2A: HTML/CSS 101

HTML and CSS are the bedrock foundations on which the world wide web (and therefore most digital humanities projects) are based.  HTML provides the basic structural markup that tells your browser what to do with the information on your page.  In the early days, HTML offered rudimentary styling and layout support as well, but CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) offers a much superior method of making all the different elements of your pages look exactly how you want them to look, and go exactly where you want them to go.  The biggest benefit of style sheets is that one sheet can influence the appearance of an infinite number of pages, allowing you to update code in only one place to change anything from the color of text to the positioning of an element.

Assignment 1

Your task for next time is to write your first true blog post.

Having watched Miriam Posner’s video and read Johanna Drucker’s article on the components of a DH project, explore one of the sites below and write a post trying to reverse engineer one of these DH projects.

Make sure your post does the following:

  • Introduces and links to the project you explored.
  • Contains an image of the project that links directly to it.
  • Breaks down the black box of your digital project by indentifying its
    • Sources (assets)
    • Processes (services)
    • Presentations (display)

You may need to poke around the About or FAQ sections of the page to figure out this information, but see how far you can get.

As you write, remember that blog writing is a different beast that lies somewhere between formal academic writing and casual social media or email style.  Try for a tone that is scholarly and informed but neither too stiff nor too sloppy.  It can be a tough balance to strike, but think of your intended audience and try to find a voice that works for you.

Assignment 2

There are many excellent resources for learning the fundamentals of HTML and CSS on the web.  If you want to build pages from scratch from the ground up, pick your favorite code school or tutorial series from the resources section below and go crazy.  In this course, however, we are primarily hacking and modifying other people’s code for our own purposes, rather than building from scratch, so we will keep it simple.

  1. Your assignment is to create an account at Codecademy, if you don’t already have one,
  2. Take at least two courses (one on HTML and one on CSS).
    • Many of you already have some HTML experience, and a few already have CSS experience, so if you’re an experienced user, chose a lesson further down the list and challenge yourself.  If you’re new to web development start near the top with the basics.
  3. After you’ve successfully completed your short courses, Codecademy will give you badges. Save the URL of your profile page, since we’ll link to it once we get up and running next time.

Make sure you remember to comment on at least two fellow classmates posts before next class.

And bring your credit card! We’ll be setting up our own servers next time.


Here are some places to go for more information If you need a refresher on the tools we used in class

  • An Introduction to DevTools for Chrome, and a more detailed discussion (with nifty GIF examples!) of using them to edit CSS styles
    • If you regularly use a different browser you can also checkout the comparable tools for Firefox and Apple’s Safari, but I would recommend reducing confusion by sticking with Chrome’s until you get the hang of it before figuring out how others differ.
  • A quick rundown on the basics of the fantastically useful Digital Color Meter for Mac OS X, which lets you grab precise colors from images to use in your CSS.

Codecademy is a great place to start, but there are tons of other places to learn coding on the web for free.  Here are a few further HTML/CSS resources:

  • w3schools.com is one of the most comprehensive sites around, with many excellent lessons and a handy “TryIt” tool that lets you see your code in action.
  • HTML Dog offers a solid series of tutorials with beginning, intermediate, and advanced tracks on the three major client-side languages you need to know: HTML, CSS and JavaScript.  They also have several minimal example pages for specific effects you might want to achieve.
  • A straightforward HTML assignment of constructing your first page from the ground up from the folks at UCLA’s Digital Humanities 101 course.
  • A handy list of the most common HTML elements to familiarize yourself with at ReWritables.net.
  • Since Carleton has an institutional subscription, you can also check out the HTML and CSS video tutorials on Lynda.com if you’re hungry for more.

If you find another that’s helpful, pass it along on your blog.

Happy coding!

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