Learning Web Design by Jennifer Niederst Robbins
It’s a curious aspect of creating sites for the World Wide Web that its not always clear what the titles of the people who perform the functions necessary to do this should be. When I think of design, I think of determining what a site should look like. Robbins thinks that web design is about coding the documents that will ultimately be displayed in a browser window. That’s what this book is about, and I’ll use her definition in the future.
Web sites are prepared by creating a document in a form that web browsers can translate into something that can be presented on a monitor screen using a special set of symbols called Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML). “Learning Web Design” teaches the reader how to use this language to develop a site.
The book introduces broad concepts and then shows the specific language necessary to create content, neatly organized into chapters that deal with text, links, images, tables, and forms. Next the author discusses the use of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), which is the current method of giving form to the content that allows smaller, quicker loading, and easier-to-change documents. Each chapter presents the basic concepts, walks the reader through exercises that apply the concepts, and then presents a review and test to make sure the reader grasps the chapter. Documents to work on are easily downloaded from a dedicated web site. While the lessons provide the basic information necessary to create a web site, Robbins generously sprinkles the chapters with references to web sites that examine more complex issues for those interested in learning more or developing special applications.
This book teaches web design in as simple and clear a manner as is possible for this topic, and no one interested in learning how to create a web site from scratch will be disappointed.
The real question is why one might want to learn to create a web site from scratch? Today many web-hosting providers make an on-line tool available that lets people create a basic site. If all you want to do is create such a site, you don’t need to know HTML. However, if you want to provide something more complex, you can create a site by writing the language yourself.
At the other end of the scale, if you expect to create many sites, you may find it more expedient (but also more expensive) to use software like Dreamweaver. However, while Dreamweaver doesn’t require you to know HTML, it may be easier to use if you understand what’s going on “under the hood.” And even with Dreamweaver, occasionally things get so complex that the quickest solution to a web design problem may be writing in HTML.
Some experienced web design people say that once you have learned HTML it’s quicker and easier to write it directly. (Occasionally, I think this point of view may be just showing off, but mostly I believe it.)
There are also some people (like myself) who learned HTML several years ago and have not kept up with changes. In recent years eXtensable HTML (XHTML) (a more precise mark-up language) and CSS have come onto the scene that newer browsers can use to present more effective websites. This book is an excellent way to update one’s knowledge.
If you find that you need to learn HTML, or XHTML, or CSS, I can’t imagine a clearer text than this book.