Web Standards Solutions. The Markup and Style Handbook, Dan Cederholm

It may sound like a bold claim, but in a small way this book changed my life for the better. Over the last year or so I’ve been trying to implement as much standardised CSS and XHTML code into my web development work as possible. This has been an enjoyable and enlightening experience that has been complemented by a gradual move to PHP / MySQL for my personal stuff. In the early days of the web it was like everyone was building their own car for the very first time, now people like me are waking up to standards compliant code as if we would the idea of tuning up the carburettor to make the machine cleaner and more efficient.

In Web Standards Solutions Dan Cederholm succeeds in bringing a sense of order to some of the paths towards standards compliant and lighter code that have been well documented over the past year or so. The book is broken down into 16 easily digestible chapters that each focus on a different aspect of design, there are workable approaches to each solution that are appraised and documented for their individual merits.

Personally I like the way that the chapters remain autonomous, many markup / scripting / code related books tend to revolve around a large project so you can’t turn to the bits you want to without having to relate back to the start. In that respect the examples can seem very simplistic, but that is where the power lies. Chapter 2 for instance, I’ve always used headings (h1, h2…) but have never really had their importance laid bare in a simple manner – now it all makes sense and I can implement accordingly. The same goes for lists, “Evil” tables and other elements.

Essentially what we’re dealing with here is a book that champions the merits of CSS, it does this by not trying to achieve to much and by leaving the real work to the reader, which I think is clever. It also demonstrates that there’s still life left in the book for this sort of thing, whilst all this information is available online this is a neat package that has a beginning and an end. And most importantly, you can put a bookmark in and read it on the train.

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