Recently released was a book by Dan Cederholm called Web Standards Solutions, The Markup and Style Handbook. This is the follow-up to an earlier version of the book. This brings up two questions.
1. Do you need this book if you have neither version?
2. If you do have the first version is it worth purchasing the new version?
Keep reading to find out.
I purchased the second version of the book because the first version was a great book full of some useful techniques for any webdesigner that cares about good CSS and XHTML. After flipping through the new book, it looked an awful lot like the original, so I dug in deeper.
The book covers some things that are important to writing semantic XHTML. Such as using unordered lists to create a navigation.
I use unordered lists for all my navigations, as a lot of webdesigners do. You can take off the bullets, make it inline, add background images, rollovers, etc. Good stuff. Pretty basic IMO, but if you don’t know these techniques, this book covers it in depth.
Styling tables is covered. Yes, tables are horrible, but for tabular data they are still acceptable to use. And if styled nicely, they can be visually appealing. You can have the <tr> turn a different shade or color on rollover, which makes it easier to keep track of where you are reading on the page.
One of my favorite techniques Dan goes over is styling a blockquote. He has a technique that gives a rounded box with a large quote image in the background; one for the opening quote, and one for the closing quote. The tricky part here is making it expand, so no matter how long your quote is the box will stretch and the closing quote will be on the bottom right. Worth a bookmark for sure.
Next up is styling forms. I actually learned a lot of what I know about styling forms from the first version of this book. Styling the <fieldset> gives a nice clean look to the form. Best yet, you get to write hacks for IE!
Next up in the book is one of the topics new to this version 2 of the book. Microfomats! Now you may not know what these are, a lot of people probably don’t. I read about these a while back, and still haven’t used them. It makes sense though, and will hopefully catch on and be used in the future, so it’s great that Dan covered it here. Here is an example of what Microformats are. Say you have a website with a contact page. You can add what’s called a hCard to the page. This hCard contains all your contact information, allowing users to click on it and add it to their computers address book. Other software and web applications can scrape your website and extract this information from the hCard. The same goes for events, dates, etc. Microformats only make sense, so I’m sure in the future they will be huge.
Next up is styling <dl> and <dt> lists. This is something I personally need to use more often, I always use the unordered lists, when sometimes these other two options would be the better choice. Bookmarked!
There is a nice technique for a CSS style switcher. I actually just showed a way of adding a style switcher that works by itself, depending on the hour of the day. That post is right here. This is a manual technique. I’ve used this technique in the past, and will cover it in a post in the near future.
Other topics include image replacement, using reset styles for your CSS, and CSS Sprites. Using print styles is covered, another topic I need to come back to as I don’t take advantage of these enough.
So to wrap up my review of this book I must answer the questions I asked. Do you need this book if you don’t have either? Yes, go and buy it immediately. I don’t care if you’re an expert or a beginner. If you’re a beginner you need to learn the basics covered in this book, and then move on to the more advanced topics also covered. If you’re an expert than you already know who Dan Cederholm is, and that’s reason enough to buy the book.
What if you already have the first book.. is there enough new content in this book to rationalize buying the new version? Nope. You’re going to find yourself flipping through the pages looking for the new content. If you’re like me, you have a stack of books you’re trying to get through so having duplicate content is useless. The good news is you can give Dan your money in another way! May I recommend his new book, Handcrafted CSS. A great read, which I will review soon.
So there you have it, I hope I helped some people with their decision making.