The reasons are clear and compelling: The World Wide Web Consortium, which promulgates Web design standards, has decreed HTML as obsolete. Newer, more compliant browsers, will in time not support the older tags and code; the new standards facilitate much better use by the disabled of screen readers and non-graphic browsers. Not least, the newer code makes writing and revising code easier and more efficient, as well as more capable.
These are certainly good reasons for Web designers to move to the new code. Nevertheless, surveys show that most Web pages are not compliant and that thousands of designers continue to use deprecated code. I confess that I am one of them -- after a number of years learning and getting used to HTML, the need to learn new and more code is onerous. The inertia of habit is a factor, I'm sure.
The author is an experienced Web designer and operates a design and writing agency. He also writes articles for a number of computer magazines.
Grannell's goals are to teach cutting-edge, efficient coding, and how to master standards-compliant XHTML 1.0 and CSS 2.1. There are a dozen chapters. He breaks down the elements of Web design into modular components so that one can focus on each element separately, like page structure, content structure, layout, navigation, text control, user feedback, and multimedia. Relevant technologies are explained in context of producing a typical Website.
If one finally decides to move forward, as many suggest, this is a very good volume by which to get your start. For new designers, this is a nice primer to learn what is expected, in an overall sense, of good, advanced Web design.
This is a well-produced book with clear writing, comprehensive approach, dozens of practical examples, and downloadable files with the code examples used in the book. The author writes in a logical sequence much like an engineer would. It is a heavy textbook-like read, only lightly sprinkled with style and personality. It should appeal primarily to novice designers, but has enough advanced information to satisfy an experienced designer who is looking for that fresh start.
And in fact, the structure of the book facilitates the "fresh-start" idea. It starts with a Web design overview, giving an experienced user's tips on what software to use to write code, what browsers to design for, how to build pages from the very top to the bottom. (XHTML, unlike HTML, requires a preliminary document-type definition (DTD) to validate. Only after the introductory section does the first HTML tag appear.)
Like others writing in this area, Grannell firmly advocates designing for standards compliance, usability, accessibility, and last and least, visual design. Marketing Department people may choke on that priority list, but there is no inherent conflict between function and aesthetics; Grannell simply does not spend a lot of time on the aesthetics.
The middle chapters concentrate on modular construction of pages -- the XHTML introduction, the structural elements like text blocks and images, the logical structure of the links and navigation flow, and finally, the stylizing with CSS. Comparisons between pages styled with HTML vs. CSS compellingly demonstrate the benefits and advantages of CSS. There will be no going back once you've decided to upgrade your technical approach.
Basic CSS concepts are explained and illustrated with code samples and screenshots. Grannell describes how to use CSS for text control, navigation, and layouts. There is a broad section on frames and another on forms and interactive components.
The last chapter covers testing and tweaking including how to create a 7-item browser test suite. Strategies overcoming browser quirks are discussed throughout the book. There is detailed technical information, especially in regard to the XHTML introductory section of the page, which I have not seen elsewhere.
There are three welcome reference appendices at the end covering XHTML tags and attributes, Web color coding, and a very comprehensive entities chart noting currencies, European characters, math symbols and more.
Much of this material is covered elsewhere in the growing set of publications about standards-compliant code. This book has the virtue of having a useful overall perspective on Web design and acts as a framework for new designers and converting designers to renew and upgrade their technical approaches.
You can purchase Web Designers' Reference: An Integrated Approach to Web Design with XHTML and CSS from bn.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.