Reading an excellent article at Accessible Web Design called It’s still important to talk about HTML 4 got me thinking. It was talking about beginners finding out-of-date information on the web and how we need to continue to promote best practices with current information. One point made in the article:
It’s still important to talk about older technology: it’s still relevant to write or promote articles which offer tutorials on simple tasks, like changing font color using CSS or properly forming an unordered list. The reason it’s relevant is because the internet knowledge base is polluted — those who are in control of outdated material should take responsibility for updating their information, ideally, but we don’t all have that power. The best we can do is continue to promote best practices in all areas.
Last week I was teaching a continuing ed class at UNM. The class was a basic overview of how to create and maintain a web site. Here’s what I did and why I think it was a decent compromise for the current state of the web.
- They looked at the HTML 4, XHTML, and HTML5 DOCTYPES. I gave a brief overview of what each one meant and how they differed. (Very brief. This is a 12 hour continuing ed class we’re talking about. Keep that in mind.)
- I told them it was okay to start using the HTML5 DOCTYPE. I think that’s safe. Browsers know what to do with it.
- When they got going with HTML, I taught them HTML 4 Strict syntax. I didn’t let them use the choose-your-own-style syntax of HTML5 in their page building. I think they are a lot safer in terms of browser rendering and accessibility if they stick with a rigorous syntax model like HTML 4 Strict (or XHTML Strict).
Before I started teaching it to them that way, I hadn’t really thought much about the pedagogy of it. But the article at Accessible Web Design spurred me on a bit.
HTML5 hasn’t been implemented fully enough to be mainstream at the present time. Beginners trying to cope with new HTML5 elements with spotty implementation would have more frustration than they need when trying to learn the basics of web design. Learning something that is currently best practice, and rigorous enough to work in any situation seems like a better choice. However, using the HTML5 DOCTYPE is simply easier and will work, even if the rest of the document is formatted as HTML 4. And it eliminates the need for one of those long-winded earlier DOCTYPES.
What are other teachers doing with DOCTYPES and syntax models these days?