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Stylin’ with CSS : a designer’s guide (3rd ed.)
Wyke-Smith C., New Riders Publishing, Thousand Oaks, CA, 2012. 320 pp.  Type: Book (978-0-321858-47-4)
Date Reviewed: Aug 8 2013

The standard for cascading style sheets (CSS) was developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to give both website developers and users more control over how pages are displayed. A web page is a document on the World Wide Web, and a style sheet is a file or form that defines the layout of the document. The term “cascading” refers to the fact that multiple style sheets can be applied to the same web page. Many features of the latest version, CSS3, have been incorporated into Hypertext Markup Language version 5 (HTML5), the W3C standard authoring language used to create documents on the web.

This book is a revision of the second edition published more than five years ago. The first chapter in that previous edition focused on Extensible HTML (XHTML), and has now been replaced by a chapter on HTML markup and document structure, featuring today’s HTML5 syntax. The remaining chapters from the previous edition have been revised and reordered under new titles, and all now feature CSS3 instead of CSS2 for compatibility with HTML5. One short chapter (less than 20 pages) has been added, providing a cursory treatment of the timely topic of responsive design, a new buzzword that refers to the practice of building a website that can work on every device and every screen size. The new chapter explains how to use CSS3 media queries to optimize a web page to display on progressively smaller devices.

The author claims that the book will help the reader understand some key techniques and best practices for a “grounding in the working of HTML and CSS.” The “essential techniques” and example-driven approach in the book are intended to enable the reader “to rapidly extend knowledge and skill” for working with the CSS language. In presenting those essential techniques, the author relies principally on the use of examples and hands-on illustrations. I think this claim is a stretch given that the author does not provide any argument or empirical evidence to back it up. The associated website provides access to all the code in the book examples.

I think this book would have been more effective if the author had provided precedence relationships among chapters and stated the learning objectives associated with possible reading plans. CSS learning objectives can span a wide range from fundamentals and core concepts to technical themes such as styling navigation, page layouts, styling forms, and so on. I think some chapters aim at detailed low-level objectives without a high-level thread to connect the various concepts. This leaves it up to the reader to discern the forest from the trees. Examples of those low-level objectives mentioned on the book’s back cover include: “Develop multicolumn, fixed-width, and fluid layouts” and “Discover how the positioning and floating properties really work!”

The author states the obvious when he writes that “CSS3 is so extensive that many features [didn’t receive] mention in the book.” It would have been more informative for the author to articulate his criteria for selecting and arranging the CSS topics that did make it into the book.

I think the book will be a disappointment for those hoping to get a quick overview of the CSS “big picture” and to acquire formal, high-level, or in-depth understanding of CSS core concepts as a basis for more self-directed learning. However, this book is likely to appeal to practitioners and web designers looking for a compendium of CSS examples and tips on how to perform particular CSS tasks.

More reviews about this item: Amazon

Reviewer:  Yousri El Fattah Review #: CR141442 (1310-0891)
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