Creating Cool Web Sites with HTML, XHTML and CSS

Dave Taylor

John Wiley 2004
A book review by Danny Yee © 2004
Creating Cool Web Sites with HTML is a broad introduction to authoring web pages, aimed at non-technical users.

Taylor assumes throughout that the user is working with a basic text editor and editing HTML directly. The rationale for this is nowhere argued, but I support it whole-heartedly — even people who end up using Dreamweaver or some other fancy package will benefit from learning how things work at a lower level.

No attempt is made to be systematic; instead, the presentation attempts to follow a natural progression for a beginner. Part I begins with the basic idea of a web page, explaning URLs and HTML. It works through building a simple page, progressively introducing text styling, basic CSS, lists, links, and graphics and other media. This is amply illustrated with screenshots.

The "advanced" topics covered in part II include frames and tables, forms and basic CGI, javascript, more CSS, and weblogs, with server side includes and basic password authentication touched on. Part III covers some broader issues: usability, making search-engine-friendly pages, and page and style validation.

There are some obvious omissions. The mechanics of obtaining hosting and uploading pages aren't covered at all. And despite the "sites" in the title — upgrading the "pages" of Taylor's 1995 book — there's almost nothing on site design or navigation, only some brief advice on using subdirectories sensibly. XHTML is also touched on too slightly to warrant its inclusion in the title.

There are also some things I'd have done differently. Given that CSS is introduced almost immediately afterwards, I wouldn't have bothered explaining the deprecated FONT tag at all. I would also have omitted the (very package dependent) treatment of web logs, and might have skipped frames entirely.

But Creating Cool Web Sites isn't aimed at people like me. Technical users approaching HTML for the first time might be better off with a book like O'Reilly's Web Design, with more detail and fewer screenshots. For many of the users I support, however, Creating Cool Web Sites hits a sweet spot. It will be a useful addition to my "books for loan" shelf.

August 2004

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%T Creating Cool Web Sites with HTML, XHTML and CSS
%A Taylor, Dave
%I John Wiley
%D 2004
%O paperback, index
%G ISBN 0764557386
%P 405pp