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Review of Designing with Web Standards

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Do you design or develop?

Web designer or Web developer, either way you should read this book, the designers to grasp and understand the underlying structure of the sea change in Web design that's been underway for the last few years and the developers for clarity and streamlining of code and work practices that the book explains so well.

No self respecting Web designer can afford to ignore Web Standards any longer and this book is aimed fairly and squarely at converting old school designers to new ways of working.

I say designers advisedly though, because this isn't a book about design as such, more about construction. I draw the distinction to clarify a potentially misleading book title.

Now if you're happy that form follows function you can probably accept the design part of the title, but if you're looking for artistic inspiration and discussions on the visual aesthetics, you won't find it here. Nor will you find much help if you're relying on a WYSIWYG editor to design your Web sites, there's just a very short section on how some WYSIWG tools are now supporting Web Standards, with both Dreamweaver MX and Adobe GoLive cited as standards compliant editors.

This is most definitely a book about the nuts and bolts of the Web, about separating presentation from structure and about semantics and accessibility.

Zeldman also advocates that behaviors should also be extracted from your structure and presentation and by using standards like ECMAscript and theW3C DOM will enable you to create sophisticated cross browser effects.

Having said that, it does hold a lot of useful insight for the concerned visual Web designer and the enlightened ones who see the need to “get with the program” will find much to help them.
Chapters and Scope
Table of Contents

* Introduction
* Part I - Houston, We Have a Problem
* Before You Begin
* 1 99.9% of Web sites Are Obsolete
* 2 Designing and Building with Standards
* 3 The Trouble with Standards
* 4 XML Conquers the World (And Other Web Standards Success Stories)

* Part II - Designing and Building
* 5 Modern Markup
* 6 XHTML: Restructuring the Web
* 7 Tighter, Firmer Pages Guaranteed: Structure and Meta-Structure in Strict and Hybrid Markup
* 8 XHTML by Example: A Hybrid Layout (Part I)
* 9 CSS Basics
* 10 CSS in Action: A Hybrid Layout (Part II)
* 11 Working with Browsers Part I: DOCTYPE Switching and Standards Mode
* 12 Working with Browsers Part II: Box Models, Bugs, and Workarounds
* 13 Working with Browsers Part III: Typography
* 14 Accessibility Basics
* 15 Working with DOM-Based Scripts
* 16 A CSS Redesign

* Part III - Back End
* A Modern Browsers: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
* Index

Where we've been

The book divides itself into two sections, the first four chapters concentrating on where we've been and why we need to change the way we're working. If you've already accepted the need to change you can skip part 1 completely, saving it instead to quote passages from to non-believing bosses and clients.

If you're new to Web design it's a very useful primer on why we're in the mess we are today and why we need to change the way we design our Web sites.
Where we're going

The second and larger section of the book covers everything you need to know to get started in standards based Web design, but it's more overview than in-depth tutorial and transitional rather than strict in it's recommendations for how to code.

The sections on DOCTYPE and the Box Model clear up some of the more common confusions that “new to standards” designers have and the CSS Redesign section works through a real life Web site conversion from old style tabled layouts to new and improved table less CSS, presentation separated from structure nirvana.

There are one or two sections where current thinking has outpaced publication, e.g the Farnher Image replacement technique, and I couldn't quite agree with Zeldmans insistence on the use of pixels rather than ems as a typographical unit.
Readable and enjoyable

All in all, though, it meets its objectives well, explaining with humor and a light touch how the world of Web design is changing and I'm sure it will help convert the Web standards cynics.

There's a lot of humor injected here, initially it helps moisten the dryness of the subject material to make it easier to digest, but after a while, if you're reading cover to cover, it's a bit like pineapple on pizza, overused and slightly disturbing.
Summing up

A good read from one of the industry's most respected Guru's, a great tool for converting skeptical bosses and colleagues but not a reference book by any means. Start out with this book and you'll be comfortably guided in the right direction, but you'll soon be looking for more depth and support.

That said though, my guess is that this will be a book bought for it's promise and referred to in bite size chunks, which purpose it serves exceedingly well.

* Paperback 456 pages (June 5, 2003)
* Publisher: New Riders
* ISBN: 0735712018

Tony Crockford is a UK based Web designer, founder member of MACCAWS and can be found helping out the CSS newbies on the UK freelancers list

Added by boldfish
12 years ago on 5 September 2005 18:55

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