47 of 53 people found the following review helpful
on May 29, 2003
New Rider's slogan "Voices That Matter" is one that I generally take with a large pinch of salt. In Zeldman's case, that's true. If Tim Berners-Lee is the father of the internet, Zeldman and the team at the Web Standards Project are the net's midwives. The W3C wrote the standards (or recommendations as they apologetically and coyly them), whilst Zeldman and his gang set about the hard, political and (until now) thankless task of bullying (browser-beating?) Netscape and Microsoft to conform to the standards that they'd helped set. Having brokered the end of the Browser Wars, they turned their attentions to the WYSIWYG tools like Dreamweaver, GoLive and (ahem) FrontPage, actually advising Macromedia on how to make DMX conform to Web Standards.
And now, this time, it's personal. Zeldman and the WaSP warriors are coming for you.
"Though today's browsers support standards, tens of thousands of professional designers and developers continue to use outdated methods that yoke structure to presentation".
This book is part of the campaign to educate us, the Web Professionals. It's part polemic, and part tutorial. Polemic because so many of us are yet a-standard (or even anti-standards), and tutorial because there's so much talk of why standards that a lot of us are saying "We know they're important. We know it's evil and wrong to use tables, and we know every time we use a deprecated tag a fairy dies somewhere - but how do we sew the DOM, XHTML, CSS and Accessibility all together?"
This book tells you how, and - because Zeldman is a real-life designer, just like us, he isn't pontificating from an ivory tower. This reader has read enough standards-fascists shouting "Ignore the real world!" and wonders if those authors actually do the stuff they're frothing about. Zeldman tells us that "My bias [is] toward getting work done under present conditions - a bias I believe most of this book's readers share". (page 3).
Inevitably, there's a forest of three-letter acronyms, and a lot of frankly rather dull stuff to get through, but Zeldman is (to this reader) as much a writer as he is Standards Samurai. There's a lot of jokes in the book. This reader is the first to admit that Accessibility, CSS, XHTML isn't the most fertile ground for thigh-slappin' gags, but there's enough wry smiles and flashes of personality to keep you turning the pages.
That's enough of the tone; what's the structure? Well, the first half of the book is the polemic. If you aren't a standards convert, this will make you one. If you're already a convert, but your boss/ client isn't, strategically leaving this book on the corner of their desk could result in your professional relationship with that boss suddenly becoming a whole lot easier. Like many polemic computer books, though, there's the danger of the first half of the book preaching to the choir.
The second half of the book is where the meat is. We go step-by-step through hybrid XHTML layouts, DOCTYPEs Standards Mode, Typography and Accessibility, leaning by doing it. This is not theoretical. The only depressing chapter is the one titled, "Box models, bugs and Workarounds", on how to accommodate the nasty gremlins of today's browsers. Unlike legacy browser-sniffing that we used to do, however, the Workarounds here are not wasted effort. Standards-compliance is not perfect in today's technology, but it's not going away; the WaSP have generated an unstoppable momentum.
What's bad about the book? Very little, really. It was `fast-tracked' through production, so the occasional page has a slight layout weirdness. Like many recent New Riders books, there's a typographical prissiness (the numerals `2' and `7' in the body of the text are the worst offenders). These are tiny points, from a publishing pedant, that I've only really included because the rest of the review is so glowing!
396 of 496 people found the following review helpful
on October 10, 2005
I came upon this book via glowing reviews on amazon, citations on websites, and exalted praise from cutting-edge web developers. This was THE book to read if you want to build websites that didn't rely on spaghetti code and deeply nested tables, I was told.
I was greatly disappointed. While I appreciate the overall message of this book and some of the techniques are helpful, not only is it exasperating in its lack of information, but it actually commits the very sins that it relentlessly cites as the scourge of 99.9% of websites - redundancy, verbosity, and lack of clean, clear structure of what little information it imparts.
-REDUNDANCY AND VERBOSITY GALORE
The book really doesn't even get started until Chapter 6 on page 153 (and even that is being generous), after mind-numbing repetition in the form of exposition, bulleted lists, and executive summaries about why one should design and build websites using web standards. There's even a sentence on page 137 that proclaims, "Now let's stop exulting and get down to work." Well, guess what? It's just a tease - and there will be plenty more -- because the proselytizing never really stops.
When the author finally comes around to showing examples and their accompanying markup, it is sadly deficient. CSS that works with the markup is not even shown alongside it, although we are promised to be shown in another chapter. I learned very little about how to actually employ the techniques that Zeldman advocates so strenuously.
The meaningless subheads drove me nuts! Here's a taste: "CSS: The First Bag is Free; The F Word; How Suite it is; Not a Panacea, But Plays One on TV; Inherit the Wind; Miss Behavior to You." I know this might seem like a petty criticism, and maybe people are used to this style from the Dummies books, but 1. They're stupid 2. They impart absolutely no meaning, so if the book is used for a reference, they are less than helpful and 3. The subsections are constantly referred to in all of their absurd and useless glory. This constant reference to other sections by Chapter Number, Chapter Name, Subsection Name smacked of gratuitous page lengthening to me. (If you must refer, why not just use page numbers? Takes up about 1/10th of the space (LIKE GOOD WEB CODE), or better yet, use footnotes!)
Maybe I'm in the minority here, but I don't get this stuff. I bought a serious, technical book about the new age of coding websites. It cost $35 and at 415 pages, that's about 8.4 cents per page. I don't need breaks for mindless digressions about blueberry tofu pie, what title you were thinking of for chapter 6, or for that matter why you want to write in the first person plural. At times, Mr. Zeldman seems to almost flaunt it in our face that he's wasting our time, e.g., on pg. 214 (after a discussion of how this isn't a CSS manual, and how he's introducing us to the "thighs" and "drumsticks" of CSS), he writes: "On the other hand, how many full-blown CSS reference manuals use the word "thighs" three times in one paragraph? You're right none of them do. Your money was well spent on this book."
And when he does actually explain something, it's like being hit over the head with a jackhammer. It took more than half of page 159 to explain this XHTML rule: "write all tags in lowercase".
The book is also sprinkled with pointless putdowns like "none of this is rocket science" (pg. 164), but the most egregious teaching technique occurs on page 196, when, mind you, very little actual teaching has even taken place. The author gives an example of markup from the Microsoft homepage (eek!) of what he calls "toilet debris" code and then goes on to say:
"Because redundancy is as bad in books as it is in code, we'll avoid explaining what's wrong with this markup. If you don't know by now, one of us hasn't done our job."
Should the phrase "we'll avoid explaining" ever be part an educational text? With all due respect Mr.Zeldman, I think it's you who didn't do your job.
306 of 389 people found the following review helpful
on June 10, 2003
format: real-world, example-based;
audience: essential reading for ALL web profesionals;
humor: witty and wise as always;
timing: perfect - now is the time for standards and accessibility - zeldman explains why and how;
why: save money, time and do the right thing;
how: tons of techniques and proven tactics with real world examples;
bottom-line: actively using dwws as a tool to move my agency and my clients towards standard compliant practices;
24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on October 10, 2003
First of all, this is an excellent book. It is well thought out, well written and provides lots of great instruction and examples. Zeldman does a wonderful job making his case for Web standards and the evolution of the WWW. But that is also the biggest problem with this book. Zeldman makes his case - and it is a great one. I'm convinced. But then he makes it again. And again. AND AGAIN. We're fully 150 pages into the book before we actually start learing HOW to develop with standards. Now, I understand that a case needs to be made. I'm one of those "old school" designers that has been in this biz for years and years now. I'm a master of all those HTML tricks that are now taboo in StandardsLand. He was preaching right to me and I for one needed to be preached at. My methods are out of date, my skills need to be honed. No problem, happy to convert. I'm sold. So cut to the chase! Zeldman's passion is clear and his wit is sharp. It really is an excellent read. But I also think he doesn't trust his reader enough to understand his points quickly enough. The initial 150 pages could probably be boiled down to 50 or 75 with the same result, leaving more room for instruction and how-to. Still, highly recommended!
45 of 55 people found the following review helpful
on February 10, 2005
I learned HTML back in 1994. I barely updated my HTML skills until a couple years ago where I picked up very basic CSS but all my HTML was still table based, font tags, etc.. everything you could do that's bad according to XHTML. I decided that now is the time to update my skills. I hear from many people and reviews that this is -THE- book to buy to learn web standards. 150 pages into the book, he is STILL trying to sell me on the idea to use web standards! Jesus, I bought the book already! I bought this book expecting to learn the latest XHTML tags and some CSS. Instead it was a lot of hot air and wasted time. Sure I learned a bit, but I'm sure I would have gotten more out of some other book. After reading it, I don't feel much further ahead than I was before. Time to buy another book.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on May 11, 2006
While the book purports to give the reader information on implementing web standards, there actually isn't a lot of meaty code examples. The examples are too shallow with insufficent discussion. Mr. Zeldman, however, is very good at advocating why designers and businesses should support web standards. There is quite a bit of advocacy in this book. If you take out the code examples, it becomes a very good "high-level" web standards advocacy book for neophyte web designers, technical managers, and business clients to read. As the book is currently packaged, though, I feel the book does not do what it advertised.
If you're looking for meaty discussion of techniques for coding web standardized markup, you will definitely want "Web Standards Solutions: The Markup and Style Handbook" or "Bulletproof Web Design" by Dan Cederholm.
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on November 5, 2003
If you already believe that CSS/XHTML is the present and future of web page design, much of this book will be useless for you. Zeldman devotes a lot of ink to defining these technologies and convincing the reader that it is time to use them.
However, there are some good tips inside, and the writing style is easy to read (if often overly flip).
On the other hand, if you are still building HTML 3 or HTML 4 pages, or didn't know that HTML had version numbers, then this is the book for you!
47 of 59 people found the following review helpful
on January 31, 2005
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
So far I've read up to page 127 -- and I've still yet to glean even a single useful bit of information about CSS or web standards. Lots and lots and lots of case studies and explanation after explanation of how much better life is now that we can all use web standards. Okay, already -- I get it! That's why I bought the book in the first place. Now where's the expert advice on how best to do it?
I was getting annoyed after about 30 pages of blah blah blah. But after more than a hundred pages -- where is the content?
I think a more appropriate title for this book would be: "Well Over 100 Pages of Why I Think You Should Use CSS".
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on September 12, 2003
For the record, I seldom give any book 5 stars period. However, this book is very well organized, witty, and is simply a well written piece of work. Be warned, if you are looking for a dry boring tech book to get you to sleep, this book won't do it, because you'll be laughing from every page.
Jokes aside, underlying the creative and humorous words, there is a very serious message about how web standards saves time, money, energy, grief, and makes web sites more accessible to a bigger audience as well as those with impairments.
In this book, there are practical methodologies on how to migrate into web standards using many of the little know techniques like two style sheets (one for bad browsers, one for good browsers), how to trick IE5/6 into really doing correct CSS-P, and more fun stuff. Additionally, there are many examples and references to many other excellent resources out there on the net that can help you successfully use web standards in an inspiring non-constrictive way.
Admittingly though, there are a few subtle mistakes, and some of the latest and bleeding edge techniques aren't in the book, but these I discovered through the many good links Zeldman sprinkles throughout the book for us to explore.
In conclusion, this book is a must have, even if you aren't interested in web standards. It's a fun read.
20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on May 23, 2003
Jeffrey Zeldman, godfather (in the non-scary, non-bloodbath sense) of the web design industry, returns to the book-publishing fray with his latest tome, the extremely usable & well-written "Designing with Web Standards".
For quite a long time most web designers have treated standards compliance with the same respect as Microsoft enjoys on Slashdot. They are nagged by an annoying voice in the back of their heads that scream, "design for the future" - but drown it out with the client's cries of "design for the past" and their own misapprehension that "everything should be pixel-perfect in Netscape 4".
They hack, triple-test, pet every single line of carefully-crafted HTML, spend countless days ironing out every obscure browser bug known to man, and then pull their hair out in large knots when a new browser comes along & everything breaks.
If you are one of those people (I certainly used to be), perhaps it's time to stand back & realize the obvious: standards compliance is the only way of future-proofing your sites. It's the only way of making sure that what you build today won't break tomorrow.
And fortunately for you mr. Zeldman is here to take your hand, show you where you went wrong, and guide you gently into this brave new world.
It's foolish to claim that standards compliance can solve all the problems of web development - but it's equally foolish to continue living in the past when you have an excellent book like this that can make your professional life so much easier.