[Book Review] Learning Web Design, 4th Edition, O’Reilly

  • Paperback: 624
  • Publisher: O'Reilly Media
  • Edition:  Fourth Edition (August 21, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1449319270
  • ISBN-13: 978-1449319274
Objective: I received this book as a part of O'Reilly User Groups program, although I'm interesed in many other topics, I was searching for a book that could help to eliminate the "ugly GUI" culture that I’ve noticed in my own developments and development for others, specially when the technology is Java. In my developer phase I've noticed that the average developer becomes astonished by the Java GUI framework of the season and jumps from University to the work field with a little knowledge about HTML, CSS and JavaScript repeating always the sentence "let the designers design, I'm here for the hard work". In real world soon or later is necessary to match both roles or act as powerfull developer-designer, however most of times the lack of good HTML/CSS/JS knowledge is avoided using WYSIWIG editors or dragging JSF components from the IDE designer. At the end is functional but most of times, the lost of control over HTML generation also means ugly or non standard compliant GUI. About the book: As many experienced web developers already know, the real issue with HTML learning is not find the material. By the contrary the real problem is choose between the available free learning tutorials without being overwhelmed because of the repeated material. W3Schools is a good and reference start point, but I've seen every HTML tutorial claiming itself as the best, that I just avoid them because of they cause the contrary effect in me. However at this book I found many topics that I was looking for, Jennifer Niedrst presents a nice book without using pretentious words exploring from zero the HTML/CSS/JS world in a general way without ignoring imporant details, but avoiding more advanced topics like jQuery, blueprints, or whatever tool that could represent more problems if you don't have enough knowledge. The book is divided in five big sections:
  • Foundation
  • HTML
  • CSS
  • JavaScript
  • Recommended file formats for web
Personal view: In mi opinion the book is great to get a general and updated web view, including elements from HTML 4 and HTML 5 in a logic and sorted way, highlighting many characteristics available at the moment and describing which of them are compatible (or not) with modern web browsers (HTML 5 is an on-going work). The book also explains some history and how the transition to HTML 5 started, covering many of the new semantic tags at HTML 5 that I must confess is the first time that I hear about them, is good to update your knowledge :D. For many intermediate developers,  some sections could be boring, specially the first half of the first section because it talks about very basic things like "What is a web browser?" or "What is a FTP server?", and also the last part because talks about many formats that are recommended for web distribution (again because I know most of them) but this are more conditional issues and is fundamental information for people interested in learning web pages creation. By the way in general the book is well written and I found the best DOM definition that I've seen (simple and concise). The exercises are simple but perfect to learn how to write web pages in a semantically fashion in order to get easy indexation and good content rendering. Also I noticed that the books talks about the bad support of standards in Internet Explorer 8, but in a professional way and without praising other web browsers. Highlights:
  • A perfect book for HTML/CSS/JS introduction and learning.
  • Also is a good reference book because it's well structured, is easy to search by topic and jump to related topics.
  • The exercises are easy and you only need a good text editor.
  • The book contains many warnings about new things in HTML and the book clarifies which web browser support or not support new characteristics, and most importantly what will happen with older browsers when they receive unsupported HTML 5 tags.
Things that may upset:
  •  If the reader is looking a guide to update his knowledge, the first impression could be very bad, but as the book progresses it becomes interesting.
  • The book is designed for PC screens, paper or tablets. The graphics are not well displayed on e-readers (I've tested it on a nook touch) and many references are based on the color of the text with sentences like "see the text highlighted in red" . . . but the e-reader displays only B&W.
  • It has many suggestions in order to create good user experience , BUT is not a good book to learn how to design  user experience if you are looking for that.
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