The Disadvantages of HTML

By Paul Higgins

More than 20 years after its initial version, the Web programming language known as HTML is still used today to display modern websites. As popular it is, HTML has a few significant drawbacks, such as its static nature, its inability to render content in an aesthetically pleasing way, its well-known compatibility issues and its overall complexity.

Insufficient for Dynamic Pages

Back in the early days of the World Wide Web, no one expected a Web page to do anything besides displaying static words and images, much like a book does. Nowadays, Internet users expect more out of their favorite websites, from infinite scrolling pages such as the Twitter timeline to search boxes that automatically generate suggestions based on input. None of the features you would expect from a modern website can be achieved by using basic HTML. Instead, to add dynamically generated content to their pages, Web developers need to learn additional languages such as PHP, ASP or JavaScript. Code snippets written using those languages are then added to the original HTML file to generate the dynamic content.

Limited for Displaying Content

HTML is a structuring language that allows you to attach a virtual label to sections of your content. For example, adding an "

" tag around a section of your page instructs Web browsers to treat that section as an article. While it does a great job at structuring content, HTML falls short when it comes to showcasing that content by displaying it in an aesthetically pleasing manner. To circumvent that limitation, a separate language had to be invented to handle the presentation of Web pages -- Cascading Style Sheets. In effect, this limitation forces Web designers and developers to maintain two separate sets of files: HTML files that contain the content of the website and structures it, and CSS files that describe how a page should look.

Unpredictable Behavior Across Browsers

If you attempt to view the same website using three different browsers, you may be surprised to find that pages are sometimes displayed differently depending on whether you use Internet Explorer, Google Chrome or Firefox. In most cases, those changes are minor ones that affect the margin between the main content of the website and the top of the browser window. In other cases, some elements might be missing entirely if they rely on a new HTML tag or property that has not yet been implemented in the browser you happen to be using. Many tags from the most recent update to the HTML language, HTML5, are supported by a couple of browsers and ignored by the rest.

Difficult to Learn

Anyone who wishes to create a website using HTML code may spend weeks first just learning HTML. With each major release, HTML becomes more complex and new tags are added while others are deprecated, forcing Web developers to spend valuable time learning how to implement the newly added features.