML document

Let’s take a look at the basic structure of an HTML document:

<!DOCTYPE html>
<meta …/>

The set up of HTML tags

Apart from the DOCTYPE tag, which doesn’t require an end tag, all elements in the HTML document follow the same three-component principle:

  • Opening tag < >: Opening tags are always enclosed in an opening and closing angle bracket and tell the browser where content elements should be displayed.
  • Tag content: The content that the browser should display or execute is wedged between the opening and ending tags. This may be text paragraphs, video players, images, or forms.
  • Ending tag </>: The ending tag is enclosed in two angle brackets with a slash. It tells the browser where an HTML element ends.

The composition of an HTML element looks like this:


The 10 most important HTML tags

There’s a HTML tag for almost every web design wish. Since the list of all HTML tags is too long to list, we’ve rounded up the most important ones below:

HTML tag Function
<!DOCTYPE> Determines the type of HTML document
<html> Indicates the beginning of the HTML area
<head> Opens the HTML header
<body> Opens the HTML body
<h1>…</h1> Indicates H1 headlines (same goes for H2 or H3 tags)
<a href="Link-URL">Linked item</a> Indicates links in the HTML document
<p>…</p> Indicates paragraphs in the document
<ul>…</ul> Indicates lists
<li>…</li> Appears in combination with lists and shows list items
<i>…</i> Indicates italics

What role does HTML play in SEO?

Clear and correct HTML code determines whether browsers, search engines, and search engine crawlers display and index your page correctly. If the HTML has a carefully maintained basic structure with embedded elements in CSS, JavaScript, or other languages, this will have a positive effect on your SEO ranking. On the other hand, a forgotten ending tag can lead to pages not being displayed correctly. Meta tags also determine how snippets look in search engines and whether search engines index a page correctly.

Important HTML tags that you can use to influence your SEO include:

  • Title tag: The <title>...</title> tag in the HTML header serves as a heading for search engine snippets and plays an important role in ranking.
  • Meta description: The meta description briefly sums up the web page’s content. It also appears in the HTML header and in search results, so it’s relevant to SEO.
  • Robots meta tags: Robots tags give a search engine instructions on how to proceed with crawlers or for page indexing. This lets you influence which page should be indexed.
  • Alt tag: Use the alt tags <alt>...</alt> to describe embedded images and ensure accessibility as well as better placement in image searches.
  • Anchor tag: An anchor tag <a>...</a> can be used to integrate hyperlinks in the HTML to link to internal or external content. Alt tags improve loading times and page usability, which also improves the ranking.

Which HTML programs are there?

Since HTML is free, it can easily be used to design websites. But it does require HTML editors, which are able to create, save, and publish HTML documents. Editors are available for free or paid as installable desktop software or as online editors.

Some of the best HTML editors include:

  • Notepad++ (free)
  • NoteTab (free and paid version)
  • CoffeeCup (free and paid version)
  • Visual Studio Code (free)
  • Atom (free)
  • Sublime Text 3 (free and paid version)
  • Android Studio (free)
  • Brackets (free)
  • CotEditor (free)
  • Bluefish (free)
  • Komodo Edit (free)

Learning HTML done simple

Not only is HTML one of the most widely used markup languages in web design, it’s also one of the easiest. HTML is also considered basic knowledge in web development among developers and programmers. If you want to learn HTML, you’ll benefit from a clean, clear syntax and a great foundation for your web projects. Website design for beginners is especially easy and fast with the WYSIWYG (“What You See Is What You Get”) principle, which doesn’t require in-depth HTML knowledge. The editor takes care of entering HTML code through integrated structuring, input, and drag-and-drop functions.

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