The 5 most mis-handled html tags

Since I don’t currently have a blog on the web design site I thought I’d drop this one in here. After all, trying to do SEO on top of poor foundations is a thankless task. It was inspired by a blog item which I “think” I saw on SEOmoz entitled The 5 most underused HTML tags, though now I can’t seem to find it. (Good blog incidentally, recommend it.)

HTML has undergone many revisions and fashions in its short life, and there have been a number of blind alleys and wrong turnings on the way. This has resulted in the complete misuse / miscoding / misunderstanding of many of the tags which give the markup language its tools. By this I don’t mean those horrible tags like blink or marquee which made so many sites unbearable in the late 1990’s, but the ones that competent designers should know how to use.

Unfortunately some of the WYSIWYG programs which appeared when website building became popular were responsible for lulling people into thinking that they didn’t need a solid understanding of HTML. Some of them made it hard to even see the underlying code while many of them produced code that was at best convoluted and sometime completely invalid. Only the fact that the most popular browsers were far too forgiving of poor code allowed the resultant sites to get away with it.

So here we present:
The most mis-coded HTML tags
The most misused HTML tags
The most misunderstood HTML tags

The table tag

What’s so wrong with the table tag I hear you cry. Nothing much in itself, perfectly reasonable tag, I don’t even mind too much if you use it for positioning (though it wasn’t intended for such things) but please, don’t give it attributes that are invalid – mainly height. It’s not good code and mostly it proves you’ve used a WYSIWYG program without understanding what it does. Secondly, do try not to nest them more than 3 or 4 deep – if you do that then you are probably trying to create positioning that should be handled using CSS.
And for goodness sake don’t try and put an absolutely positioned div inside one.

The meta keywords tag

The spammers favourite. Stick every keyword you can think of in there, throw in Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, and the kitchen sink. Ignore the fact that everyone except Yahoo stopped paying attention to it (except to penalise spamming of it) years ago and even Yahoo check to see if your body text includes the terms and penalises you if it doesn’t.
Then wonder why your site doesn’t rank…

The font tag

C’mon guys, they announced that this was being deprecated back in the 90s. The occasional bit of in-line use might be forgiveable – building new sites using it all over the place for basic formatting in 2006 is just amateurish. If you can’t even learn CSS1 then stop claiming to be a web designer and then we can dump this one into the bin with “blink”.

The span tag

It’s not a div tag, you can’t have block level tags inside it. It’s for in-line styling within tags such as p tags. It’s for exceptions to the general rule, not to be used all over the place.

The form tag

Probably the single most miscoded tag in the world. If you must mix it with tables either put it inside a table cell (td tag) or outside a table tag – do not put it round a tr tag – not only will it throw up an error on that tag, it’ll produce knock-on errors that will have the validators running in circles. And it’ll make any attempt to use CSS to effectively style the form into a horrible mess.

Wouldn’t it be nice to see these being used properly in 2007!

Happy Hogmanay and a Good New Year to you all.

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