Book Review 'Beginning CSS Web Development', by Simon Collison

The cascade, inheritance, contextual selectors. As someone who has been using Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) in the real world for a while it’s sometimes easy to forget it can be tricky to get started. Beginning CSS Web Development, written by Simon Collison, aims to get you on the road to creating usable, compact, good looking, well structured, and easy to maintain websites.

Anyone familiar with Simon from his long running blog, collylogic.com (now found at colly.com), can expect the same easy reading tone and witty repartee. Colly’s long-running obsession with music proves useful too; with the obligatory case study and examples feeling more real world than in most web design books. Although on second thoughts a band featuring Keith Moon, Jimi Hendrix and Simon himself may be too good to be true…

The book progresses through using CSS to style all the basic HTML elements, concentrating on the sorts of things that real world designers get up to most of the time; there’s an entire chapter on lists for example. A few excepts stood out as particularly well placed; a good discussion of typography on the web with some practical alternatives to the oft used web safe fonts, details of the most common image formats and when to use them and a particularly clear explanation of the complexity of floats.

Coming from someone like Simon it should go without saying that the book is up to date. Fixed vs liquid vs elastic vs variable fixed width layouts, faux column and large footers, accessibility and even IE7 are all mentioned at some point. Links are provided where relevant to helpful sites which should help minimize the inevitable impact of print going out of date.

As well as practical examples the book provides a useful compendium of the state of the art when it comes to CSS; coding styles, Douglas Bowman’s flags, commenting, indenting, modular style sheets, ideas for organizing style sheets. This information is available online, but would require wading through scattered blog posts from the last several years or reading the css-discuss archives from end to end. In short if you’re just starting out then Beginning CSS Web Development will save you time.

The only problem I have with Beginning CSS Web Development stems from the title, specifically the CSS part. Web design and development is a multi-tiered discipline, and CSS often stands or falls on the strength of the underlying markup. The book assumes the reader has a good understanding of modern, semantic, markup practices and as such is not ideally suited for everyone. It also doesn’t provide that much material for the experienced designer or developer that they probably haven’t seen before.

In short the book is a sign of a maturing industry. It is ideally suited for use in teaching, either students or other professional developers, the joys of CSS. It probably won’t be your first web design book, and neither should it be your last but it will provide a constant companion and reference for those starting on the road to becoming the next web design rock star.

Book Name: Beginning Web Development
Publisher: Apress
Author: Simon Collison
URL: http://csswebdevelopment.com/
Price: $34.99 Save 30% on Beginning CSS Web Development at Amazon
Rating out of 5: 4

Comments

0 comments on “Book Review 'Beginning CSS Web Development', by Simon Collison

  1. maybe the authors of Think Vitamin should read the book to know what is valid xhtml and what isn’t or at least, how to validate.

    (don’t put a link to the w3c validator on a page that doesn’t validate. write a script to check it before it can display the valid mark. less than, greater than and and are all symbols that must be escaped. Validate the job board to see what I mean…)

  2. You’re right, Gareth – this was not my first book on CSS. But it was my first truly useful book on CSS. It brought me, finally, that “oh, yeah, now I get it” moment. There’s still much more to learn, but Colly’s book put me on my feet. He even replied to some questions I sent him by e-mail. That’s a good writer, and a decent guy.

  3. I just wish there was one standard across the board for mobile devices or that all devices that view the web (mobile or otherwise) conform to these standards so I dont have to have iexplore/firefox/safari/opera/iphone/wap versions of pages to make them look correct.

  4. maybe the authors of Think Vitamin should read the book to know what is valid xhtml and what isn’t or at least, how to validate.

  5. Pingback: Chad’s dailies » Blog Archive » links for 2007-11-07

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  8. My site, in its first version, coded with simple html codes using tables etc. Since css had problems with some browsers (like old ie) I had no choice but to use tables. Now my site coded entirely using css. And I am very happy with the coding. This book seems to be a very good resource for css based on your reviews. Thank you very much for your time.