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Web Design in a Nutshell: A Desktop Quick Reference [Paperback]

Jennifer Niederst Robbins
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 28 2006 0596009879 978-0596009878 3

Are you still designing web sites like it's 1999? If so, you're in for a surprise. Since the last edition of this book appeared five years ago, there has been a major climate change with regard to web standards. Designers are no longer using (X)HTML as a design tool, but as a means of defining the meaning and structure of content. Cascading Style Sheets are no longer just something interesting to tinker with, but rather a reliable method for handling all matters of presentation, from fonts and colors to the layout of the entire page. In fact, following the standards is now a mandate of professional web design.

Our popular reference, Web Design in a Nutshell, is one of the first books to capture this new web landscape with an edition that's been completely rewritten and expanded to reflect the state of the art. In addition to being an authoritative reference for (X)HTML and Cascading Style Sheets, this book also provides an overview of the unique requirements of designing for the Web and gets to the nitty-gritty of JavaScript and DOM Scripting, web graphics optimization, and multimedia production. It is an indispensable tool for web designers and developers of all levels.

The third edition covers these contemporary web design topics:

  • Structural layer: HTML 4.01 and XHTML 1.0 (9 chapters), including an alphabetical reference of all elements, attributes and character entities
  • Presentation layer: Ten all-new chapters on Cascading Style Sheets, Level 2.1, including an alphabetical reference of all properties and values.
  • Behavior layer: JavaScript and scripting with the Document Object Model (DOM)
  • Web environment: New web standards, browsers, display devices, accessibility, and internationalization
  • Web graphics optimization: Producing lean and mean GIF, JPEG, PNG, and animated GIFs
  • Multimedia: Web audio, video, Flash, and PDF

Organized so that readers can find answers quickly, Web Design in a Nutshell, Third Edition helps experienced designers come up to speed quickly on standards-based web design, and serves as a quick reference for those already familiar with the new standards and technology.


There are many books for web designers, but none that address such a wide variety of topics. Find out why nearly half a million buyers have made this the most popular web design book available.


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About the Author

Jennifer Niederst Robbins was one of the first designers for the Web. As the designer of O'Reilly's Global Network Navigator (GNN), the first commercial web site, she has been designing for the Web since 1993. Since then, she has worked as the creative director of Songline Studios (a former subsidiary of O'Reilly) and as a freelance designer and consultant since 1996. She is the author of the bestselling "Web Design in a Nutshell" and "Learning Web Design (O'Reilly), and she has taught web design at the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston and Johnson and Wales University in Providence. She has spoken at major design and Internet events including SXSW Interactive, Seybold Seminars, the GRAFILL conference (Geilo, Norway), and one of the first W3C International Expos. In addition to designing, Jennifer enjoys cooking, travel, indie-rock, and making stuff. She maintains her own professional web site at http://www.littlechair.com as well.


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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
I highly recommended this book. Read one chapter a day and I guarantee that you will come out of it with a much deeper understanding of the basic building blocks of web design, such as headers, graphic formats, tables, forms, as well as css.

Highly recommended for total beginners that aren't afraid too learn the more technical aspects of web design... this book pulls no punches, but it certainly isn't a "how to" or "project oriented" type of book. But nothing beats having it on hand when you are hunkering down to write a custom contact form for a client and you need to look up the correct tag to use to create a dropdown menu list, or adjust which items are preselected.

Do not get this book if you are a total newbie and just want a book to hold your hand through creating your first web site. This is not that type of book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Web Design in a Nutshell Oct. 7 2007
By Tami Brady HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Web Design in a Nutshell is not merely an updated edition of the previous book (2001) of the same title. Extremely quick substantial changes in the web design systems over these past few years simply wouldn't allow for such an update. Instead, the author has composed this book from the ground up to address the issues and concerns of web designers in 2006. This reference covers all the basics of web design how tos from basics like choosing text elements and creating links through more challenging topics such as optimization of graphics and using flash on web pages. However, the portion of the book that I found most useful was the sections on designing sites for a variety of different browsers and increasing accessibility on your website. Together, these aspects create an easy to understand guide for those individuals wanting an introduction to web design or as very solid reference material for current web designers.
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By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This is a good all around reference (not a "how to") book on web design. The does a good job is covering a broad topic. The book is structured as follows: (i) Web Environment Basics, (ii) Structural Layer (XML and XHTML), (iii) Presentation Layer (CSS), (iv) Behavioral Layer (JavaScript & DOM), (v) Web Graphics, and (vi) Media. Several chapters are devoted to each of these sections. The chapters are clearly written, thorough, yet concise. References are given throughout the book (it would also have been nice to have them collected in an appendix at the back of the book). Throughout the book the author gives a bit of history behind the various web design tools. I found this to be be quite informative by "filling in some of the blanks". My recommendation is, that if you are going to get into web design, this book will be a valuable resource. It won't teach you web design, but it will be a good reference to have to augment the areas not covered in "how to" books. I think that it is well worth the price.
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Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  60 reviews
113 of 118 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Return of the Least Weasel Sept. 25 2001
By John S. Ryan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
When a book is as good as this one, later editions can't improve it; they can only update it.
That's what this one does. The second edition of Jennifer Niederst's comprehensive reference on web design now takes account of HTML 4.01; the stuff on browsers takes account of Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 and Netscape 6.
And what else is there to say? Just like the first edition (but with a handful of additional topics and updates to the existing ones), this volume provides a thorough "desktop quick reference" on the entire spectrum of web design -- a general introduction to and overview of the Web itself; authoring using HTML, cascading style sheets, and server side includes; graphics (GIF, JPEG, and PNG formats, colors, and animation); multimedia (audio, video, Flash, Shockwave, and introductory Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language); and advanced topics like JavaScript, DHTML, XML, XHTML, WAP, and WML. The appendices still provide easily-thumbable tables of HTML elements, attributes, tags nobody officially likes anymore, proprietary (i.e., browser-specific) tags, a chart showing which browsers support which CSS features, and all the special characters you can use in HTML (you know, &#these; &#things;).
And you probably also already know who Jen Niederst is; if not, go read my review of her book _Learning Web Design_, which you should buy first anyway if you're new to the subject. Anyway, she's a terrific writer with intimate knowledge of all the little details you need to know in order to do web design effectively; guides just don't come any better.
You know all of this already if you have the first edition. If not, then all you need to know is that this is an updated version of -- no contest -- the best available single-volume reference on web design, written by -- no contest -- the person best qualified to write it. It's complete; it's accessible; it's well-designed; it's O'Reilly.
Oh -- and the "least weasel" is the species of weasel pictured on the cover.
57 of 57 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book for the "not quite a beginner" to Web design Aug. 29 2004
By Meryl K. Evans - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book takes novice to intermediate designers to the next level and is also useful as a desktop quick reference. Many buy such books and end up never opening them or maybe a few times before it's outdated. I admit I'm one of those people, but not when it comes to the weasel (picture on the cover) book. This is the book the professor assigned for one of my first Web design classes and it is responsible for my learning tables, CSS, and knowing when to make a graphics file .gif or .jpg.

It's the most well worn Web design book I have in my collection and the only HTML book I ever bought. Thankfully, there is little that's changed in the format of the book because it wasn't broken. Robbins takes the appropriate steps to update it and expand the sections that are more relevant today.

Expect an entire orchestra of instruments relevant to Web design, along with the specific details and tricks you should know. It may seem a bit much that Niederst covers HTML, CSS, SSI, graphics, multimedia, JavaScript, DHTML, XML, XHTML, WAP, and WML. However, she appropriately magnifies essential things while the advanced or "you may want to explore" topics are touched upon to give an idea of how it works with suggestions for further reading

The book starts off by addressing the biggest challenge of designing a site that looks good in every browser and version. "Designing for a Variety of Browsers" has a two-page chart of various browsers and versions for the Windows, Macintosh, and UNIX environments, showing what each supports and doesn't support.

The next chapter covers another source of frustration for designers, "Designing for a Variety of Displays." If you monitor your Web visitor stats, then you'll probably notice that no size leads the majority especially with WebTV, handheld, and cellular devices accessing the Internet. There are screen shots of browser and system measurements and tips for designing for various displays.

Chapter 26, "Flash and Shockwave" explains what it is, advantages and disadvantages, introduces you to the Flash interface, adding a Flash file to a Web page, and integrating it with other technologies. Flash is a whole different animal and the book gives you the big picture of how it fits with designing Web pages. The following chapter on SMIL covers the same basics.

Part V addresses the advanced technologies including JavaScript, DHTML, XML, XHTML, and WAP and WML. It's useful to have these all close together at the end of the book to help you figure out which you may want to use for a Web project.

As useful as special characters can be, I never remember what to type to make the symbol appear, though I know these now. Finding the special character chart is the only complaint I had from the original edition and not even the index helped me find it, so I had to tab the page. This has now been remedied with one of the best improvements of moving the special character reference chart to the appendix for speedy access. Other appendices in the book are listings of HTML tags, attributes, deprecated tags, proprietary tags, and CSS compatibility and support.

As your design skills and knowledge grow, there is always a question that prompts you to open the book and get your answer. It holds true today as I retire the worn out book with a loose page thanks to a certain child and happily replace it with its new younger sibling.

***3rd edition update***
The third edition took a bigger leap from the second than the second took from the first. Web Design in a Nutshell, 3rd ed., comes with a greater focus on Web standards and cascading style sheets (CSS). In fact, the book opens with a chapter on Web standards, whereas it was merely a footnote in the previous edition.

Rather than a sole chapter on HTML, the markup chapter blends HTML and XHTML. The chapter comes with notes explaining the major differences between HTML and XHTML. The greater emphasis on XHTML ensures newer designers dive right into XHTML and improve their chances of designing standards compliant Web pages. Furthermore, the appendix includes HTML 4.01, XHTML 1.0 and 1.1, and CSS 2.1 references.

Ajax and WCAG 2.0 have barely been around in terms of publishing time. While the Ajax process isn't new, but its terminology and popularity are recent. Both items are covered, albeit briefly. Had Robbins wrote the book now, Ajax would not likely get huge coverage as it's a little advanced for the book's purposes and target market.

Accessible forms, mobile devices, internationalization, JavaScript with document object model (DOM), and document structure also gain more attention in the third edition. On the same token, the book reduces coverage of concepts that have gotten less attention such as the Web palette (Web safe colors), SMIL (synchronized multimedia integration language), frames, and DHTML.

Part III is devoted to CSS, which contains 10 new chapters -- a must as CSS becomes a design standard not something to play with. The third edition superbly reflects today's Web development environment and still sticks to its main purpose -- helping new and intermediate designers get up to speed on Web design. The book continues its role as a valuable reference.
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential update of a good book on web design technologies Nov. 12 2006
By calvinnme - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book focuses on frontend matters of web design and development: markup, style sheets, image production, multimedia, and so on. Ironically, despite its title, there is little in the way of "design" advice, per se. Rather, it strives to be a thorough reference for the technical details and requirements faced in day-to-day work designing and developing web content. Although it is a good introduction to all subjects covered, if you really want to dig into the details of any particular technology, you will probably need other reference books. As far as "big picture" instruction, though, I highly recommend it. I review the book further in the context of its table of contents. The book is divided into six parts plus appendixes, each covering a general subject area.

Part I: The Web Environment

Chapter 1, Web Standards, describes the current approach to web design and sets the stage for the entire book. It is essential reading. Chapters on designing for varying browsers and displays provide useful overviews of the unique challenges web developers face. Chapter 5, Accessibility, and Chapter 6, Internationalization, both serve as introductions to the ways web content may be created to reach all users, regardless of ability, browsing device, or language. Chapter 4, A Beginner's Guide to the Server, is a primer on basic server functions, system commands, uploading files, and file types.

Part II: The Structural Layer: XML and (X)HTML

This part of the book is about document markup, commonly referred to as the structural layer because it provides the foundation upon which presentation (styles) and behaviors (scripting) are applied. Chapter 7, Introduction to XML, covers critical concepts that guide the way (X)HTML is handled in contemporary web design. Chapters 8 through 15 focus on HTML and XHTML markup, including detailed descriptions of all the elements and the way they should be used in standards-based web design.

Part III: The Presentation Layer: Cascading Style Sheets

Part III provides a thorough guide to using CSS for controlling the presentation of web content with a focus on visual media. It begins with an overview of the fundamentals in Chapter 16 and continues on with an introduction to CSS selectors in Chapter 17. Chapters 18 through 23 provide detailed descriptions of all the visual properties in the CSS 2.1 specification. Finally, examples of how CSS is used in the real world are provided in CSS Techniques (Chapter 24) and Managing Browser Bugs: Workarounds, Hacks, and Filters (Chapter 25).

Part IV: The Behavioral Layer: JavaScript and the DOM

Part IV is all about adding interactivity to your pages with JavaScript. Chapter 26 is an introduction to JavaScript, and covers syntax, control structures, object-orientation, and the whys and hows of unobtrusive scripting. Chapter 27 introduces the Document Object Model and shows how to tap into it to manipulate both content and design. As a supplement to Chapter 27,a brief introduction to Ajax techniques is included that will help you on your way to building richer Internet applications.

Part V: Web Graphics

The chapters in Part V contain essential information on working with RGB color and choosing the appropriate graphic file formats. The chapters dedicated to GIF, JPEG, and PNG graphics offer practical tips for graphic production and optimization based on the compression schemes used by each format. The Animated GIFs chapter is a further examination of GIF's animation capabilities.

Part VI: Media

Because the Web is not limited to text and images, Part VI is included to provide a basic introduction to adding audio, video, and Flash movies to web pages. There is also a chapter on printing from web pages using print-specific CSS style sheets as well as an introduction to the PDF format for document distribution.

Appendixes

The Appendixes in this book are very useful. Appendix A is an alphabetical listing of all elements and attributes in the HTML 4.01 Recommendation, as well as a few nonstandard elements that are well supported and in common use. Appendix B is an alphabetical listing of all properties defined in the CSS 2.1 specification. Appendix C lists all the character entities defined in HTML 4.01 and XHTML 1.0 with their numerical references. Appendix D provides a detailed explanation of the color names and RGB color values used both in (X)HTML and CSS. Finally, Appendix E describes the future of XHTML and Microformats.
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A reference for all seasons July 4 2002
By R. Tiedemann - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
If you design web sites, even just for your own personal use, this is a book to keep by your computer. In it you'll find the answer to just about any designing problem you face.
Perhaps the most challenging aspect of web design is how to make a site not only attractive but accessible to a variety of browsers and to have it look the way you want it to in each. Niederst begins there. She explains browsers (most people seem to use Navigator rather than Explorer)and a variety of design strategies. To design for the lowest common denominator (for instance), splitting the difference or something for everyone --the choice is yours.
Chapters are divided into Designing for different browsers, for a variety of displays, Web design principles, a guide to the server. She includes a great overview of HTML, tags, text, links and adding images, tables, forms and frames. Under graphics she explains GIF, JPEG, PNG and teaches designing graphics. There's also lots of information on animated GIFs, audio, interactivity and javascript.
In a section titled Emerging Technologies she explains cascading style sheets, DHTML, XML, embedded font technology and internationalization. In the appendixes you'll find HTML tags and elements, list of attributes, deprecated tags, proprietary tags and CSS compatibility.
This book is basic and thorough, but it's going to have to be revised for Windows XP. That aside, it's a useful reference because it's easy to find information and Niederst seems to be able to anticipate problems, explain them and provide useful solutions. So far the answer to every question I've had has been easy to find in this book. I give it the highest recommendation. The only reason I didn't give it 5 stars is that I've recently decided to reserve those for exceptionally beautiful writing.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Top Reference for Web Work Oct. 26 2001
By vanderwal - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The second edition has greatly improved on my favorite Web development reference. I had nearly worn out my copy of the first edition. Jennifer Niederst has completely updated the content and the reference tables to incorporate in this guide the breadth of elements available for those that code and program the Web. This edtion is broken into sections that are easily scanned by the reader looking for answers to questions. The reference tables have been updated to now include elements that have been depreciated (or not longer considered fully supported by the standards boards), as well as the recently approved elements. This version is thicker than the last so I will have to gladly expand my notch for it on my bookshelf that is within easy reach.
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