Web Designs and Coding
Although the links on this page page take one to the Amazon website the selection is mine and I do own, and have read, the books. The reviews are entirely my personal opinion and I have ignored the "publishers' blurb". My policy when selecting books for purchase over the web has always been to read the summary of the contents, and the reviews of impartial readers.
Having said that, should you wish to purchase one these, or any other book, I would be grateful if you would do so from this site. Web costs increase with the size of the site, and I would like to continue to add to, and improve the site. Thank you in anticipation - the images are the links!
In a sense, the books I review illustrate the path which I followed in developing my own knowledge over a 5 year period, and start with the very basic finishing with the more difficult.
Perhaps because of their name the Dummies series of books is often derided. For a beginner, however, they can be extremely useful. I bought my copy a number of years ago, after a long lay-off from computer work, during which the internet came into being. It certainly enabled me to get up and running again without any problems, giving me the basics of how the web works, and basic knowledge of virus protection. I no longer use it but it is still on my shelf, if only as a reminder as to what it is like to be a "newbie"!
These two books have been placed together because they are so similar, largely because they share the same author. So don't waste your money by buying both.
They give the basic details of creating web pages using proprietary software such as Dreamweaver and little, or no, attention is paid to the construction of the various coding languages. They may be useful in the early days of learning about web site creation and, of course, for those who prefer to use generated web pages.
The Sams series of "Teach Yourself" books I have inevitably found to be a great introduction to many subjects and with respect to the web they have not disappointed. It may just be me, but I do find their learning schedule of 24 hours to be somewhat optimistic!
The "Teach Yourself HTML and XHTML" I have found to be no exception. When I first picked the book up I had very little knowledge of HTML and I can now accept their assertion that no preknowledge is necessary.
The book takes one from the very beginning of learning web programming to being able to structure forms, tables, basic CSS and XHTML. If books are ranked by how often they are picked up for reference then this one ranks very highly, even now it is the first place I go to when I want to check a piece of coding.
From the beginning we are taught the basics of the language and from there the book details various scripting methods, the use of variables, the creation of functions, looping and responding to events. Throughout are coding examples which one can use on one's website. Again, this is a book which I regularly dip into for snippets of code or to refresh my memory of the syntax of some coding.
I have mixed feelings about " How to do Everything with PHP & MySQL". The first two chapters are taken up with the introduction and the setting up of MySQL, PHP and Apache on one's host server which is given in considerable detail. This fits in with their stated aim at targeting novice web developers, but it then goes on to say: "who are typically already familiar with HTML, CSS and client side scripting". I am less than certain about this, particularly when it continues ".....[it] doesn't assume prior knowledge of programming or database fundamentals".
For me, it's usefulness as a reference book is diminished by its Index. Unfortunately this is largely orientated around the PHP or SQL command, or similar, rather than a problem description. EG. if I want to enter a new field, unless I can remember it uses the "ALTER TABLE" command then I can end up going round in circles looking for the correct one.
However, the majority of the pages contain the details of PHP programming and using it together with MySQL for database analysis are particularly good, and in my view is worth buying for these chapters alone.
The author, Rachel Andrew, says of "The CSS Anthology" that although the basics of CSS are given in Chapter 1, a basic grounding is needed. This is true, and that given in either of the Sams books above will be sufficient.
Throughout, the book uses examples to illustrate what it calls in the subtitle "101 Essential tips, tricks & Hacks". Its descriptions are simple, clear and easy to follow and cover complex CSS styling to include the more difficult effects such as three column layouts with footers.
On the cover it claims to be "Essential reading for anyone using CSS", I cannot put it better!
When I bought this book I was shocked. Shocked because of its size, some 800 pages, and I do not pretend to have read them all. I chose " Beginning ActionScript 2.0" because this is the version used with my flash software (see my link for SoThink). Understandably when examples of using AS in software are given it is Adobe Macromedia which is used and it does not comply exactly with SWF Quicker. Nevertheless the principles are similar.
I cannot see me sitting down and reading this book from cover to cover, but I am certain that it will be well used as a reference for many years.
One of my difficulties is a lack of imagination for design, and The Web Designer's Idea Book gives hundreds of modern design illustrations from which I can gain! (Remember copyright....).
The author, Patrick McNeil is the creator of designmeltdown.com a site comprising some of the best of design. This book contains many of these, with the URL of the website where it can be seen - provided it is still there. Although the book was only published in 2008 sites do change frequently these days.
The book is conveniently divided into six site sections, from selection by type, by colour to by structure. Each gives a great selection of sites and is complemented with a range of colour palettes.
Please do not expect any coding as that is not the point of this book, but one thing is certain, this is a book I will regularly be raiding for ideas on design!
If ever a book had the WOW factor then this is it! When I first picked it up I could not put it down.
Transcending CSS is aimed squarely at providing web designers (which unfortunately is not my field of competence) with the tools to put their ideas into reality using CSS. It is a job which it does brilliantly. The CSS used includes CSS3 and methods of exploiting the new tags are described.
Over the years I have been moving in this direction with my own coding and the rewriting of the site in December 2008 was a major step in that direction, but much still remains to be done. By following the methods given in "TranscendingCSS" ultimately it should be possible to have this site presenting well in many different formats, including mobiles etc.. If only I could design as well as code!
It is clear from reading this book, that web users will have to get used to the idea that the older inferior browsers will only give an adequate but inferior page to the more up to date browsers, whilst those using more modern hardware will have an even more enhanced experience. If that means goodbye to IE6 I can't wait!
Unlike some other CSS books in these reviews, Bulletproof Web Design does require a basic knowledge of CSS such as can be found in the books above. From page one, it jumps in with both feet!
What this book aims to do, and is successful in so doing, is to demonstrate how to design web pages which meet accessibility requirements, are resistant to browser idiosyncracies, and have the flexibility to suit varying screen sizes and resolutions.
If there is one thing which I like, it is the step by step, almost a baby steps approach, which in conjunction with an abundance of illustrations makes it extremely easy to follow. Included are sections on text, navigation, the use of CSS with tables, and multiple columns
The final section puts together the lessons in the previous sections to create a bulletproof web page. A worthwhile addition to any library.
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