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 Links are provided where relevant to helpful sites which should help minimize the inevitable impact of print going out of date.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
Author: Simon Collison
Price: $34.99 Save 30% on Beginning CSS Web Development at Amazon
Rating out of 5: 4