HTML is a series of defined & standardized tags you can use to markup your content to assign meaning to it, so everyone—from the blind & handicap to machines & computers—can better assess what your content is and its meaning.
HTML: a High–Tech Meta Language
Let’s Kick Things Off with a Thought Experiment...
- Take a look the front page of any newspaper.
- Try to identify what the most important story is.
- Now try to identify the second and third most important stories.
Not so hard, right?
- Now, close your eyes and try to do steps 1 – 3.
Yes, for those who rely strictly on their sense of vision to detect this information heirarchy — which is by far the vast majority of people out there, myself included. But there's a small percentage of people with disablities who, using assistive devices such as screen readers, access information this way regularly. This naturally begs the question, "How do you communicate this information heirarchy without the ability to see it visually?"
Nope. Totally Possible with HTML: Hypertext Markup Language
HTML is what allows us to "mark up" our "hypertext" (digital text) to give it semantic meaning. This allows assistive technolgies to properly identify the importance of a piece of information on the page as the author intended — be it a headline, list, paragraph, image or what have you.
It's important to remember at this point that computers by default fall into the users with disabilities category. They don't have eyes. Their ability to detect information hierarchy had to be programmed into them from scratch. They can only "read" the plain text, not "see" any presentation aspects of it such as the font size or color, which is called rich text. This includes search engines such as google. HTML gives you the ability to control your own destiny — it allows the little to control the big. By understanding it, you can ensure you or your digital presence has been optimized for all users to access it — including thankful search ’bots who use the HTML markup as a ranking factor in their page rank algorithms.