12 min read


(For more resources on HTML5, see here.)

In the course of building pages using just HTML5 layout elements, in this article, we will explore all four advantages of relying on HTML5 as listed above.

Dreamweaver CS5 and HTML5

Before diving in to create HTML5 pages from scratch, let’s survey how we are going to get our money’s worth out of Dreamweaver in the process.

All recent versions of Dreamweaver (CS3, CS4, and CS5) with the HTML5 Pack installed can assist our work in creating HTML5 pages from scratch in three ways.

First, with the HTML5 Pack installed, code hints that automatically prompts us in completing HTML5 coding are updated in Code view for HTML5 elements. Those code hints will help us avoid mistakes in spelling elements or constructing the (minimalist) coding syntax that we will need to place HTML5 elements.

Second, we will avail ourselves of Split view, so that we will see our layout congealing in Design view as we sketch out what code we need to create in Split view.

Third, we will take advantage of what is arguably the single most valuable panel in Dreamweaver—the CSS Styles panel. We will be defining CSS Style rules to associate with each of the HTML5 layout elements we use. Without styles, HTML5 layout elements are nothing, so the interplay between the HTML5 elements we create and formatting we do with the CSS Styles panel will drive our page design process.

Moreover, here it is important to review, or at least reinforce two foundational techniques in building any professional-quality website in Dreamweaver:

  • Do nothing without first defining a Dreamweaver site.
  • Secondly, and not quite so essential but still pretty foundational, we always work with external style sheets. This allows the styles we define to be applied globally, across an entire website, and makes updating sites possible. As we begin to coordinate styling in the CSS Styles panel and constructing pages with HTML5 elements, I will be reminding you and when necessary walking you through the steps required to make sure all styles are saved to an external style sheet.

With this as a preview, and cautionary reminder, let’s dive in to creating pages with HTML5 layout elements.

Building an HTML5 page from the top

As opposed to laying out pages with tables (grids of rows and columns), or non-standardized Div tags (layout blocks you name and define yourself), we will use HTML5’s new, standardized layout elements.

The most basic of these are self-explanatory

, ,
, , and

In addition, as alluded to in the introduction to this article, we will use additional elements to help make content more accessible to search engines. For example, within articles, we will use new HTML5 elements that make it easy for people looking for online content (or those making such online content accessible through various forms of search engines) to find things such as the publication date of content, or the date of an upcoming event.

HTML5 structural elements

In order to alert browsers that we are presenting HTML5 content, we need to indicate at the top of our HTML5 code that this is an HTML5 page. As for those browsers that respond, “huh, what’s that?”, we will address that challenge shortly. However, first use the following steps to create a new HTML5 page from scratch:

  1. With your Dreamweaver site defined, choose File | New. In the New Document dialog, choose Blank Page from the category list on the left of the dialog. Choose HTML in the Page Type column. Choose None in the Layout column.
  2. In the Layout CSS popup if you already have a CSS file you use with HTML layouts, you can choose Link to Existing File, and select your existing HTML5-related CSS file as the styles file for your page.
  3. From the DocType popup choose HTML5 as shown in the following screenshot:

    (Move the mouse over the image to enlarge.)

  4. Click on Create to generate the blank page.

A blank page appears in Design view of the Document window. In Split view, we can see some basic code has been generated:

Untitled Document

Let’s briefly walk through this to situate ourselves. The and tags are sort of evolutionary holdovers from previous versions of HTML, and not actually required for HTML5 browsers. This code though, might be useful when taking into account non-HTML5 browsers, as we will examine shortly. The

and tags d emarcate head content that is not displayed on the page, but serves as instructions to browsers.

In this case, the content inside identifies that the current, most widely applicable character set, UTF-8, is implemented. This character set allows the display of characters from a wide range of languages.

All the content we create for the page will be placed within the

and tags. For this reason, our first step in creating our CSS styles for this page, will be to define a couple of basic attributes for the tag.

Finally, save this page as an HTML file. Choose File | Save. In the Save As dialog, make sure the folder selected in the Where popup is your Dreamweaver site folder (or a subfolder within that). Give the file a name, like html5_test, and click on Save.

While we are at it, enter a descriptive title in the Title box of the Document toolbar. Resave periodically.

Creating a CSS file

H and-in-hand with our HTML5 fi le, we will create and use a CSS fi le to organize and manage all the styling in the page. Therefore, let’s create that CSS fi le now, and as we do, add a line that will make our HTML5 page compatible with all current browsers, and most older ones.

To do that, follow these steps:

  1. Choose File | New, and in the New Document dialog, choose the Blank Page category on the left, and CSS from the Page Type category. Click on Create to generate, and open a new CSS file.
  2. The file opens in Code view. We will be editing it in the CSS Styles panel, so except as a learning experience we won’t need to view this page again. However, we do need to save it. Choose File | Save, and give the file a name like html5_layout.css. Make sure the site folder is selected in the Where pop up, and click on Save as shown in the following screenshot:

  3. In the tab bar at the top of the document window, toggle back to the HTML file you created, as shown in the following screenshot:

  4. View the CSS STYLES panel if it is not visible (choose Window | CSS Styles), and click on the Attach Style Sheet icon as shown in the following screenshot:

  5. The Attach External Style Sheet dialog appears. Use the Browse button to navigate to the CSS fi le you just created, and click on OK to attach the style sheet. The CSS fi le appears in the CSS Files panel (use the All tab in the CSS Styles panel as the norm, unless you are doing particular styles detective work that requires the Current tab). You will also see the link to the CSS file in Code view if you look.

Next, we will add a single attribute that enables most browsers to interpret the HTML5 elements, even if they are not HTML5 compliant.

To do that, follow these steps:

  1. Click on the New CSS Rule icon at the bottom of the CSS Styles panel, it is just to the right of the Attach Style Sheet icon identified in the preceding screenshot. The New CSS Rule dialog opens.
  2. In the New CSS Rule dialog, choose Compound from the first popup. We are creating a rule that will apply to more than one HTML5 layout element. These are HTML5 tags that we want to prevent from collapsing when viewed in non-HTML5 browsers.
  3. In the Choose or Enter a Name for Your Selector field, enter header. We actually want to apply the rule we are working on to additional HTML5 elements, but we will add those shortly. In the Rule Definition section of the dialog, make sure your attached CSS fi le is selected (it will be by default). Click on OK.
  4. In the CSS Rule Definition for header dialog, select the Block category, and choose block from the display popup as shown in the following screenshot, then click on OK.

  5. The Header style appears in the CSS Styles panel when you expand the CSS Styles file linked to the page. You can see that the display property for the header style has a block attribute associated with it in the CSS styles panel.
  6. We want to expand the list of HTML5 elements to which this display:block attribute is assigned. The long, slow way to do that is to duplicate steps we have traversed so far for each additional element. To do that the quick, easy way, click once in the header row, in the top half of the CSS Styles panel, and edit the list of elements to include address, article, footer, nav, section. Use commas (“,”) to separate the additional elements as you type them in. These are HTML5 tags that we want to prevent from collapsing when viewed in non-HTML5 browsers. The CSS Styles panel should now look like the following screenshot:

With the preceding set of steps, we have told most non-HTML5 browsers to keep our basic HTML5 building-block elements on their own distinct horizontal row, so they don’t smush into each other.

Our basic model and scenario here is creating pages that are intended only for HTML5 browsers (like iPhones or iPads).

Using HTML5 to make content accessible

Having set up our HTML5 document with basic web page coding, we are now ready to create and format the HTML5 layout elements that will define how the page looks.

But wait… as the TV pitchmen say… there’s more! Before diving into the page design dimension of HTML layout elements, it will be helpful to quickly survey another reason to use HTML layout elements to organize content: accessibility.

As alluded to in the introduction to this article, there are advantages beyond design considerations for relying on HTML5 layout elements to organize page content. These advantages revolve around the way HTML5 layout elements package content for metadata compilers (such as search engines). This emerging connection can make content organized into HTML5 layout elements more searchable, easier to organize and access. Moreover, this will be even more the case in the future as search engines and other web content organizing tools integrate HTML5 layout elements.

We will take a rather simple, but interesting example of how this works right now. If you have ever copied and pasted the content between apps on an iPhone (for example, the address of a web page into an app that helps you find public transportation options or content from an article or posting that you read online in an e-mail), then you maybe familiar with the routine where you hold your finger down on the screen and are prompted with a Copy prompt. The next step is to use the somewhat awkward process of using one’s fingers to define the content to copy to the clipboard, as shown in the following screenshot:


On the other hand, when content is organized into articles (or sections), a touch on the iPhone screen instantly selects an article or article section for copying, as shown in the following screenshot:


Now, in terms of added value to a website, the convenience associated with iPhone users easily selecting articles or article sections probably isn’t going to turn the world upside down, although visitors are likely to note positively the convenience they experience selecting articles from your page to share. However, the fact that the iPhone browser recognizes sections (and articles, and other HTML5 layout elements) also gives a sense of the potential for the associations between content and HTML5 layout elements to make content more accessible. We can expect, for example, that in the not-so-far-off-future, people will be able to tune their search engine queries for “articles” about this or that topic.

HTML5 layout and search engines: By relying on HTML5 layout elements to organize page content, you are building (in advance) support for search tools and other ways that HTML5 will facilitate finding content.

HTML5 layout strategy

Having surveyed the emerging value of organizing content into HTML5 layout elements, we turn to the more dramatically impactful aspect of using HTML5 layout elements: design. However, keep in mind; design and content are linked in HTML5. Unlike previous generations of web page markup language, HTML5 organizes content both to facilitate displaying that content, and to facilitate accessing that content.

A basic HTML5 page layout is illustrated in the following screenshot, with self-explanatory placeholder text:

The visible borders in the preceding screenshot, by the way, are a product of Dreamweaver CS5’s CSS Layout Outlines (if they are not functioning, choose View | Visual Aids | CSS Layout Outlines).

Again, before diving into an exploration of the specific elements in HTML5 layouts, and how they are implemented, keep in mind they both define design components of the page, and organize content.

Using code hints

Dreamweaver, with the HTML5 Pack, is HTML5-friendly, but not exactly HTML5-compatible. By this, I mean that it is necessary to resort to Code view to apply HTML5 elements. However, within that, you get help.

As noted earlier, Dreamweaver CS5 helps create the coding for HTML5 code hints. As you begin typing HTML5 elements in Code view, beginning with “ produces the following code hints, from which you can click on header and press Enter (Windows) or Return (Mac) to place the code.

You can use control spacebar on Mac or PC to bring up the full code hinting list.

To close (define the end of) an HTML5 layout element, simply type When you do that, Dreamweaver auto-enters the close coding for the open element, as shown in the following screenshot:


As we walk through the coding involved in defining different HTML5 layout elements in the remainder of this article, you can enter the necessary code in Split view, utilizing code hints, and seeing the results in the Design half of Split view.


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