Experiencing Html Lab

Problem Statement

How do we go about writing text for the web? How is that different from the text that we write in a text file? We're going to experience for ourselves how these things are different in this lab.

You don't need any prior knowledge of HTML for this lab. We're going to tell you what to type. Don't focus on specific commands or taking notes. Everything will be covered thoroughly later. Instead, the goal of this exercise is to feel the joy of editing a file and seeing the change "out there."


  1. Distinguish markup from content
  2. Define the difference between source text and rendered text
  3. Use HTML tags to change the display of content by providing markup

NOTE: We don't expect you to know markup, content, source text, or rendered text yet. We'll be defining them in this lab.

Distinguish markup from content

Create a Text File With A List

Launch the Learn IDE (use the Open IDE button) and create a new file called my_list.txt. The file extension suggests to humans and operating systems that it contains text.

Think of a collection of things united by theme: Pokémon, Old-school MC's, Prime Ministers of New Zealand, Magical Beasts and Where to Find Them, etc.

Now write in a few of these in your file. Here's one from us (songs in the English post-punk genre).

"Love Will Tear Us Apart"
"Bela Lugosi's Dead"
"A Forest"
"Nine While Nine"
"Girlfriend In a Coma"

The material we typed into the file is called the content. It's the thing we're trying to communicate.

Content as a List in a Text File

A problem with our content is that it doesn't explicitly state anywhere that it's a list. In the example, we see a list of songs. But a browser doesn't know what a "list" is.

We need to help browser know what a list is. The secret is to add "notes" or "breadcrumbs" to the content that tell the browser that it has list items and that these items "go together" in a list. To add these "notes" we surround the content with bits of markup, with bits of HTML.

We will take the text content from our text file, paste it into a new HTML file and then we will add markup so that a browser "sees" a list. Let's write an HTML file!

Text Inside an HTML File

We're going to create an HTML list together.

  1. Create a new file called my_list.html
  2. Copy the contents of my_list.txt and paste them into my_list.html
  3. Save the my_list.html file
  4. In the Learn IDE, click on the terminal window and type httpserver.
  5. Hit enter to run the command

The httpserver program will start up. This is a program that publishes your HTML files on the internet. When you want to quit httpserver, press Control + c to end the program. If you want to try it out now, go ahead. Just remember to start httpserver back up again!

When httpserver starts, you'll be given a web site address.

Starting the web server

httpserver says:

Your server is running at

ASIDE: For our example, our server is running at but keep in mind that yours could be different.

Open up another browser tab, paste that web site address and add the file I wish to view after a /. We want to view my_list.html, so in my example, I'll be visiting We will call this tab "the viewing tab."

We see:

HTML file with non-marked-up content displays on one line

As noted above, the browser doesn't know that items on new lines means "items in a list." Browsers ignore when HTML has is split onto new lines. We cover why a little later in this README. Since the browser doesn't know we intend this to be a list and since browsers ignore when content is split onto different lines, it displays all the content on one line. Not what we wanted.

A Text Not-Really-A-List Into a Real-HTML-List

REMEMBER: This lab will provide you what to type. Subsequent labs will deeply examine details of HTML markup. However, our goal here is to show how slight changes to markup can quickly alter the browser's display of content. If you're fuzzy on a detail that's fine.

Marking-Up List Items

OK, we've reached the critical moment. We're going to tell the browser that these bits of letters represent list items. To do so we "wrap" each line with <li> and </li>. For example: <li>"A Forest"</li>

<li>"Love Will Tear Us Apart"</li>
<li>"Bela Lugosi's Dead"</li>
<li>"A Forest"</li>
<li>"Nine While Nine"</li>
<li>"Girlfriend In a Coma"</li>

Flip back to the viewing tab and refresh (make sure your httpserver program is still running!). You should see something like the following:



In this step we added some HTML markup:

  • The <li> is an HTML list item opening tag
  • The </li> is an HTML closing tag
  • We would call this pair of opening and closing tags a "li tag"
  • The whole length of text of opening markup plus "wrapped" content plus closing markup (<li>...content...</li>) is called "an HTML element;" or, more exactly, an li element

Again, you don't need to memorize these terms yet, but we want to help you develop an intuition for how these words are used. You will be using these terms when speaking with other developers and HTML authors.

It may not seem like we did much work, but the idea of a method for "marking up" content and linking it is the foundation of the web. It's what made Tim Berners-Lee's reputation. And you just experienced Sir Tim's great insight. AWESOME.

Let's work with additional HTML tags to see how we tweak our HTML a bit more. Let's tell the browser "Hey! These list items, they go together!"

Saying List Items Go Together

Wrap the entire set of <li> items with an <ol> and </ol> like so:

<li>"Love Will Tear Us Apart"</li>
<li>"Bela Lugosi's Dead"</li>
<li>"A Forest"</li>
<li>"Nine While Nine"</li>
<li>"Girlfriend In a Coma"</li>

Save the file and refresh the viewing tab. It should display:

List displayed as ordered list

We told the browser that this set of list items that we "wrapped" in the ordered list tag go together as a list. Because we told the browser that the list is ordered it decided to be helpful and put numbers next to the list items for us.

Wrapping and Indentation

With all these angle-brackets of markup and content mixed together, HTML authors like to use indentation to make HTML easier to read. Here's how most HTML authors would expect our code from the previous section to be arranged:

  <li>"Love Will Tear Us Apart"</li>
  <li>"Bela Lugosi's Dead"</li>
  <li>"A Forest"</li>
  <li>"Nine While Nine"</li>
  <li>"Girlfriend In a Coma"</li>

Update your document. Save it and refresh your viewing tab.

Remember earlier when noticed browsers ignored content when it was on separate lines? Cleaning up your code requires splitting lines, adding spaces, and adding tabs. Browser ignore those characters that humans use to make their HTML reader-friendly.

Ordered to Unordered

Let's change our ordered list to be unordered. If <ol> means ordered list, you might guess that <ul> means unordered list. Make the change and refresh your viewing tab.

Back to Unordered List

Here we return to a "bulleted" unordered list.

ASIDE: If you've been following along closely, you might be wondering, if we didn't have a <ul> tag around our <li> items earlier, how did the browser know how to treat those <li> as if they were in a <ul>? When browsers detect problematic HTML they guess! This can lead to some very strange results when you make an error, but if you write invalid HTML, they try to recover. HTML validity will be discussed further soon!

Add a Description Paragraph

Let's introduce our list by adding some background:

<p>Some of my favorite post-punk and Goth songs!</p>
  <li>"Love Will Tear Us Apart"</li>
  <li>"Bela Lugosi's Dead"</li>
  <li>"A Forest"</li>
  <li>"Nine While Nine"</li>
  <li>"Girlfriend In a Coma"</li>

Take a look at your "rendered page" and verify the result is to your liking.

Put a Header on It

Lastly, let's put a "heading" on the top of our document. Add a h1 element with an appropriate title inside.

<h1>My Music List</h1>


Admire your finished work!

Here's the full example code:

<h1>My Music List</h1>
<p>Some of my favorite post-punk and Goth songs!</p>
  <li>"Love Will Tear Us Apart"</li>
  <li>"Bela Lugosi's Dead"</li>
  <li>"A Forest"</li>
  <li>"Nine While Nine"</li>
  <li>"Girlfriend In a Coma"</li>

Final Document



When you're done, click on the terminal of the Learn IDE. Your httpserver program should still be running there. To exit httpserver press Control + c. This will tell httpserver to shut down and you should be back at the prompt.

Make sure that you have your HTML content in a file called my_list.html in order to pass the check. Type learn and verify that your tests pass.

Once you've passed the test, run the command learn submit. This will log your progress to our systems. You're ready to move on to the next lesson!

Looking Back

In this lab, you have, essentially, done the job of being an HTML author. You receive raw content, you mark it up to create source text. You test, tweak, and adjust your source text until the rendered text displayed in the browser is to your liking.

In upcoming lessons, we will learn additional tags which provide us more ways to describe our content. We might be starting with lists today, but soon we'll be on this in exciting ways!

Welcome to the community of web page creators!

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