The World’s Best HTML Template

Published on April 29, 2008 (↻ February 5, 2024), filed under (RSS feed for all categories).

This and many other posts are also available as a pretty, well-behaved ebook: On Web Development.

This post is partially outdated.

…to start with is this, until the rise of HTML 5:

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01//EN">
<html lang="1">
  <meta http-equiv="content-type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8">
  <title>2</title>
  <link rel="stylesheet" href="3">
  <p>4

This applies as long as you want your pages to be distributable offline as well, which has been the only reason to include the html start tag, its lang attribute, and a meta element with encoding information. (Online, you can specify this information on the server side.)

The template is available for download; above, n designates placeholders and parts to be modified, though these are complemented by documentation I needed to add because of my blog software’s code formatting rules. Many things are implied, but don’t hesitate to call them out.

  1. Language code
  2. Title element
  3. Style sheet
  4. Content

Regarding this post’s title: I’ve never been shy, and this represents how I learn.

Update (May 4, 2008)

Since there seems to be some confusion about this post and why this template is supposed to be “best,” here’s the short explanation: For a general template to be “best,” it should work in as many scenarios as possible without requiring modifications, and its code should be minimal, valid, and maintainable. This template works everywhere.

Even when you don’t worry about problems with Conditional Comments, reset style sheets, or frameworks, it’s the simple approaches that lead to quality. In general, most templates and frameworks are too much, bringing their own maintainability and performance problems. The template above that is so disappointing for some avoids that—it can only do so because it’s minimal.

Update (May 26, 2008)

Now there’s also a similarly valid HTML 5 version of the template [gist]. When only used online on a properly configured server, omit both the html start tag and the encoding definition as well.

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About Me

Jens Oliver Meiert, on September 30, 2021.

I’m Jens (long: Jens Oliver Meiert), and I’m a frontend engineering leader and tech author/publisher. I’ve worked as a technical lead for companies like Google and as an engineering manager for companies like Miro, I’m close to W3C and WHATWG, and I write and review books for O’Reilly and Frontend Dogma.

I love trying things, not only in web development (and engineering management), but also in other areas like philosophy. Here on meiert.com I share some of my views and experiences.

If you want to do me a favor, interpret charitably (I speak three languages, and they can collide), yet be critical and give feedback for me to learn and improve. Thank you!

Comments (Closed)

  1. On April 29, 2008, 23:45 CEST, Sminky said:

    What would be different in HTML5? And why is that any better than XHTML? This template is looking clean I must admit.

  2. On April 30, 2008, 16:34 CEST, bill weaver said:

    Hi, Jens.

    I think you need to close your elements. For example:
    <link … />
    <meta … />

    And though you have it fixed in the download, your snippit in this article needs head and body tags.

  3. On April 30, 2008, 17:14 CEST, Jens Oliver Meiert said:

    Sminky, the first difference in HTML 5 will be the document type (case-insensitive <!DOCTYPE html>; it’s better than XHTML because almost nobody uses XHTML (not when delivered as text/html); it saves code (and therefore time); it can be more efficient.

    Bill, it is HTML, so these elements don’t need to be closed. Apart from the annotations the code above is not any different than the template (which is valid, of course).

  4. On May 1, 2008, 13:12 CEST, Dennison Uy said:

    Jens, I agree with Bill, you should at least close your tags and include the HEAD and BODY tags. As it is this is very far from being the World’s Best HTML Template

  5. On May 1, 2008, 22:08 CEST, jesper said:

    Beautiful. This IS the best template because it is what you need. Just basic minimal structure, with a 100% guarantee that it is needed. Unlike the rest of all those templates that clutter your site with crao nobody ever needs.

    It is however, probably too much to understand for developers just discovering all hyped XHTML 😊

  6. On May 4, 2008, 11:05 CEST, David said:

    For framework lovers it’s crap, for anyone else it’s good - if they can’t easily create it themselves. Good point however.

  7. On June 4, 2008, 18:59 CEST, Richard Morton said:

    But would it be accessible? It certainly passes guidelines from the point of view of code validation and using CSS for layout, but it would probably fail the checkpoint about structuring content with headings (I say probably only because it could be argued that say a one paragraph website may not need a heading at all).

  8. On June 5, 2008, 10:38 CEST, Jens Oliver Meiert said:

    Richard, well, don’t focus on the exemplary p element. It’s a placeholder for whatever the document in question consists of, and the document should of course use an appropriate structure.

  9. On July 26, 2008, 14:48 CEST, Bryan said:

    I am looking for the “Worlds Best HTML Template” to download but cannot find it.
    Can you please tell me how I can find the link to download? I am assuming that it resembles the page I am reading as I REALLY LOVE this pages layout.
    Does it have a backend manager for the comments? Can I use Captcha on it?
    Pleas elet me know I just have to have it!
    Thank you and kind regards,
    Bryan

  10. On August 21, 2008, 13:27 CEST, Drenthe said:

    I think this won’t be xhtml valid…

  11. On December 8, 2008, 23:45 CET, miryam said:

    thanks for the template, about the language codes, if our site is done in english and lets say spanish, the code can have both languages?

  12. On December 9, 2008, 13:19 CET, Stu said:

    Hello, I have a question about the doctype.

    Its seems to be kind of incomplete, even if I know it validates. I wonder why it does that without the url at the end. On w3.org i only find “complete” doctypes.

    Some people say modern browsers would render a document in quirks-mode if the url is missing but Firefox 3.0.4 claims in his infowindow for your template: “standartconforming-mode”.

    Thanks if you could explain it to me.

    I am absolute fascinated by the behavior of building a complete DOM out of an “incomplete” html-source. I like its cleverness. I would love to use a shorter doctype, because I hate that thing at all. The HTML5 one looks much more elegant.