Preparing for XML. Introduction | WebReference

Preparing for XML. Introduction

[Dmitry's Design Lab]
Dmitry Kirsanov's monthly column
September 1998
Preparing for XML
The idea of purely logical markup and separating content from presentation may sound simple and promising---until you ask yourself, what to do with the huge pile of existing HTML material?  Can it be painlessly adopted to XML syntax and, more importantly, to XML's ideology of generalized markup?  Read on for some practical answers to these questions...

Regular readers should forgive me for departing from visual design topics once again.  This month's article, a sequel to the previous one, focuses on technological and ideological aspects of Web publishing rather than on visual design of Web sites.  I've got an excuse: it is never too late to learn the art of doing beautiful things, since this art is as old as humanity itself and is not undergoing any drastic changes. However, the recent developments in text markup systems for the Web are simply too important to miss. Right now, you can gain an advantage over your competitors not even by upgrading your software, but by upgrading your understanding of your own site's content.

In my previous article, I've tried to establish the importance of structure as a crucial link between content and presentation aspects of documents.  Now, let's see what practical tools exist now, and are likely to appear in the near future for implementing this paradigm on the Web.  Quoting myself, "What needs to be explained to everyone is not only why XML is different---and better---than HTML, but also how it is to be used in typical, everyday document-related tasks."

The process of massive "sanitation" of Web content, of re-casting it into the crystal pure XML formalisms of generalized markup is only about to begin.  In my opinion, this global shift in priorities will have something in common with what recently happened to our perception of various computer technologies promoted by their creators.  Before investing in a particular technology, we're now likely to ask questions that were hardly possible in the "proprietary age" just several years ago: "Is this technology open, supported by an independent standards body, free for third party implementations?"

The article starts by describing the modular approach allowing you to pursue an acceptably orthogonal design style in plain old HTML, and presents some practical guidelines for working with modularized sites.  Then I demonstrate the relation of this technique to XML and suggest a way of converting current HTML designs into XSL stylesheets.


Created: Sept. 17, 1998
Revised: Sept. 28, 1998