Designing with Web Standards

Designing with Web Standards

4.6 8
by Jefferey Zeldman

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You code. And code. And code. You build only to rebuild. You focus on making your site compatible with almost every browser or wireless device ever put out there. Then along comes a new device or a new browser, and you start all over again.

You can get off the merry-go-round.

It's time to stop living in the past and get away from the days of spaghetti


You code. And code. And code. You build only to rebuild. You focus on making your site compatible with almost every browser or wireless device ever put out there. Then along comes a new device or a new browser, and you start all over again.

You can get off the merry-go-round.

It's time to stop living in the past and get away from the days of spaghetti code, insanely nested table layouts, tags, and other redundancies that double and triple the bandwidth of even the simplest sites. Instead, it's time for forward compatibility.

Isn't it high time you started designing with web standards?

Standards aren't about leaving users behind or adhering to inflexible rules. Standards are about building sophisticated, beautiful sites that will work as well tomorrow as they do today. You can't afford to design tomorrow's sites with yesterday's piecemeal methods.

Jeffrey teaches you to:
  • Slash design, development, and quality assurance costs (or do great work in spite of constrained budgets)
  • Deliver superb design and sophisticated functionality without worrying about browser incompatibilities
  • Set up your site to work as well five years from now as it does today
  • Redesign in hours instead of days or weeks
  • Welcome new visitors and make your content more visible to search engines
  • Stay on the right side of accessibility laws and guidelines
  • Support wireless and PDA users without the hassle and expense of multiple versions
  • Improve user experience with faster load times and fewer compatibility headaches
  • Separate presentation from structure and behavior, facilitating advanced publishing workflows

Editorial Reviews
The Barnes & Noble Review
Once upon a time, only "idealists" believed in standards-based web design. You know the conventional wisdom: "Standards are great 'in theory.' But browser support is weak. If I write for IE, I only disenfranchise a 'few' visitors, and it's so much easier. Besides, standards are boring!"

In 2003, however, it's become obvious that the idealists had it right. The old ways of building sites are no longer viable. As Jeffrey Zeldman puts it: "We build only to rebuild.... Even on those rare occasions in which a new browser or device mercifully leaves our site unscathed, the so-called "backward-compatible" techniques we use to force our sites to look and behave the same way in all browsers take their toll in human and financial overhead....

Spaghetti code, deeply nested table layouts, font tags, and other redundancies double and triple the bandwidth required for our simplest sites. Our visitors [wait] endlessly for our pages to load. Or they tire of waiting and flee… We pay our hosting companies to keep up with the bandwidth our pages squander.... Our databases make more queries than they have to…. Meanwhile, the hourly rates of the programmers we pay to code our sites six different ways can drive development costs so high we simply run out of money."

Standards offer the way forward. CSS, DOM, XHTML/XML -- they really work now. If ESPN can serve 10 million viewers a day with nary a table, font tag, or line of browser detection code, so can you!

Designing with Web Standards is no airy treatise on how things ought to be. These are practical techniques by -- and for -- web professionals with real clients and payrolls. Yes, there are occasional compromises. Zeldman recognizes that standards support is a continuum, not an "all-or-nothing" proposition. Nevertheless, this book will help you get off the treadmill of web obsolescence.

Zeldman's a fan of XHTML 1.0 Transitional and offers a series of simple rules and easy guidelines for moving to it. (Lots of the "scut work" can be done automatically by the marvelous open source tool HTML Tidy.)

More important than the mechanics, Zeldman shows how to start thinking of markup in terms of sense and structure, not style. He introduces a "hybrid" approach that streamlines your table layouts without entirely abandoning them, and a "two-sheet" method for handling those awful legacy browsers.

Fine, you're thinking, but I need design effects that support the brand and just plain look great. Can I do all that without GIF text, JavaScript rollovers, spacer pixel GIFs, deeply nested tables (or, for that matter, Flash)? Yes, you can -- as Zeldman proves with a detailed case study.

He then covers the remaining complexities, issues, and workarounds that go with standards compliance: DOCTYPE switching, box models, IE/Windows whitespace and "float" bugs, embedding multimedia without non-compliant tags; and typography. In a chapter on the relationship of accessibility to standards, Zeldman explodes more than a few myths. Finally, he walks through a complete CSS redesign, from goal-setting through navigation.

It's time you took these ideas to heart. Bill Camarda

Bill Camarda is a consultant, writer, and web/multimedia content developer. His 15 books include Special Edition Using Word 2000 and Upgrading & Fixing Networks for Dummies, Second Edition.

Product Details

New Riders
Publication date:
Voices That Matter Series
Edition description:
Older Edition
Product dimensions:
6.92(w) x 8.88(h) x 0.73(d)

Meet the Author

Jeffrey Zeldman¿s personal web site ( has welcomed more than 16 million visitors and is read daily by thousands in the web design and development industry. In 1998, Zeldman co-founded The Web Standards Project (, a grassroots coalition of web designers and developers that helped end the Browser Wars by persuading Microsoft and Netscape to support the same technologies in their browsers.

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Designing with Web Standards 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book (one of the two Holy Grail of coding books) tells the story of print, internet, web, ebook, mobile, app, tablet, html, css, html5 development and progress. It explains, in lay terms, how we got where we are in web design and where we are going. More importantly though, the book explains how to use clean code in your file creation so your work can move forward across mediums, platforms, and different operating systems. Not an expert in code, but involved in graphics for almost 30 years, I needed to read this. This book makes great sense. A MUST for web developers, designers, and artists.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This book will change your philosophy about designing web pages. There is a bit of how-to in there but it is more about the why. Parts will make you laugh but most of it makes you think.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book is well written, easy to follow and a wealth of information. It clearly outlines browser histories and why things broke or are broken, core standards & technologies, and why these things are important - not just to site owners, developers, managers or educators - but to end users too! The book sets the ground work for better site design and management and improved user experiences which is a good thing no matter how you slice it. While it's geared to towards web designers and site owners/managers - end users will benefit from understanding just what is going on behind the scenes at a conceptual level which is explained clearly in the book. Sure - end users will want to ignore the bits on how things are coded - but if a user understands just what's going on there's no way they'd settle for poorly designed web sites nor would they be using obsolete browsers once they realize what's at stake. My copy is full of highlighting and about 40 book darts to must have tidbits of information. To Jeffrey Zeldman (and his cast of editors) - well done!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Designing with Web Standards is the bomb, all right - just what you'd expect from Zeldman. It addresses all of the issues that have plagued us at one time or another and then gives us options for dealing with them. It's the nuts and bolts and the how-to manual for creating timeless code.