Dreamweaver tutorial: How websites work in Dreamweaver

What you’ll learn in this Dreamweaver Tutorial:

  • Understanding domain names and IP addresses
  • The role of web browsers
  • Tag structures and attributes
  • Understanding the structure of an HTML document

This tutorial provides you with a foundation for working with Adobe Dreamweaver tag structure and attributes. It is the first lesson in the Adobe Dreamweaver CS5 Digital Classroom book. For more Adobe Dreamweaver training options, visit AGI’s Dreamweaver Classes.

Adobe Dreamweaver Tutorial: How websites work in Dreamweaver

Before embarking on the task of building web pages (and in turn, a website), it’s a good idea to know the basics of how websites work, how your users view them, and what you need to know to make sure your website looks and works its best.

A simple flow chart in Dreamweaver

What happens when you type in a website address? Most people don’t even think about it; they just type in a URL, and a web site appears in a flash. They likely don’t realize how many things are going on behind the scenes to make sure that pages gets delivered to their computers so that they can do their shopping, check their e-mail, or research a project.

When you type in a URL or IP address, you are connecting to a remote computer (referred to as a server) and downloading the documents, images, and resources necessary to reconstruct the pages you will view at that site. Web pages aren’t delivered as a finished product; your web browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, and so on) is responsible for reconstructing and formatting the pages based on the HTML code included in the pages. HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) is a simple, tag-based language that instructs your browser how and where to insert and format pictures, text, and media files. Web pages are written in HTML, and Dreamweaver builds HTML for you behind the scenes as you construct your page in the Design view.

An Internet Service Provider (ISP) enables you to connect to the Internet. Some well-known ISPs include America Online and Earthlink. You view web pages over an Internet connection using a browser, such as Internet Explorer, Firefox, or Safari. A browser can decipher and display web pages and their content, including images, text, and video.

Domain names and IP addresses in Dreamweaver

When you type in a website address, you usually enter the website’s domain name (such as eBay.com). The website owner purchased this domain name and uses it to mask an IP address, which is a numerical address used to locate and dial up the pages and files associated with a specific website.

So how does the web know what domains match what IP address (and in turn, which websites)? It uses a Domain Name Service (DNS) server, which makes connections between domain names and IP addresses.

Servers and web hosts in Dreamweaver

A DNS server is responsible for matching a domain name with its companion IP address. Think of the DNS server as the operator at the phone company who connects calls through a massive switchboard. DNS servers are typically maintained by either the web host or the registrar from which the domain was purchased. Once the match is made, the request from your user is routed to the appropriate server and folder where your web site resides. When the request reaches the correct account, the server directs it to the first page of the web site, which is typically named index.html, default.html, or whatever the server is set up to recognize as a default starting page.

A server is a machine very much like your desktop computer, but it’s capable of handling traffic from thousands of users (often at the same time!), and it maintains a constant connection to the Internet so that your website is available 24 hours a day. Servers are typically maintained by web hosts, companies that charge a fee to host and serve your web site to the public. A single server can sometimes host hundreds of websites. Web hosting services are available from a variety of providers, including well-known Internet service companies, such as Yahoo!, and large, dedicated hosting companies, such as GoDaddy. It is also common for a large company to maintain its own servers and web sites on its premises.

The role of web browsers in Dreamweaver

A web browser is an application that downloads and displays HTML pages. Every time you request a page by clicking a link or typing in a web site address, you are requesting an HTML page and any files it includes. The browser’s job is to reconstruct and display that page based on the instructions in the HTML code, which guides the layout and formatting of the text, images, and other assets used in the page. The HTML code works like a set of assembly instructions for the browser to use.


An introduction to HTML in Dreamweaver

HTML is what makes the web work; web pages are built using HTML code, which in turn is read and used by your web browser to lay out and format text, images, and video on your page. As you design and lay out web pages in Design view, Dreamweaver writes the code behind the scenes that is necessary to display and format your page in a web browser.

Contrary to what you may think, HTML is not a programming language, but rather a simple text-based markup language. HTML is not proprietary to Dreamweaver—you can create and edit HTML in any text editor, even simple applications such as Windows Notepad and Mac OS X’s TextEdit. Dreamweaver’s job is to give you a visual way to create web pages without having to code by hand. If you like to work with code, however, Dreamweaver’s Code view, discussed earlier, is a fully featured text editor with color-coding and formatting tools that make it far easier to write and read HTML and other languages.

Tag structure and attributes in Dreamweaver

HTML uses tags, or bracketed keywords, that you can use to place or format content. Many tags require a closing tag, which is the keyword preceded by a forward slash (/).

1 Choose File > Open. When the Open dialog box appears, navigate to the dw01lessons folder. Select BasicHTML.html and press Open.

2 Select the Split button in the Document toolbar to see the layout as well as the code that makes up the page.

Take a look at line 10 (indicated at the left edge of the Code panel). The text My Bold Title is inside a Strong tag, which is simply the word strong contained within angled brackets. Any words or characters inside these tags are formatted in bold, and appear as shown in the Design view.

A look at the code reveals the tags used to format text in your page.

Tags can also accept CSS rules that specify additional information for how the tag should display the content. CSS rules can take a number of different values, such as a size, a color, or a direction in which to align something. Take a look at the line that reads This text will appear inside of its own paragraph. This line is enclosed in a p (paragraph) tag, which separates it from the other text by a line above and below. You can add a class rule to this to align the text in whichever direction you want.

3 Highlight the entire line that reads This text will appear inside of its own paragraph at the bottom of the Design view.

4 With the CSS button selected in the Property Inspector, locate the paragraph align buttons. Press the Align Center button ().

5 In the New CSS Rule dialog box, type .center into the Selector Name text field, and press OK.

Name a newly created style in the New CSS Rule dialog box.

6 The text is now centered. Take a look at the Code view, and notice that the .center rule has been added to the opening <p> tag.

Align or format text in the Property Inspector, and then see the appropriate rules and attributes created in your code.


For more information on formatting text with CSS rules, please see Lesson 3, “Adding Text and Images.”

7 Choose File > Save to save your work, then choose File > Close.


The structure of an HTML document in Dreamweaver

Although you use many HTML tags to format text, certain tags are devoted to establishing structures, such as lists, tables, or, most importantly, the HTML documents themselves. The HTML tag is the most fundamental tag. It is used to specify the beginning and end of HTML in a document:


Inside the main HTML tags are two tags that define the key areas of your web page: the head and the body. The head of your page contains items that are not visible to your user, but are important nonetheless, such as search engine keywords, page descriptions, and links to outside scripts or style sheets. You create the head of the document inside the HTML tags using the <head> tag:


The body of your page is where all the visible elements of your page are contained. Here is where you place and format text, images, and other media. You define the body of the page using the <body> tag:


My text and pictures go here...


Whenever you create a new HTML document in Dreamweaver, this framework is created automatically before you add anything to the page. Any visual elements you add to the page are added, using the appropriate HTML code inside the <body> tags.

Continue to the next Dreamweaver Tutorial: Placing images in HTML in Dreamweaver >