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Book Review: HTML & CSS

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Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 19 seconds

Cover of HTML & CSS bookSummary: A beautifully presented, near-perfect introductory web development book that will appeal to both coders and designers.

Price: $22.56 (buy it at Amazon ).

I started this blog three years ago for one primary reason: in more than a decade of teaching I had not found a reference that described HTML or CSS in a clear, consistent, accessible, and technically correct way that would appeal to both coders and designers. I assumed that I’d never see one, so I decided to create my own humble solution in the form of this site.

At last, I’ve been proven wrong: Jon Duckett’s HTML & CSS: Design & Build Websites, published by Wiley Press, has been written as if the author has read my mind. Not only are the technical aspects of web development presented in clear, friendly and accurate way, but the book itself is beautifully designed. Most web development references try to cram technical detail into every page; Duckett’s masterful control of whitespace and typography allows the content to breathe, making each page extremely approachable while still communicating core technical points.

Sample page from HTML & CSS bookHTML & CSS approaches web development in exactly the same way I do in my classes: starting with a simple text editor for coding XHTML, the book progresses through the basic markup for web pages, then adds lists, links, images, and tables. The instruction shades into HTML5 as subsequent chapters address forms, video and audio, then switches to styling tags with CSS, including a dash of CSS3. Along the way, the book provides small lessons on layout principles, color theory and typography, along with the fundamentals of how the web works. Using the online resources associated with the book, a diligent and attentive student will have completed a solid, well-designed web page by the end of the book.

There are just a few areas in Duckett’s work that I feel may be slightly lacking: while basic accessibility issues are covered (alt attributes for images and using labels in forms), the book doesn’t go any further than those points. SEO is mentioned, and the advice given is solid, but microformats are barely mentioned, and microdata is never referenced at all. Finally, validation isn’t addressed anywhere in the book.

I totally understand dropping these topics for the sake of space and simplicity, and I know that Duckett has written plenty of other books devoted to the subjects; anyone following only the points given in the book will still be very well-served.

I came away from reading HTML & CSS thoroughly impressed; so moved, in fact, that it will become the first textbook that I will strongly recommend to every one of my students and require in classes.

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