HTML & CSS by Jon Duckett
$16.49 from Amazon
I’ve reviewed a number of HTML and CSS books before, but this one is fairly unique. Most of the programming books I read are aimed at programmers, and they tend to have a similar look (aside from the facing-page layout in the Murach books, anyway). This one, on the other hand, is aimed more at visually inclined people; the pages are colorful, with big print and lots of pictures. Each page just covers one concept (for example, see the image of the page on paragraph tags, below), so chapters fly by pretty quickly; at the same time, the author manages to be fairly comprehensive (and the book runs nearly 500 pages). The author says that he tried to cover the 90% of HTML and CSS that people will actually use, and I think he does a pretty good job; he doesn’t mention the little-used :last-child pseudoclass, for example, but does have each of the other concepts I tried searching for. I tried flipping through to random pages in the book, and I never landed anywhere that I couldn’t just start reading and have everything make sense. (Granted, I’m familiar with the material the book covers already, but I was still impressed). While the emphasis is on learning HTML and CSS as a whole – not specifically HTML5 and CSS3 – the author does point out when something may lack browser support (for example, the HTML5 layout elements in versions of IE prior to IE9) and explains deprecated code that designers shouldn’t be using, but are likely to run across in older websites (such as the align attribute for images) and explains what coders should be doing instead.
While I’m not the target audience for the book, my wife (a graphic designer) is, so I asked her to take a look at the book as well. She said that she liked it because it was clean, simple, and easy to understand. It addresses people who may not have any experience with web design (or who know how to code sites but aren’t up to date on best practices from the HTML5 era) without being dumbed down.
I was impressed by the chapters on layout; I felt that this book has the best explanation of layout I’ve seen so far, including both a good description of how floats and positioning work, and an introduction to grids and frameworks, which I haven’t really seen introduced in other books I’ve read. Another thing I liked is the appendixes: there’s a troubleshooting section that lists common problems and causes (with a reference to the appropriate page), and there are separate indexes for HTML elements, HTML attributes, and CSS properties. I feel like the book is a good all-around introduction to HTML and CSS, but particularly for the people they’re going for: visual learners who may not have a lot of experience (or any experience) building websites. For that group in particular, this book comes highly recommended.
Disclosure: I received a free review copy of this book.