Creating a Basic Web Page

This tutorial is designed for Web design newbies, to instruct in the creation of a simple Web page. The file created in this tutorial will be used in future tutorials.

The first thing to know about Web site creation is that every Web page requires four things. These four things are an opening <html> tag, an opening <body> tag, a closing </body> tag, and a closing </html> tag. Actually, a web page will open just fine in a browser without any of these elements, but these are the four basic tags a Web page should have. The markup for a basic Web page looks like this:

<html>
<body>

</body>
</html>

Earlier, I mentioned the word ‘tag’. A tag is an HTML formatting element used to tell the browser how to format and display the information contained in the Web page. Most tags come in pairs, hence the need for an opening <html> tag AND a closing </html> tag. Exceptions to this rule include the line break tag, <br />, and the image tag, <image src=”someImage.jpg” />. Information that you wish to be formatted with a certain tag is placed between the opening and closing tags.

Let’s begin by creating the basic Web page mentioned earlier. To create the file, you will need an HTML or text editor. Notepad (Windows) works well, or you can also get software designed specifically for Web site creation. I prefer Adobe Dreamweaver, but if you want an inexpensive program the free tool HTML-Kit works well also. Many applications will automatically added things like the tags mentioned earlier, but in the interest of being thorough we’ll add everything manually.

Start with a blank document and save it as “index.html”. When a browser visits a Web address, the file it looks for is the file named index. If it is unable to find this file, the browser will display a file tree of the files in the directory on the Web server related to that Web address. Since you usually will not want users to be able to access your file tree, it is a good idea to place a file named index.html in every folder that will be visible to the Web. There are also other methods to prevent the file tree from showing, but this tutorial isn’t meant to be that exhaustive.

Now that your document is saved, we’re going to start adding things. The first thing we want to add to the blank page is the Document Type Definition (DTD) or doctype. Strictly speaking, the doctype is not required to create a Web page, but it IS required to create a well-formed Web page. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) defines several doctypes, but the one we will use for this example is XHTML 1.0 Transitional. Using the Transitional doctype allows us to not be as strict in our markup.

So now that we’ve added the doctype, our document should look just like this:

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Transitional//EN”
“http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-transitional.dtd”>

Next, we add the opening <html> tag and a new tag called the <head> tag. The document head is a place where information is stored that will not be displayed on the actual Web page. There are a lot of different things that can go in the head, but the only thing we want to put for now is the Web page’s title. So we add an opening <title> tag, then the page title. We’ll call this page “My First Web Page.” Then we add a closing </title> tag, a closing </head> tag, and an opening <body> tag. Our markup should now look like this:

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Transitional//EN”
“http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-transitional.dtd”>
<html>
<head>

<title>My First Web Page</title>

</head>
<body>

Once we have that, we just need to add some content to our page and close the <head> and <body> tags. Let’s add a paragraph that reads “I am learning to build Web sites and this is my first Web page.” To add a paragraph, we use another special tag, the <p> tag. So now we type: <p>I am learning to build Web sites and this is my first Web page.</p>, then type a closing </body> tag and a closing </html> tag. Your page should now look like this:

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Transitional//EN”
“http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-transitional.dtd”>
<html>
<head>

<title>My First Web Page</title>

</head>
<body>

<p>I am learning to build Web sites and this is my first Web page.</p>

</body>
</head>

Now, just save your document and open it in a Web browser. Congratulations! You now know how to build a basic Web page.


Creating a Transparent Flash Object

A couple of years ago, I was working on a Web site with a couple of friends, and we began wondering if there was a way to make a SWF that would have a transparent background. The benefits of a transparent SWF were obvious: with a transparent SWF, we could create the planned Flash menu without having finalized the background color for the site, and we would have the flexibility to change the site’s background whenever we wanted without having to republish the menu.

After some research, we discovered two ways that this can be done. The key is not is the SWF itself, but rather in the HTML used to embed the Flash object. Both ways to create a transparent background are essentially the same, but the way to go about them is different.

The first way is to publish the HTML file directly from Flash while publishing the SWF. Open the File menu and choose Publish Setting. In the Publish Settings dialog box, click the HTML tab (If the HTML tab is not there, select the checkbox next to HTML in the Formats tab and the HTML tab will appear). Click the drop-down next to Window Mode and choose Transparent Windowless (see image below). When you click Publish, this setting will add a parameter to the object tag that will make the SWF background transparent.

Transparent SWF settings

The second way is to edit the HTML directly. After the beginning object tag, insert a parameter named “wmode”, with a value of “transparent”. Using the W3C validated code from my previous tutorial, Adding Flash to a W3C Compliant Web Page, the code should now look something like this:

Transparent SWF Code

While transparent SWFs can definitely be handy, a word of warning should be mentioned. Not all browsers and versions of Adobe’s Flash Player support transparent SWFs. As long as the person viewing the Web site has kept their browser and Flash Player updated, they will never have a problem, but as every good Web Designer knows most people don’t. While this will not affect the functionality of the SWF, it could compromise the design of a site. Ultimately, my friends and I decided to forgo using a transparent SWF to make our client’s Web site compatible with as many browsers as possible.


Adding Flash to a W3C Compliant Web Page

A few months ago, I decided to redesign and rebuild by Web site. Previously, I haven’t worried much about W3C compliance, but I decided for this redesign I would pay more attention and make sure each page validated on the W3C Validator. At first this wasn’t a big deal…then I began to add Flash objects to my site and I got all kinds of errors.

For a few years now, I have used Dreamweaver to build my Web sites. When I added a Flash object to an HTML file, Dreamweaver automatically generated this code:

<script>
AC_FL_RunContent( ‘codebase’,’http://download.macromedia.com/pub/shockwave/cabs/flash/swflash.cab#version=7,0,19,0′,’width’,’700′,’height’,’211′,’title’,
‘flashmovie’,’src’,’flashmovie’,’quality’,’high’,’pluginspage’, ‘http://www.macromedia.com/go/getflashplayer’,’movie’,’flashmovie);
//end AC code
</script><noscript><object classid=”clsid:D27CDB6E-AE6D-11cf-96B8-444553540000″ codebase=”http://download.macromedia.com/pub/shockwave/cabs/flash/swflash.cab#version=7,0,19,0″ width=”700″ height=”211″ title=”flashmovie”> <param name=”movie” value=”flashmovie.swf” /> <param name=”quality” value=”high” /> <embed src=”flashmovie.swf” quality=”high” pluginspage=”http://www.macromedia.com/go/getflashplayer” type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” width=”700″ height=”211″></embed> </object></noscript>

Besides being pretty hefty, the code from Dreamweaver will not validate with the W3C Validator.

Another option for creating the code to import Flash into the page is publishing the HTML document directly out of Flash. When I attempted this, the code generated by Flash looked like this:

<object classid=”clsid:d27cdb6e-ae6d-11cf-96b8-444553540000″ codebase=”http://fpdownload.macromedia.com/pub/shockwave/cabs/flash/swflash.cab#version=8,0,0,0″ width=”700″ height=”211″ align=”middle”> <param name=”allowScriptAccess” value=”sameDomain” /> <param name=”movie” value=”flashmovie.swf” /><param name=”quality” value=”high” /><param name=”bgcolor” value=”#999966″ /><embed src=”flashmovie.swf” quality=”high” bgcolor=”#999966″ width=”700″ height=”211″ name=”flashmovie” align=”middle” allowScriptAccess=”sameDomain” type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” pluginspage=”http://www.macromedia.com/go/getflashplayer” />
</object>

While slightly less hefty, the code generated by Flash still will not validate. After much fruitless experimentation, I took my problem to that great guru of all human knowledge, the Internet. Eventually, I came across a 2002 article by Drew McLellan on A List Apart. In this article, the author details the same issues I have been having and gives a solution he came up with, which he calls the Satay Method. Simply put, the author rewrote the script to be more efficient and included a container movie to trick Internet Explorer into streaming the main movie. Instead of using a container movie, I used Drew McLellan’s code to load the main movie directly, making my code look like this:

<object type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” data=”flashmovie.swf” width=”640″ height=”400″>
<param name=”movie” value=”flashmovie.swf” />
</object>

Now my code validated, but I still had a problem: the buttons in my Flash movie wouldn’t open other pages when I tested in it Windows. I went back to the Internet and discovered a simple solution:

<object type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” data=”flashmovie.swf” width=”640″ height=”400″>
<param name=”allowScriptAccess” value=”always” />

<param name=”movie” value=”flashmovie.swf” />
</object>

Now my pages validate and the ActionScript in my Flash movie works.