What does HTML actually mean? And how can you use it in your official publications?

By Fiona McParland, Publishing Manager, APS Group

Last week I was in London presenting at APS Group’s Official Publishing Conference. What a fantastic day we had with over 60 clients joining us. So, I’d just like to share with you something that came to mind as I was talking about improving the accessibility of official publications by using HTML (the format recommended by the Government Digital Service). I started thinking, “do people actually know what HTML means, let alone how to use it?” Instead of speaking in a clear and accessible way I had inadvertently failed to clarify that to publish in this way you do not have to be “technical” and you certainly don’t need to be afraid!

What is HTML?

HTML is simply a way of ‘tagging’ and ‘coding’ the words we write to make them appear on the pages we view online in the correct way. It is a way of ‘marking up’ using tags to define elements within a document. It is human-readable, meaning ‘markup’ files contain standard words, rather than typical programming syntax. I like to think of it as a kind of ‘grammar and punctuation’ for the internet which renders what we’ve written in an ordered and tidy fashion on the page.

The other terminology you often hear around ‘Official Publishing’ and ‘HTML’ is ‘Govspeak’.

“Govspeak is a simplified ‘markup’ language based on ‘Markdown’. It’s designed to be as easy-to-read and easy-to-write as possible, using simple punctuation instead of complicated tags and code.”

The idea is that even if you are not familiar with HTML you can still create content for the web yourself, by using simple punctuation instead of tags. You can read more about it here: https://govspeak-preview.herokuapp.com/guide

Are you involved in creating official publications?

At APS we have digital media teams who can create your content for you using ‘Govspeak’ or HTML coding and tagging. We’re also pretty good at overcoming the challenges of tables, charts and images in HTML for official publications.

Talk to us as early as you can when you’re project planning your official publications and we’ll see how we can make them more accessible.

The HTML guidance for C&HPs/Official Documents can be found in Content types – when and how to use the GOV.UK formats under ‘Publication: Official documents’.

For more information, please email commandandhousepublishing@theapsgroup.com