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Book Review: Designing With Web Standards (Author: Jeffery Zeldman)
June 3rd, 2003 by George of Dynamic Drive

Fundamental changes are gradually sipping into the WWW like water into caves, and it has left countless weekend-webmasters and even seasoned professionals feeling uneasy as they determine just what the resulting icicles that occupy more and more sites on the web are and imply. The nature of the leakage itself is easy to explain- HTML is slowly being transformed and even ousted in favor of XHTML and XML to make the web more structured and accessible. What all that means to you as a webmaster is anything but simple to educate and convey. We review one high-profile book, just released "Designing With Web Standards (May 2003)" to see if it gets the job done in explaining the later.

"Designing With Web Standards" is authored by Jeffery Zeldman, a well known web designer and proponent of web standards. The book can be thought of as a culmination of his experience and knowledge transforming existing sites to becoming more standards compliant, and the benefits doing so brings. The book is roughly 430 in pages, and comprises of the following 16 chapters:

  1. 99% of Websites are obsolete
  2. Designing and Building with Standards
  3. The trouble with Standards
  4. XML Conquers the World
  5. Modern Markup
  6. XHTML: Restructuring the web
  7. Tighter, Firmer Pages Guaranteed: Strict and Hybrid Markup
  8. XHTML by Example: A Hybrid Layout (Part I)
  9. CSS Basics
  10. CSS in Action: A Hybrid Layout (Part II)
  11. Working with Browsers Part I: DOCTYPE Switching and Standards Mode
  12. Working with Browsers Part II: Box Models, Bugs, and Workarounds
  13. Working with Browsers Part III: Typography
  14. Accessibility Basics
  15. Working with DOM-Based Scripts
  16. A CSS Redesign

One of the most memorable chapters, the first one "99% of Websites are obsolete" hits you like a ton of bricks, demonstrating how antiquated and "bloated" the majority of web sites, even prominent sites like Yahoo.com have become thanks to the HTML language and the horrendous abuse of it, and how web standards can help change all that. Now, it is as this point that a book on web standards can easily go horribly wrong, dabbling exclusively on promised technologies that if used today would make your web site appear as if it's just been run over by a Mac truck. Luckily Zeldman understands the need to be fully grounded in reality when proposing and explaining web standard techniques if they're ever to be adopted mainstream, and most of what's offered in the book can be applied directly to today's web sites for the better. There are detailed discussions on migrating from messy HTML to XHTML, trusting CSS for the bulk (but not all) of a site's visual presentation, the various DOCTYPEs to consider when authoring a webpage, bugs and workarounds in CSS, typography, web accessibility and more.

"Designing with Web Standards" is overall a great book, and at the very least does probably what it sets out to do- alleviate your fear of web standards and implants in your brain the need to take such things into consideration the next time you create a web site. Like web standards itself the book is still striving towards perfection- some concepts seemed to have been discussed repetitiously throughout the book, and more technical discussions on topics such as advanced CSS would have been appreciated- but all in all, a well done book that's more than the sum of its parts- it spawns a new way of thinking for the reader.

Product information (Amazon.com): Designing With Web Standards (Jeffery Zeldman)

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