The Web’s grown up. So has its browsers, which increasingly sport version numbers like 6 and 7. So have its users, who will no longer settle for lousy navigation, cruddy layouts, or pages that just don’t look right.
So do your HTML right. Learn what works in today’s more mature browsers (CSS, especially, comes to mind) -- and take full advantage of it. Rely on your spiffy web layout software, sure, but never blindly. Get yourself some help.
Get yourself HTML for the World Wide Web with XHTML and CSS Visual QuickStart Guide. It’s the easiest HTML book we’ve seen that still manages to be comprehensive, and to stay firmly grounded in the reality of today’s demanding users and complex browsers. (Check out the price: it’s also one heck of a value.)
The book’s intelligence, clarity, and friendliness can be traced to its author, Elizabeth Castro. (If, as we expect, you like her style, you can stretch your skills later with her Visual QuickStart Guides on Perl and CGI, and on XML).
The book’s careful task-based organization, step-by-step instructions, clean design, and zillions of tips and screen captures are, of course, common to all Peachpit’s Visual QuickStart Guides. (By now you probably know how easy these books are to learn from; if you don’t, you’re missing a good bet.)
Virtually every page or two in this book introduces a new task. And virtually every task includes both sample HTML code and an illustration of what that code will look like in a contemporary browser -- a great starting point for experimentation.
As Castro observes, no matter how complex web pages get, a remarkably simple structure still lies underneath: text content, references, markup, and (optionally) information about encoding and the version of markup being used (known in W3C lingo as the “doctype”). Castro discusses each in turn -- and the relationships among them.
Along the way, she makes sense of stuff that can easily trip up beginners: whether to create symbols and foreign language characters with old-fashioned special character references or with Unicode; why all your filenames should be lowercase; and what you need to know first about the differences between HTML 4 and XHTML (they both use precisely the same elements, attributes, and values, but “HTML [is] a laid-back don’t-sweat-the-details kind of person. Perhaps not quite as hard-working as XHTML, but much happier and at ease with herself. XHTML, on the other hand is downright uptight. Always vigilant, never taking a rest. Sure, she gets more done, but what a price!”
Speaking of XHTML, this book covers XHTML extensively. The previous edition, now more than three years old, was published way too long ago for that.
Also for the first time, this book contains extensive coverage of CSS. If you’re still not using CSS1, you probably ought to be for most sites and applications. Castro recommends relying on it not only for formatting fonts and size but also for laying out your page’s elements. Implement your site with a separate CSS file containing layout instructions, and it’s easy to apply consistent changes site-wide. Try that with tables. Bonus: Your viewers get smaller, faster-loading pages.
Yes, we know… “Netscape 4.” Well, according to Statmarket, all the Netscapes together are now down to 3.4 percent of the market -- and much of that is the CSS-compliant Netscape 6 and 7. More to the point, Castro offers a full chapter of strategies for accommodating old and buggy browsers while still gaining the benefits of CSS. (She also presents sample pages that work great in current browsers and degrade gracefully in ancient ones.)
Everything you need to learn (or remind yourself) about is covered here. Web images (making them float, stopping them from wrapping, aligning them, adding space around them). Links (targeting them to specific windows, creating keyboard shortcuts for links, working with image maps). Lists. Tables. Frames. Forms. Embedding multimedia and scripts. Testing and debugging. Password protected pages. Souped-up Mailto: links. Drop caps. Automatic slide shows. We’re out of space, and she’s only getting started. 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.