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Transcending CSS: The Fine Art of Web Design [Paperback]

Andy Clarke
2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Nov. 15 2006 0321410971 978-0321410979 1
As the Web evolves to incorporate new standards and the latest browsers offer new possibilities for creative design, the art of creating Web sites is also changing. Few Web designers are experienced programmers, and as a result, working with semantic markup and CSS can create roadblocks to achieving truly beautiful designs using all the resources available. Add to this the pressures of presenting exceptional design to clients and employers, without compromising efficient workflow, and the challenge deepens for those working in a fast-paced environment. As someone who understands these complexities firsthand, author and designer Andy Clarke offers visual designers a progressive approach to creating artistic, usable, and accessible sites using transcendent CSS.

In this groundbreaking book, you’ll discover how to implement highly original designs through visual demonstrations of the creative possibilities using markup and CSS. You’ll learn to use a new design workflow, build prototypes that work well for designers and all team members, use grids effectively, visualize markup, and discover every phase of the transcendent design process, from working with the latest browsers to incorporating CSS3 to collaborating with team members effectively, and much more.

Written and edited by Web design and CSS luminaries Andy Clarke and Molly E. Holzschlag, Transcending CSS: The Fine Art of Web Design
• Uses a visual approach to help you learn coding techniques
• Includes numerous examples of world-class Web sites, photography, and other inspirations that give designers ideas for visualizing their code
• Offers early previews of technical advances in new Web browsers and of the emerging CSS3 specification.

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About the Author

Andy Clarke is an internationally known speaker, designer, and consultant focusing on creative, accessible Web development. Andy is passionate about design and passionate about Web standards, bridging the gap between design and code. He regularly trains designers and developers in the creative applications of Web standards. Andy has written articles for A List Apart Magazine and contributed to the CSS Zen Garden. Outside of his studio, Andy is a member of the Web Standards Project.

Author, instructor, and Web designer Molly E. Holzschlag has written over 30 books on Web design and development. She’s been coined "one of the greatest digerati" and deemed one of the Top 25 Most Influential Women on the Web. Molly is also Group Lead of Web Standards Project and frequent lecturer on Web design and development around the world.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
Format:Paperback
At beginning I have to say that I didn't care about the CSS and HTML examples in this book. I bought this book for the concepts of how to construct the HTML and apply the CSS that are logical and reusable.

Many of my co-workers who are graphic designers have great difficulty to understand the native characteristics of each HTML tags. Thus, I often see a div tag used as h1~h3 tags. div tags used as ul and li tags. After I introduce this book to my co-workers, they can "visually" see how the HTML and CSS should be used. Which and what tags, attributes and styles should be used.

Great book in presenting the theories and logic of HTML and CSS. Not a book in providing CSS hacks and tips.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, but does not work ! Aug. 21 2009
Format:Paperback
Bought this book with excitement after reading the US Amazon website reviews and have to say, please do not waste your money on a book that is so poorly edited, has an errata sheet that contains only 2 errors, both of which are actually incorrectly stated (can you imagine an errata being wrong??) and which show no proper checking done from a professional who gives seminars etc. on the topic. Stuff on page 165 (Inman position) simply does not work (tested on 3 browsers) and that is at the start of the CSS treatment - in others words the entire balance book becomes useless ! There is clearly indication of no editing even though there are apparently 5 editors for this book - not one of them checked the mistakes and flaws ? What should you think of an author who does not provide a proper errata sheet and yet charges such a hefty price ??
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  65 reviews
141 of 148 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Both stunningly good and slightly lame Jan. 13 2007
By Michael McKee - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
First off, this is one of the best design books around for the web designer who wants to use good code to create attractive and usable web sites. It is one of the few that does a good, no, excellent job of integrating modern HTML and CSS with good design principles. The examples represent the state of the art in CSS practices and are well paced and very well described. But more than offering some coding tricks, this book teaches solid visual design concepts and good professional workflow practices. Read the book carefully and follow the examples and you will be a better web designer.

Unfortunately, some of the book veers of into CSS 3, which isn't going to be a viable production option for a long, long time. Internet Explorer, the browser with, by far, the highest user base barely does an adequate job of supporting CSS 2, and that's with the brand new version, the first in 5 years. Including a chapter on it in this book is a waste of space. If I want a fantasy, I'll look in the fiction section.

Another quibble is in Clarke's justification for following web standards, especially when he compares building sites in Dreamweaver and hand coding. Saying that learning Dreamweaver is more difficult than learning HTML and CSS to the level needed to make it work in current browsers is plain silly. I am perfectly comfortable with either method and find that each has definite benefits. But the learning curve for hand coding is by far the steeper one. I don't have to browse the forums every week to learn new Dreamweaver workarounds as I do for CSS and Internet Explorer's shortcomings.

I've given more space here to the couple minor negatives than the numerous fine qualities of this book. Don't let my nit picking lead you to think I don't like this book. It is just that the book is so close to superb that its small faults really stand out. Transcending CSS is easily one of the top books for the web designer who wants to move from journeyman to master, maybe the best. It is well written by a highly knowledgeable designer, well structured, well paced and very attractive. Beginners, though, should probably start with something more basic.
69 of 73 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A new breed of CSS book Dec 2 2006
By Frank Stepanski - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Andy Clark ([...] ) is one of the leading UK designers for the past 10 years and he has been at the forefront in promoting web standards and accessibility.

This is a somewhat unique CSS book in that it is not a "beginners" book nor it is a purely "advanced" book either. It is a book for web designers who know the basics of CSS who want to know how to use the full potential of CSS level 3 whether or not every browser will support every technique you use. It describes what can be done with CSS and how web layouts can be viewed as a means to provide semantic data to your viewers.

Throughout this book, Andy Clark provides beautiful illustrations and photographs of web pages, stock photos and snap shots that give the book a less "textbook" feeling and more of a slight story telling feeling. It's hard to describe, but it makes reading it more interesting and allows it to flow better. There are four main sections of the book: Discovery, Process, Inspiration, and Transcendence.

The book begins with Discovery: This section reviews many existing well designed web sites (CSS Zen Garden, Clear Left, Adacto, A List Apart, etc.) in explaining what the term "Transcendent CSS" really means. These principles such as not all browsers see the same design, use all available CSS selectors, use CSS3 where possible, se JavaScript and the DOM, avoid sing hacks and filters, and use semantic name conventions.

The next section is Process: This section talks about how to create a perfect workflow. The process of working with wireframes, using prototypes, how to build proper layouts, organizing CSS code, styling navigation and understanding elements of typography are all discussed.

The section Inspiration is my favorite section. This section really focuses on design techniques like grid-based design. The design technique really as the author states is the only way to properly design with CSS. Andy goes through many sample sites and breaks down each design in a grid and shows how it was created and with what markup and CSS. I never found a CSS book before that really explains from a designer's perspective their view of design. The author also goes into other design with print and media to get other points of view to design techniques. The most important thing about the book is that it doesn't just talk about theory; it shows actual CSS code snippets to really explain it. Well, done.

The final section is Transcendence which focuses heavily on the new ideas and techniques of using CSS3 and positioning and floats. Absolute positioning is first discussed with emphasis on positioning images, image zooming, and creative floating. There are so many different techniques and examples in this section it will take you months to properly go through them all. A great section as well.

Well, this book I think is a new beginning (hopefully) to CSS books especially with the new browsers (Firebox 2 and IE7) supporting some of the new CSS3 techniques that make designing web layouts fun again. I hope you get as much out of this book as I know I will. A great buy and a must buy!
37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Create cutting edge websites using Transcendent CSS Jan. 29 2007
By Diane Cipollo - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
One of the major decisions one needs to make when starting a website project is how "cutting edge" your site design will be. Will you use only basic HTML or will you also use CSS, JavaScript, Ajax and more? If you do decide to use these other web languages, how much will you use and how will you use them? For a long time, there was only one answer to this question. Those features that were supported by the most popular web browsers represented the limited amount of advanced features that you could add to your site and still be assured that most people would be able to access your site.

In this book the author, Andy Clarke, presents the argument that website design should not be limited in this way. Written from the designer's point of view, this book has beautiful photography, plentiful screenshots and real-world examples of the author's approach to web design. The purpose of this book is not to teach you web standards or the popular web languages such as XHTML, CSS and JavaScript but to teach you how to use these tools to create effective and cutting edge websites.

In the first part of the book, Clarke discusses the Graded Browser Support approach to web design introduced by Yahoo and the seven principles of Transcendent CSS. The author's goal is to expand your design options beyond the commonly used table-based layouts and toward a content-based approach where the website structure is based on the meaning and purpose of the content on the page.

The next part of the book teaches how to build a web standards compliant and content-based website with XHTML, CSS and JavaScript. Again, it is not the author's desire to teach these languages and he does assume a working knowledge of them. Instead, Clarke shows you how to replace the table-based layout with a grid-based positioning of the elements on the webpage. Once you are not constrained by the table-based layout, your options are far less limited to the common two and three column design. Clarke walks you through several sample websites to demonstrate the use of alternative positioning and layout techniques. Finally, he discusses the advantages of the CSS3 advanced layout module and designing websites for different media types.

Andy Clarke is a ten year veteran of the web and is lead designer and creative director for his design consultancy. He is a member of the Web Standards Project and has worked with the W3C's CSS Working Group.
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book will inspire you Jan. 23 2007
By David Roessli - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is the kind of book I love to discover. The last time I got so excited by a book on CSS was when I read Jeffrey Zeldman's Design with Web Standards back in 2003. Unfortunately, it doesn't happen often enough. Don't get me wrong, there are lots of books on CSS and web design that I love and recommend, but few that excite me.

The format itself is a shear pleasure. A square book. A soft square book that stays open without having to drop something heavy on it, or to break its spine. The illustrations and photography are beautiful. The layout is gorgeous. Up to Andy Clarke's work standards, no doubt. I received it the day before the Christmas break, just in time for holiday reading.

This is not a book on CSS per se, nor a book on XHTML per se. It's about design and the philosophy of web design. About how one structures one's design workflow, how one looks at the world, how one communicates.

Divided into 4 sections, Andy walks you through his concepts of Discovery, Process, Inspiration to finally reach Transcendence. The notions covered are the principles of Transcendent CSS, semantic markup and web design process, content-out approach (discover), workflow principals and prototypes (process), layout, grid design and typography (inspiration) and finally advanced CSS technics including CSS3 (Transcendence).

The examples used throughout the different chapters are enlightening and relevant. Useful sidebar notes are made available for more information, references and URLs on a particular topic. The code examples are numerous and the source code is available online (you will find the URL on page 291). You'll find useful tips on how to structure your stylesheet files, to name your classes and ids in a semantic manner, etc. I don't always agree with everything Andy presents here, but we all have our bad old habits, and it is never to late to learn better. The Cook! tutorial may use too many classes and ids in my opinion, but the purpose here is to demonstrate a process, not to optimise markup.

I especially enjoyed the second half (inspiration and transcendence) on Andy's exploration of grid design and inspiration, and the combination of technics presented in the final chapters, especially the CSS3 chapter (page 313). The new selector modules and the Advanced Layout Module sound awesome (the latter is available on the official site). Overall, I felt very at home with the principles presented here, which certainly contributed to me liking this book so much.

I am by no means a graphic designer. My curricula places me closer to the development end of the spectra of web design. But design facinates me. The information architecture, design, accessibility and semantics of websites are what drives me today, and this book is about most of these. It will help graphic designers to better understand the web semantics and structure that underlay any website, and help to broaden their vision of web design.

I consider Andy Clarke as some kind of visionary. He is capable of bridging the gap between aesthetic beauty and rock solid technology and explain it all to you in simple words, through understandable concepts. He has a great sense of humour. This book will not only guide you through modern web design concepts, it will inspire you.
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Web Design Primer, Not a How-To Manual May 23 2008
By artlmntl - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I wanted to like this book. If you are new to design, it contains useful sections on page prototyping, grid-based design, color, and design practices. These are things designers should learn about, especially if they arrive in web design from other fields. I give the book three stars for these positive features and for its high production values.

Physically, the book is about two inches wider than a standard programming book. The paper is heavy and coated with full color all over the place. This is nice, but the author goes too far. Some pages include pictures of websites, but many other pages are filled with seemingly random photographs and montage works. In fact, pages 239-242 are fully dedicated to a scrapbook sample. Page 243 includes some text, but 244 is another wasted page. The images are sedate, and these picture pages seem to take up a quarter of the book. White space abounds. Consequently, as others have noted, the book is light on useful information.

I understand the attraction of grids. CSS divs and table cells both lend themselves to grid layouts. I know it is in vogue to emulate the multi-column layouts found in a newspaper page. I've read plenty about usability and how people actually surf. Unfortunately, the author's fixation with these conventions leads to dull page design. The most interesting, useful technique in the whole book involves the intelligent use of relative and absolute positioning to displace background images so that they break up the outlines of the blocks.

On the down side, the author advocates the use of browser-specific style sheets and the use of CSS3 style rules. Current browsers still have problems with some CSS 2.1 rules. The CSS3 rules will be great when browsers support them, but they won't help you write pages that work on multiple browsers and platforms. And that's the real issue with this book. It contains information that is useful to beginners, but it's not really a beginner book. This book won't have you writing CSS and XHTML in a few hours. The strange mixture of beginning and advanced materials mixture may confuse beginners while offering little that is new or useful to more experienced designers. Add in the sheer volume of wasted space and I have only one recommendation: Borrow the book from the library.
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