The semantic web is an ever-evolving development to define the meaning of content viewed on the web. It is the responsibility of an HTML developer to build web pages with a sharp understanding of how the front-end markup should be structured. With the upcoming release of HTML5, new tags will be introduced to the language that will enable more fluid communication between the web and the people and machines that use it.
The common practice of laying out HTML markup these days is the use of the <div> tag, using id or class attributes to block out content. New tags included in HTML5 will display a much more readable layout when defining areas of a web page. Some of the important tags in this group are <section>, <aside>, <header>, <footer>, and <nav>. It is likely that most of these tags clearly state what they are doing, but each still deserves it’s own explanation:
This tag will be used to define generic content within a document. While id and class attributes will still be needed, this will still lay out a cleaner mode of blocking content than the now-standard <div> tag, thought the latter tag will not be deprecated and can still be used.
Sidebar content will be separated using this tag to show content that is “to the side” of main content areas. Generally this content is partially related to the primary focus of a given web page.
- <header> and <footer>
The topmost and bottommost blocks of content are often referred to as the “header” and “footer.” Naturally, HTML5 introduces tags that clearly define this. It is likely that id and class attributes will no longer be needed with the use of the tags, unless a developer opts to use the <header> tag inside of a <section> tag.
Navigation menus will have their own tag in the markup, however it is uncommon for modern websites to have less than three nav menus on a single page, so id and class attributes would still be needed.
Below is a screenshot of how this code might look. The new tags form a much more readable structure to the markup of the page. It creates a much cleaner view and gives the viewer a better of understanding of what is being displayed.
View a live example (it may not be the prettiest site, but it’s more for the markup than anything)
One of the most beautiful aspects of the above examples is the HTML Document Type Declaration, or DOCTYPE. It is the absolute first statement in every single web page, and is used to trigger standards mode in a browser and then determines what iteration of the language is in use. In earlier versions, there was specific data required as part of the declaration, which may look something like this:
<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN” “http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd”>
Earlier versions of HTML were based on SGML, Standard Generalized Markup Language, but HTML5 is not and therefore has no need for the extra junk in the DTD. Here is the new one:
As previously stated – beautiful.
There are a few other new tags that are still worthy of mention: <article> to block content for blog entries or news articles, <dialog> used for marking up a conversation, and <figure> to be used when associating a caption with embedded content (audio or video).
The direction the semantic web is going will no doubt enhance the overall user experience of the web, even if the user is not consciously aware of it. This markup overhaul will create a better environment to display content and has the potential to make web pages even just slightly faster and more scalable. These are all good things.