Passionate Development From Journeyman to Master

Designing with web standards

I have just finished reading designing with web standards by jeffrey zeldman.

I got the book from my local library. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw this book on the shelf as the IT section of my library is not known for its currentness.

It was an interesting read, if you deal with HTML and CSS in some ways you would get something out from this book. The book starts very slowly with the history of web standards and I almost gave up after the first few chapters, I guess if you are really pragmatic, not really care about the history and you do not need to be convinced about adhering to the web standards then you can safely skip the first four chapters.

Below are some of the interested points that I learned from the book:

  • I finally got the distinctions between HTML 4.0, XHTML 1.0 Transitional and XHTML 1.0 Strict.
  • Layout using table is NOT evil. I know it may come as a shock for CSS purists, I was shocked myself to read this from a CSS guru. What he's trying to say is: table might still be used for layout for the sake of backward compatibility as CSS isn't well supported on the older browsers, the best approach is to have a hybrid layout combining both tables and CSS to avoid nested tables.
  • Accessibility is something that I never would have thought of when doing my HTML and CSS. But it's apparently not that hard to create more accessable sites, chapter 14 has thorough guidelines on how to do so.
  • I was being reminded of the importance of semantic markup. H1 means something, semantically it means this is important content not merely saying this font is big. So H1 should contain more important information than H2 and it's not merely saying H1 has larger font than H2
  • After 2 years working with designers, I now know why they talk font size to me in points not pixels! It's the designers' lingo apparently, it's good to find out how points related to pixels. Also some other size related issues like: is it better to use em or px?

Overall it’s a good book to read, but not the book that I would buy and have it on my shelf. I found the book spent a lot of content on the history. In some occasions the author presented different approaches to design problem but he dwells on the individual approaches quite deeply and in the end I didn’t feel his strong recommendation on one or some of the approaches. I personally would like just to be told: “always use pixels for your font size” rather than reading 10 pages going back on forth about points, pixels, percentages and ems.

I still think this a book worth reading, it will make you better web designers and web developers. Now, for my next CSS reading material I am interested in reading Bulletproof Web Design.