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Web Design in a Nutshell: A Desktop Quick Reference Paperback – Mar 3 2006
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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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Top Customer Reviews
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Part 1 (the Web Environment) takes on topics like designing for different browsers (which can be a challenge with all the different web browsers and versions around), "A beginner's guide to the server," which explains basic web server topics, and internationalization.
Then it's on to The Structural Layer of XML & XHTML in Part 2. It starts off with an intro to XML and then into a HTML & XHTML overview. I liked how Robbins took the time to explain XHTML 1.1 and various new and upcoming standards, it's one of the reasons why I got this book. As a part time web designer, I want to keep up on the latest trends and make sure my web sites are up to date and will appear as they should on both newer and older browsers. There's also sections that explain text elements, images and objects, tables, frames (even if frames are "frowned upon" nowadays).
Part 3 is devoted to Cascading Style Sheets, some ten chapters worth. This I feel is a very good thing, since they've become a vital part of web design.
If you don't have this book you need to get it, it's that's comprehensive a reference.
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