Delivery mechanisms and coding preferences aside, the developer will concentrate next on website architecture, the interactive visible structure presented to visitors. This will involve the generation of the HTML markup from the wireframe model (if the earlier skeletal framework mockup was purely graphical and not HTML) and, importantly, creation of the site navigation and page menus. These elements are situated within the body section of a web page; however, the body itself is contained within other sections which merit examination.
A typical professional web page will contain the following sections:
Usually the first line in a web page, it instructs the browser how to interpret the code and what flavour of markup is used, HTML or XHTML and which version.
This further describes the HTML employed and the language base for the page
Many tags in the head are referred to as meta tags, some are required in a well defined header, other, as with ICRA, are proprietary tags which are optional but which nevertheless are recognised by the W3C. Another optional set of meta tags is the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative (DCMI), a method of developing and describing resources that help further identify document (web page and other) content to assist with generation of more intelligent information search and discovery systems. Dublin Core metadata is increasingly featured within government sites.
All well written websites will contain the above sections regardless of how limited the actual content but it is within the body container that the main development takes place. This is not to say that these sections are critical to operation or that a website will completely fail to function without them because modern web browsers exhibit remarkable resilience to sloppy coding and have excellent recovery and interpretation features. But a site’s chances of consistent operation, usability, accessibility and visibility in the search engines will be severely hampered.
It cannot be overstated that clear, efficient site navigation is paramount to usability. Users will swiftly be disenchanted by the most attractive site if they become lost within its structure or are forced to fumble about looking for menus. Some webmasters adopt a breadcrumb strategy illustrating precisely where a user is within the site structure, at what level in the menu hierarchy. This is often the case with sprawling ecommerce sites or large portals – gateways to explore the Web. Other developers might employ menu blocks consistently positioned on each page with submenus clearly identifiable. Much depends on the depth and complexity of site content.
Once the navigation structure is in place the next step is to translate the page sections into discrete blocks. Page consistency extends beyond navigation to the areas of copy and other elements – graphics, lists, links, user input areas – that make up the shape of the page and, often, website as a whole.
Developers now use containers to divide pages into logical sections.
tags are employed to separate content into functional and presentational blocks such as the masthead (top of the page often comprising a visual or corporate identity area), menu, one or usually multiple columns of copy with perhaps feedback features, and a footer section.
The poor practice of segregating and structuring content using tables is now replaced by use of containers and CSS resulting in more compact, swiftly-rendered, platform independent and, importantly, more accessible websites.