Authors: Elisabeth Freeman & Eric Freeman
General ImpressionsOne of my first books when learning HTML was this interesting title. Fear not, unlike my first swimming lesson, you won't be thrown in at the deep end entirely. This title, written using (allegedly) advanced techniques, offers a plethora of amusing annotations to make sure that you don't get too lost.
The basic premise of these techniques is that there are two ways to learn something - repetition, repetition, repetition, rep... well, you get the idea - or to make the topic more engaging, more interesting, to increase brain activity, to make more neurons fire and thus trick the brain into thinking that something is happening here that it should take note of. They accomplish this in a multitude of ways using different visual styles and techniques to engage the brain and, more importantly, by challenging the reader to apply what they have learned, further stimulating the brain. This is probably where I should add some fancy images and funny quotes and things to reinforce the point but ain't nobody got time for that.
As it stands, it's a pretty nice concept which I did find quite engaging and did lead me to retain quite a vast deal of it back in 2006 when I was working on a fairly page intensive help site for my employer. As such, if you're new to web technology and are looking for a good entry point into learning then you could do worse than to get hold of a copy of this book. If, however, you're a web guru looking for a reference book you may as well move on now, a point they make no effort to conceal in the beginning of their book.
Yes, you read correctly, 2006. This is when I first read this book so it goes without saying that as a first edition some of the standards will now have changed. I hope to get my hands on the second edition fairly soon at which point I'll also review it. I still, however, maintain that this is an excellent source for people looking to get started in HTML and CSS.
So, what does the book actually cover? Well, the more astute observers among you will have already guessed that the core of the book is HTML and CSS (you know, I probably should explain what those acronyms stand for but I think that the book does a far better job than I would). There is of course a little more to the book than that. The following chapter list will give you an idea of what topics made it into the book with a very brief synopsis of each chapter.
- The Language Of the Web
Basic HTML and Style Introduction
- Meeting the 'HT' in HTML
A little more advanced theory such as attributes
- Web Page Construction
From sketch to Outline
- A Trip to Webville
How to get a domain and publish your pages
- Meeting the Media
Dealing with images
- Serious HTML
Validating pages and adding metadata
- Putting the 'X' Into HTML
What is XHTML and why use it?
- Adding A Little Style
Getting started with Cascading Style Sheets
- Expanding Your Vocabulary
- Getting Intimate With Elements
A closer look at the building blocks of a web page
- Advanced Web Construction
Div and Span and serious construction
- Arranging Elements
More Div and Span with multi-column layouts
- Getting Tabular
Dealing with tables in HTML
- Getting Interactive
Submitting data via forms
- The Top Ten Topics (We Didn't Cover)
Some teasers of other topics
ConclusionAs you can see from the chapter list, and the general impressions, this is an excellent starting point for any aspiring web designer with little to no experience. It's a gentle learning curve and the authors present the lessons in an engaging and well thought manner with some humour, all combining to help the information be absorbed and retained. If, however, you're looking for a reference or more advanced lessons then this book is probably not for you.
While the authors rightly point out that this is a HTML book, they do touch on some items like FTP, Domain registration and so on but only to the extent of absolute need to know. There's a good chance that people entirely new to these technologies will need to find additional assistance in learning them. So for any wannabe web designers out there, I'd fully recommend this book if you've never touched a web page before. Perhaps the second edition will be a better choice as it's more up-to-date, if so I'll post a review when I get my hands on it and then link it here as an update.
With the caveats, as mentioned, of this book NOT being for professionals AND being a little dated now, I'd rate it 5/5 - you simply will pick up what they are trying to teach thanks to their engaging style