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ForewordForeword by Martin Fowler
In just over a decade the Web has gone from a technology with promise to major part of the world's infrastructure. It's been a fascinating time, and many useful resources have been built in the process. But, as with any technology, we've learned as we go how best to use it and the technology itself has matured to help us use it better.
However complex a web application, it finally hits the glass in the form of HTML—the universal web page description language. HTML is a computer language, albeit a very limited and specialized one. As such, if you want a system that you can evolve easily over time, you need to pay attention to writing HTML that is clear and understandable. But just like any computer language, or indeed any writing at all, it's hard to get it right first time. Clear code comes from writing and rewriting with a determination to create something that is easy to follow.
Rewriting code carries a risk of introducing bugs. Several years ago, I wrote about a technique called refactoring, which is a disciplined way of rewriting code that can greatly reduce the chances of introducing bugs while reworking software. Refactoring has made a big impact on regular software languages. Many programmers use it as part of their daily work to help them keep code clear and enhance their future productivity. Tools have sprung up to automate refactoring tasks, to further improve the workflow.
Just as refactoring can make a big improvement to regular programming, the same basic idea can work with HTML. The refactoring steps are different, but the underlying philosophy is the same. By learning how torefactor your HTML, you can keep your HTML clean and easy to change into the future, allowing you to make the inevitable changes more quickly. These techniques can also allow you to bring web sites into line with the improvements in web technologies, specifically allowing you to move toward supporting XHTML and CSS.
Elliotte Rusty Harold has long had a permanent place on my bookshelf for his work on XML technologies and open source software for XML processing. I've always respected him as a fine programmer and writer. With this book he brings the benefits of refactoring into the HTML world.
—Martin FowlerForeword by Bob DuCharme
A key to the success of the World Wide Web has always been the ease with which just about anyone can create a web page and put it where everyone can see it. As people create sets of interlinked pages, their web sites become more useful to a wider audience, and stories of web millionaires inspire these web developers to plan greater things.
Many find, though, that as their web sites get larger, they have growing pains. Revised links lead to nowhere, pages look different in different browsers, and it becomes more difficult to keep track of what's where, especially when trying to apply changes consistently throughout the site. This is when many who built their own web site call in professional help, but now with Refactoring HTML, you can become that professional. And, if you're already a web pro, you can become a better one.
There are many beginner-level introductions to web technologies, but this book is the first to tie together intermediate-level discussions of all the key technologies for creating professional, maintainable, accessible web sites. You may already be an expert in one or two of the topics covered by this book, but few people know all of them as well as Elliotte, and he's very good at explaining them. (I know XML pretty well, but this book has shown me that some simple changes to my CSS habits will benefit all of the web pages I've created.)
For each recommendation in the book, Elliotte lays out the motivation for why it's a good idea, the potential trade-offs for following the recommendation, and the mechanics of implementing it, giving you a full perspective on the how and why of each tip. For detecting problems, I'll stop short of comparing his use of smell imagery with Proust's, but it's pretty evocative nevertheless.
I've read several of Elliotte's books, but not all of them. When I heard that Refactoring HTML was on the way, I knew right away that I'd want to read it, and I was glad to get an advanced look. I learned a lot, and I know that you will, too.
Solutions Architect, Innodata Isogen
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Posted May 12, 2008