Thursday, November 25, 2010

Book Review: Head First HTML with CSS & XHTML

So, that first blog post was pretty emo...

It's been a while since that first post and things are mostly the same.  Things at work are going slightly better, but I still have a desire for something more.  I want something more independent and fun.  Something where I can travel more and spend less time stuck in a cubicle.

So almost a year after my initial post I'm doing something about it.  Realistically, I can't just start working as a web developer.  I don't have the full skill set.  My background is such that I should be able to come up to speed quickly.  I have a plan to read some books about HTML, CSS, Javascript, PHP, MySQL, etc.  Once I have a good knowledge base I'll work on a portfolio and make a business plan.

The first book I read was Head First HTML with CSS & XHTML.  I took a HTML class in high school and I'm surprised at how much I actually remember.  The book is different from other textbooks in that it is very readable.  It has a conversational tone that is very easy to follow.  The book is basically a continuous example that you're working through.  The combination of reading and doing really solidifies the knowledge.  I found that I was remembering concepts without any memorization effort.

The first six chapters were on basic HTML.  A lot of this was repeat for me, but the book was still entertaining.  Chapter 7 introduced XHTML.  I didn't have any experience with XHTML, but it turns out it's not really much different from HTML.  The transition was fairly easy.  From what I've read it sounds like XHTML wasn't really ever widely accepted.  It looks like people are holding out for HTML5, but that topic wasn't covered in the book because it was published before HTML5 was well known.  Chapters 8 through 12 cover CSS.  I had no prior knowledge of CSS.  When I took HTML class all styling was done through HTML.  CSS is a much better way to do it.  HTML covers the structure of the page and CSS takes care of the styling.  The same HTML page can be transformed with a different CSS stylesheet.  Chapters 13 and 14 cover tables and forms.  This is done through XHTML but can be styled using CSS.

This book was a perfect introduction to HTML and CSS.  I was able to get through the book in about 2.5 weeks but I think it could be done more quickly.  This isn't a book you can just read through.  You absolutely must do the examples to get the full learning experience.  I wish the book had more information about design principles and what colors and styling looks good together, but that wasn't really the intention of the book.

My next book to read is Don't Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, 2nd Edition.  Stay tuned for that review soon.

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