It’s taken me years to get to the level of CSS developer I am now, and I’m by no means a master. (I am able to make just about any Photoshop design into a solid webdesign though…) Because it’s taken me so long, I was a bit skeptical about the subtitle of the book I’m now reviewing: Beginning CSS Web Development: From Novice to Professional.
After all, learning CSS can be quite difficult: there’s a lot to learn: how to use elements, which element does what, and how you should use these elements together to create a nice layout. Once you’ve mastered that, and get out in to the real world, you’ll find out that all you’ve learned, although useful, isn’t enough. You’ll need to know how to properly apply hacks, or, even better, know, how to circumvent the need for those. Conclusion: CSS web development isn’t easy, and probably won’t be for a few years to come… So, how could you become a professional by reading one book?
The answer is easy, I know now: Read Simon’s book. It could have easily taken 1.5 years off of my CSS learning curve, and even now taught me a few new things. It’s a nice read, Simon has a very good sense of humor and is very good at making even the hardest CSS problem easy to grasp. Above all, he inspires. He inspired me to start thinking of a new design for this site, and I hope he’ll inspire you too. So what are you still doing here? Go buy that book!
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What was the idea he inspired you with?
There is one thing that makes me wonder about any new CSS book coming out – will it be of any real use to me? I’ve learned one thing (the hard way) – all the knowledge about HTML and CSS you can get from books makes the design work really nicely in all modern browsers. Still, when it comes to the most popular browser you will have to learn it all by yourself.
After almost two years of developing standards based layouts I can produce code that is working straight away in FF, Opera, Safari. Still, once I open IE6 I can never be sure what the result will be.
Please tell me this – is this another book telling me how CSS should work or is it perhaps showing me how it really works today?
He tells you both, although he has more emphasis on how it should work, as that’s the way you should learn it. He does teach you a few hacks though, but nothing you wouldn’t be able to find on the web. If all you want to learn is how to code for IE as well, I’d suggest finding another book which is somewhat more high level.
I like the idea of “one” book, but I too, have suffered long and hard to realize there is a huge pile of “gotchas”, esp. for one browser that had a 5 year hiatus in development recently.
I would have liked to sample the first chapter or so on Amazon, but it wasn’t available… :-(
For me, if I was writing such a book, it would need to cover all the important bits, including how CSS integrates with every other aspect of the browser.
E.g. Day 1.
a.) Use a valid Doctype. You can argue till you are blue in the face as to why you may not want this, but your life will be 10x easier developing for Internet Explorer if you set this. (even a 4.01 transitional)
b.) Quirks vs. Strict Mode Rendering.
c.) IE7 broke as much as it fixed. Try printing in Quirks mode, you can’t! (refer to (a), yet another reason to set a doctype)
d.) Develop in a Mozilla Based Browser (e.g. Firefox). Not trying to be snotty, but again, professional developers choose Firefox for a reason, it will save you pulling out all your hair.
e.) Box Model. The good (W3C, Mozilla, Safari, Konq, Opera, & IE7 in Standards mode), the bad (any other IE version/mode), and the ugly (IE 5.x on the Mac)
f.) Develop to the Standards, add hacks as required for IE.
g.) Now, the reference… all selectors, properties, etc. with good notes on the things that work/fail in which browser. e.g. don’t bother trying to set the border color of a select list in IE. PNG is truly great, but only version 7 of IE supports transparency, the gamma in version 7 is wrong, and version 7 does not support alpha in PNG in favicons.
CSS: The Missing Manual by David Sawyer Farland is a great book too. I’d say it’s aimed at novice and intermediate CSS developers. It includes information on IE bugs/hacks as well as other useful information. It’s very well written and easy to understand.