Convenience vs. Convenience

May 31, 2015

Tech

The very first language related to web design I ever learned was HTML. I had a textbook and every online tutorial related to beginning web design starts off with writing simple web pages in pure HTML. After lots of practice I have grown comfortable with writing in HTML and containing everything in tags. So when I started using git (a version control system) and I ran into Markdown I thought “Oh great, some silly little syntax thing I have to learn to use just to write up a README file for git/GitHub/BitBucket…”.

While I was setting up this blog I read that I have the option to write my posts in either HTML or Markdown…with an emphasis on using Markdown. Although I wrote my initial post in HTML I did some thinking and decided that maybe this new Markdown language is worth getting accustomed to if it’s meant to simplify the amount of writing I have to do for a blog post. So here is my simple breakdown of HTML and Markdown the way I see it.

HTML

The convenience: I’ve known how to use it first and I use it the most

HTML is the undefeated world champion with pedigree in my mind. It is the original fruit of the web page as we know it and it is still the skeleton of all web pages that we use today. Without HTML everything on the web would be a messy blob of data with little structure. HTML is the web markup language that uses tags to contain and format webpage data. Headers are contained within <h#> and </h#>, paragraphs are contained within <p> and </p>, links are contained within <a> and </a> and so forth.

Logically, an HTML file is a list of containers of data and the tag of the container determines how the data should be presented. The open-close syntax is very important to make sure that each containers’ contents are clearly defined. In addition, each container tag can be complemented with specifiers to give any additional information on how the container should be presented. A link container requires a specifier for the URL(the destination) of the link, and all tags can be complemented with a class and/or id specifier that will categorize or uniquely identify that specific container and its contents.

Finally the killer feature with HTML is that HTML supports integration with the CSS and Javascript languages. CSS stands for Cascading Style Sheets and is used in web design to specify the visual details of the data in HTML. These details include text color, background color, margins, spacing and every other detail that contributes to the page’s visual layout. Javascript is a scripting language used alongside HTML to provide some logic to the web page. Javascript is big on modern web pages to provide neat animations and user interactions to make the web page more dynamic. Both of these languages can be included right in the HTML file if needed to provide some quick details. Blocks of CSS can be included with the <style> tag or CSS for one specific item can be written inline with the style= specifier, while Javascript can be defined with the <script> tag.

For full documentation on HTML visit w3schools for a tutorial and documents on all the different tags.

##Markdown

The convenience: It simplifies writing by reducing the need for tags

To be fair, Markdown is not quite a head-to-head contender with HTML since it’s meant to be a way to simplify writing static HTML files that don’t require much Javascript or CSS. I think of Markdown as an optional layer on top of the HTML…but in the case of blog posts, either language can be solely responsible for the content (because Jekyll can convert both). Markdown is not all about the tags like HTML, but uses spacing and character combinations to define different containers of data. Paragraphs are simply separated by one line of whitespace before and after the text. Headers are defined by leading pound symbols (# correlates to <h1> and ### correlates to <h3>) and links are defined with the link text in brackets immediately followed by the URL in parentheses (the above link to Jekyll is written as: [Jekyll](http://jekyllrb.com/docs/home/)). Once you look over the basics of Markdown it is easy to see how writing in Markdown can be really convenient.

I’m definitely still a beginner in Markdown so all of my hesitation to adopt the language comes from my need for more education. But if you would like to learn more about using Markdown you can visit [Daring Fireball] (http://daringfireball.net/projects/markdown/syntax) or GitHub Guide’s Mastering Markdown for documentation and run-throughs.

DISCLOSURE: I am writing this post in Markdown

HTML Markdown Convenience