on October 23, 2003
This book starts with the premise that you have no web development experience and you do not want to program. The book is divided into four parts that cover an overview of web development, an html tutorial, graphics for the web, and web site design. Within each section, a different subject is addressed in every chapter. While each chapter starts at a very basic level, enough material is taught to give the reader a good start in each of the subjects. I particularly liked the way style sheets and links were covered. The book is replete with tips, illustrations, and code examples to assist the reader. There are exercises to reinforce the information for most of the topics covered.
The format of the book is different than most of the O'Reilly books that I have read in the past. The larger format of the book with the better paper and more graphics add to the learning experience especially with this subject. This was a fun book to read, even though I was familiar with most of the material. I was mainly interested in the graphics section and web design. Apparently, my interests coincided with those of the author's because I feel that those sections are the strongest in the book.
My only slight criticism of this book might be that while the reader is probably a beginner, most of the graphics examples are done with Photoshop or Fireworks. These tools may be a bit out of budget for the fledgling web designer. This book is a good starting point, but the reader probably will need to follow it with something more substantial.
on March 15, 2003
I, too, will likely be teaching a high school course in web design this fall, and felt that this book would help provide a framework for my curriculum.
It certainly covers a wide range of topics, but it has a target audience in mind and you should determine whether or not you are in that audience before you purchase the book.
First of all, do you know absolutely nothing about web design? This is definitely a book for beginners. I am by no means an expert, and I knew little HTML before reading this book, but I can say that I already knew most of the material. I know it's called "Learning Web Design," but in spite of that I was still a bit surprised. If you've had even minimal experience making web pages already, most of this will be review.
Second, do you plan to rely almost entirely on programs like Dreamweaver or GoLive? Niederst's coverage of HTML assumes that you do. This is not a negative comment--for many people there is no need to learn a great deal of HTML--but she teaches you just enough so that you can operate WYSIWYG editors more efficiently. She does not mention which tags are deprecated, and doesn't really encourage the use of CSS (although CSS isn't taught in the book). I think those two things are fairly important if you plan to make a real study of HTML, if only to encourage good habits in the beginning. Thus, much will have to be "unlearned" with further HTML tutorials. However, your basic WYSIWYG user will probably never know the difference.
If you don't meet those two qualifications, I would recommend you look elsewhere. Otherwise, this will be an excellent first book ... Niederst is a great author, and the book is easy and fun to read.
on November 6, 2002
Jennifer Niederst reaffirms that it is not too late. Her previous and best-selling book, Web Design in a Nutshell has helped many including me take their web design skills to the next level plus it's excellent as a reference book. However, her students were clamoring for a book that is more basic and introductory than the Nutshell. She calls Learning Web Design: A Beginner's Guide to HTML, Graphics and Beyond her "prequel" and correctly so.
This is the book I wish I had when I first learned HTML. Even someone, who has known HTML and understands graphics, this book is still useful. Beginners learn about GIF, JPG and when to use which format. Intermediates are reminded the difference between adaptive, selective, and perceptual color palettes.
Niederst includes steps and screen shots for performing different activities in the more popular web design, animation, and graphic software products. I experience an annoyance in my early days of web design - the halo effect on graphics in which I added transparency. Again, this book saves time in trial and error of correcting problems by providing the workarounds and tips.
Of course, the nuts and bolts of creating Web pages are covered, but the book doesn't stop there. The last section shows you how to bring it all together and create pages similar to the professional ones out there using HTML and graphics. Finally, learn the secrets of making rounded edges on boxes, 1-pixel square graphics, non-repeating background tiles, and pop-up windows.
Every designer has to deal with browser bugs and the tips will help you work through the buggers. Another bonus is the chapter on Building Usable Web Sites, an often-neglected step in many web sites. Here, you're introduced to key principles for designing the user experience and ensuring you have a navigable web site.
It's impossible to cover everything Web design in one book. However, if you come across a web page and wonder "How did they do that?" then go to the last chapter with the same name and find your answers.
Stop telling yourself it's too late and get started with this resource. Intermediate designers use this one as a reference and memory jolter of how to do specific web design tasks.
on September 6, 2002
"Learning Web Design" by Jennifer Niederst is an excellent intro to HTML and web design. The book takes the reader gently through how the Internet works, how web pages are loaded, and how web pages should be designed before giving a lesson on HTML. Niederst then takes the reader through a sampling of topics such as graphics and frames, highlighting the do's and don'ts of web design.
In my opinion, I recommend this book if you are:
A complete newbie to the web but wants to make web pages the right way.
A programmer who understands the basics of HTML but does not consider him or herself a designer.
You will also need a dose of patience, and I also recommend you follow along her lessons with your computer with a basic text editor software like Notepad. I would also recommend checking out "Web Design in a Nutshell" by the same author for a slightly more advanced and in-depth treatment of web design and "HTML and XHTML: The Definitive Guide" for a complete treatment of how to write HTML.
on December 26, 2001
I had bought other HTML books, including some that promised to be simple, but they merely confused me. I felt defeated. Then I saw a copy of this book, read a few pages, and immediately bought it. I have been delighted.
First, it is very readable-clear, logical, and thoughtfully illustrated with useful examples. Second, it is organized in a way that truly helps neophytes. It begins by explaining some general points that page designer needs to know. Then it gets more specific, and then finally it begins explaining the mechanics of creating a page.
The order in which topics are introduced allows the user to put up a simple site and then continue to improve on it. I found that satisfying, because I could get something up and running quickly, which was a thrill, and then I could improve on what I had done.
The web links are very helpful. For instance,the chapter on color provides a link to color charts, so readers can see the colors they will be working with.
This book has made me believe that I will eventually not only design web pages, but also web pages that load quickly, are easy to use, and that can be read on most browsers. I plan on buying another book by this author as soon as I finish this one.
on September 7, 2001
Jennifer Niederst is just the person you want to write a book like this. Many readers of this page will already know who she is, but since this book is aimed at absolute beginners a short introduction may be in order.
Originally a graphic designer, in 1993 Niederst became one of the very first web designers when she worked on the world's first commercial website (O'Reilly & Associates' Global Network Navigator, which is no longer in publication but you can see samples of it on Niederst's own website if you want; write me for the URL). Since then she's been one of the best-known web designers around and she's written other books on the topic -- notably _Web Design in a Nutshell_, which I highly recommend you get as a followup to this one (but wait for the new second edition, due out in October 2001). Since Al Gore didn't even _invent_ the Internet until 1993, that makes Niederst the nearest thing there is to an "old-timer" in what is, after all, a pretty new profession.
Niederst has said in interviews that this book is the one she wished she'd had to give her web-design students. It won't take you long to see why; it's painstakingly thorough and detailed, just the ticket for somebody who has never written a speck of HTML code before and is a little fuzzy on just what this "Internet" thing is.
Then, too, it's also a handy rough-and-ready guide to the sorts of application software you might want to acquire if you're getting seriously into web design. Niederst not only introduces the major players among authoring tools and graphics packages, but steps through her examples more than once to show you how they work in, e.g., Dreamweaver and GoLive.
The style is breezy and chatty but with no loss of accuracy. You'll find out why Niederst thinks "web design is cool" and you'll learn some of "Jen's pet peeves" (e.g. spinning-globe graphics and rainbow bars), but you'll also get a thorough and accessible introduction to the nuts and bolts of web design.
If you're just getting started on the creation of web pages, this is the book to use first. As I noted above, you'll probably also want to get Niederst's _Nutshell_ book as a sequel. After that, you'll be well qualified to decide what else you need.
on August 14, 2001
What does it take to become a Web designer? Find out from Jennifer Niederst, one of the most experienced Web designers around. She's been designing commercial sites since 1993! Aimed squarely at beginners, the book assumes no previous knowledge of the Internet and guides you through each of the key components of conventional Web design.
"I wrote Web Design in a Nutshell because it was the book I needed as a professional Web designer. Learning Web Design is the book I wished I had to give out as a coursebook to my classes on beginning Web design."
There's nothing here experience developers haven't seen before, but this is one of the few books that you can hand to beginning Web designers and be confident they'll be on the right track.
I have two minor quibbles with the book. The author keeps referring to style sheets, but gives them little coverage in the last chapter. Jennifer says that based on her years of teaching beginners aren't ready for CSS yet, and can barely handle HTML:
"I've gotten similar comments about the lack of CSS in the book. It was a tough decision where to cut the line for "beginners," especially since I am so pro-standards (style separate from content and all that) myself.
But in the end, it came down to audience. I based the decision on my experience teaching beginning web design courses. The people who sign up for my classes (the same people who might buy this beginners book) are NOT ready to handle style sheets. They think that Netscape owns the Internet. Even simple HTML tagging is fairly overwhelming to them. And frankly, for the types of sites they are trying to learn to make (personal sites, small organization sites, etc.), creating standard-compliant code with style information in CSS is overkill. They just want an overview of how to make sites. I teach them practical techniques that work today but make reference to style sheets as a more robust and "proper" way to go. I also provide pointers on where they can learn more about CSS on their own.
Keep in mind that the book is intended as an introduction (albeit a darn thorough one) to Web design for absolute beginners. The professional set will get a lot more out of Web Design in a Nutshell which covers CSS more thoroughly."
So I can see now why she emphasizes tables. My other quibble is in a minor technical error in the GIF compression/optimization section. The author says "GIF compression works by condensing rows of identical pixel colors." This is not technically correct, LZW works by condensing rows of identical pixel *patterns,* which would include identical colors. Jennifer says this is intended to be "a layman's description of LZW compression" as she's done in her past books.
Other than these two minor quibbles the book is a great introduction for fledgling Web designers. From WebReference.com.
on May 29, 2001
This book is another example of one I wish I had four or five years ago when I was first learning how to do web pages. The book first off is visually appealing with lots of diagrams and code examples interspersed with the text. I was tempted just to grab the HTML examples without reading any further! However, what makes the book an even bigger treat is Ms Niederst's casual but very complete writing style. She takes the time to explain a lot of different concepts and ties them all together. Throughout the book, the topics all tie together beginning with Chapters 1 through 5 (the "Getting Started" section), where Niederst explains "web basics," Chapters 6 through 11 (the "Learning HTML" section), where she explains topics like formatting text, links, tables, and frames. The book's last two major sections cover areas like creating and modifying graphics and even briefly explain advanced topics like Dynamic HTML and Cascading Style Sheets. By the book's end, you have an excellent general understanding of web design.
Not only that, but the way the information is presented, the book also is a good reference text for those times when you run into problems. And anyone who has done web sites knows that pretty quickly you'll run into a problem while designing a site. There are a few sections in the book that deal with troubleshooting web design problems. Ms Niederst comments at the back of the book that reading this book is "a lot like sitting in my classroom." I suspect her students learn quite a bit about web design. So will you after reading this book.
on April 11, 2001
While I am not a beginner, I am a teacher and reviewed this book to help me decide whether to recommend it to students. To be honest, I actually prefer Ms. Niederst's first book (Web Design in a Nutshell) to this one. The reason is this book leaves students with some very big questions. While Web Design in a Nutshell may be a bit out-dated, it at least answers some of the questions this book does not.
With that said, I gave it three stars because the book does have its advantages. The illustrations are quite good and very explanatory, and the comparisons of popular Web software programs are also very useful.
So if you're looking for a very, very introductory book, that's what this one is. However, keep in mind it will not answer all your questions (or even a few of the most basic ones) and you'll need to buy another book. I wouldn't call this a "beginner's guide", but rather an "introduction".
on April 5, 2001
There are a few "modern" tricks that are missing from the book. There is no discussion of the .PNG standard for web graphics. There is no discussion of the "link title" tag, which can create a rollover effect with just an HTML tag.
Niederst also spends some time on the basics of obtaining server space and putting files onto a server. I think that this is very important, because this can be the most confusing part about getting started in Web design, and other books generally omit it.
I can give this book my strongest recommendation to other teachers of web design courses. I am sure that I will refer back to it constantly.
For students, I'm afraid that it might be too broad, and for beginners my guess is that it would be too overwhelming. For example, on p.10-11 in discussing what software you need to buy, Niederst lists 3 web authoring tools, 2 text editors, and 5 graphics tools. Nowhere does she make it clear that you do not need all 10! As an experienced web designer, I know that it would be silly to work with Dreamweaver(tm) and Frontpage(tm) at the same time. But that may not be obvious to a beginner. Nor would it be obvious that if you choose an authoring tool you would not use a text editor.
This breadth of information runs throughout the book. I would think that a beginner would be better off starting with a shorter book that teaches a single approach to page construction, rather than a book that tries to cover multiple approaches at once.