Book review: Designing with web standards

Are you using HTML tables when designing your web site ? Many space GIFs ? Are you using browser detector scripts ? Got a feeling that these HTML hacks smells (like teen spirit ;-) ? Well then Designing with web standards might be the book for you.


I've been working with Java technology for quite some time now, but I never actually done any major web client programming. Mostly the focus have been server side components or swing programming. I just started working in a new company and I actually got my first web project with JSPs and stuff. I started out trying to avoid using scriptlets and learned JSTL and a few of Jakarta's tag libraries, but I still ended up with crappy HTML code because of tables wrapped inside tables in order to get the layout to look good. So it occurred to me that I had to do something about my HTML skills. My friend André got this book recommended by a web designer and he spoke warmly about it - so I gave it a try.

Diving into the problems...

Being ignorant about the browser wars and web standards, this book gave me historical background and points out that 99,9% of the web sites are crappy and ignorant about the fact that most browsers now actually support the important web standards; CSS, XHTML, ECMAScript and DOM. It's possible to make a site without having to write HTML specific for Internet Explorer (don't understand why anyone still wants to use such a browser - but that's another story) or any other browsers.

The book takes us through the history and how things gotten better. This section could have been a bit shorter for my taste. After that the focus is on the different Web standards and explaining them and then showing examples. Zeldman also addresses problem areas with older browsers and how one can work around these issues. The last chapter shows how he changes his homepage from a table based layout to a CSS driven layout. A really good wrap up on the technology.

Might not be your cup of tea...

This is a great book to get an overview on the technologies and some practical advice, but still it's not a HOWTO or reference on for instance CSS. If that's what you're looking for, you might consider some like Eric Meyer on CSS. I've bought the follow up called "More Eric Meyer on CSS".

Summing up

  To conclude, my dice landed on five. The ovations of web standards and historical background is a bit verbose. On a few occasions I had some problems following the arguments in the text with the examples. Other than that - I'm pleased with the book.

Hopefully this ends up with me finally getting my homepage up and running...

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