Behind the web page

For the moment, let’s think about web pages as the relation among four things: data, application, code, and page.  The web page you see – – for instance, this one – – is only a rendering of the code that organizes the data, network, protocols, etc. necessary to present a “page.”  (You can use your browser to see what this code looks like; in the Chrome browser, pull down the View menu, open to the “Developer” entry and click on “View Source.”)  From this perspective, we could say that the web “page” is more of an even than artifact or object.  Every time you open a web page, you are also sending and receiving messages – – to and from a data source, to and from the network, to and from your browser; in other words, the web “page” is really only one of many texts that you activate when you click your mouse.

Here is a basic breakdown of the html coding that lies “behind” a web page.  Here’s a more involved illustration of the html to page relationship.

Of course, you can’t really “read” or view a web page as a “page” without a browser.  Here is an amusing but enlightening explanation of how web browsers usher data and code into pages.   And here is a more detailed explanation.

As if this weren’t complicated enough, every “page” you view is also the product of visual and informational design.  (Ever had to scroll forever to get to the main thing? Or, ever gotten lost in a website?)  Here’s a collection of infographics about web design and aesthetics.

As we move through the semester, we’ll add to this understanding of the web “page.”


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