carl67lp (Carl Anderson) writes "I was recently charged with redesigning my University division's Web site. I hadn't designed a Web site in quite some time, and I wanted to ensure that I did so with everything being 'proper'--the nature of our projects require as large an audience as possible. When I saw Designing With Web Standards available on O'Reilly's Safari bookshelf, I knew I had to snag it. And now, after finishing the book (the first IT book I've ever read beginning to end!), I'm here to preach the book's virtues as the author preaches those of Web standards." Read on for Anderson's review of the book.
Jeffrey Zeldman is one of the best technical writers whose work I've had the pleasure of reading. He is obviously well-educated with regard to the subject, and his passion for the work really shows through. Still, he never comes across as a zealot -- his style is even-handed, thoughtful, and easy to comprehend.
The first part of the book ("Houston, We Have a Problem") is the reason I give a rating of "9" rather than "10." Zeldman spends a perfect length of time on background and history of Web standards (why they're here, and what designers did before they emerged). However, this section seems to suffer from what many technical books suffer from: a case of "We'll see this soon"-itis. While this is perhaps unavoidable in such a treatise, it is nonetheless apparent. Still, it's only marginally distracting.
The meat of the book comes with "Designing and Building." Zeldman first talks about modern markup, then explains the variations on XHTML (i.e. Strict, Transitional, Frameset) and how each ought apply to your design. Here we see more theory than practice, though, but this is welcome -- it lays the foundation for a more cerebral look at distinguishing markup from design. Once Zeldman explains the nuances of that topic, we moveon to the redesign of a Web page constructed with a hybrid table/CSS design complete with all the excellent effects we hope to see in modern pages.
After working through this redesign, Zeldman talks in more detail about the CSS box model (and the browsers that break it), typography, and some of the quirks that Web designers must deal with. Next he touches a bit on Web accessibility--a must-read for everyone, whether you think so or not.
While Zeldman isn't incredibly thorough here, he doesn't need to be--it's a book on Web standards, after all, and this chapter serves to show how accessibility can still be achieved within those standards. He also suggests a couple of other books for more information.
Finally, Zeldman walks the reader through a redesign of zeldman.com, basically as a hands-on summary of the book, and as a guide for future projects. Also included is a "Back End" (i.e., appendix) showing some excellent information about each major browser.
Too often, a book or Web site on XHTML/CSS will dwell only on the "how"--this book shows the "how" and still explains the "why": Here's how you set up an id'ed element; here's why we do that, rather than using a class. It's already opened my eyes to many things I thought I had a handle on, but now realize that I only knew in a cursory fashion.
So, ask yourself: Do you want to design a Web site that will work for everyone, regardless of their platform? Do you want to make sure your Web site is future-proof? If so, you need this book.
You can purchase Designing With Web Standards from bn.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.