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Resources - Book Reviews

Web Design in a Nutshell

Review by Susan Plaumann

Web Design in a Nutshell, 2nd Edition

Author(s): Jennifer Niederst
Publisher and date of publication: O'Reilly, 2001

Audience: Beginner and Intermediate

Recommendation: 10
(on a scale of 1 to 10)


"Web Design in a Nutshell" comes with the subtitle "A Desktop Quick Reference". The book is a reference in the best and truest sense of the word.

Jennifer Niederst has packed a plethora of information into five main chapters spanning almost everything related to Web page design. The book is structured into these topics: The Web Environment, Authoring, Graphics, Multimedia and Interactivity and Advanced Technologies. In addition to the extensive table of contents the preface consists of brief topic summaries, making it easy to find the information you need even if you're unfamiliar with the subject.

The topic "The Web Environment" sums up a lot of practical information to take care of when planning to set up a Web site. Even a seasoned Web developer will find something new in here, for example screenshots of different browser canvases. Be it color issues, differences between print and Web or Web standards, Jennifer Niederst has it all covered. She didn't even forget accessibility issues.

"Authoring" is the most extensive part of the book, going into detail for almost everything HTML (HyperText Markup Language) and briefly touching the subjects CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) and SSI (Server Side Includes). About 200 pages are dedicated to HTML elements and their attributes. Lots of screenshots and illustrations help even the most inexperienced beginner to easily troubleshoot whatever problem she might come across. The online sample chapter "Tables" is a very good example of how much work has gone into this book. The CSS section is much shorter, just 40 pages, but detailed enough to get started with what the CSS1 standard proposes.

For everyone interested in design issues, the parts "Graphics" and "Multimedia and Interactivity" offer information about graphic, audio and video formats as well as Flash and how to implement them in Web applications. Additional pages dedicated to Web color palette issues complete the offering and don't leave any questions unanswered.

The last part, "Advanced Technologies", briefly introduces JavaScript and DHTML (Dynamic HTML) and touches upon the subjects XML (Extensible Markup Language), XHTML (Extensible HTML) and WAP/WML (Wireless Application Protocol/Wireless Markup Language). While the part about WAP enables the reader to set up WML pages without having to check anywhere else, I would recommended to check more thorough sources for JavaScript and DHTML before implementing more difficult scripts than image rollovers.


The book is up to date not only on the newest client-side Web techniques but also on related developments currently being discussed within Web professional communities. If you're new to the topics, this is one of the best sources to quickly catch up. The professional illustrations make even difficult issues easy to understand, and the appendices give you a brief overview of everything you'll find explained in the book.


In the next edition I would like to see CSS1 and CSS2 covered as extensively as HTML, especially as these techniques become more essential to professional Web designers. It would also be wonderful to have a digital CD version included in the book.


"Web Design in a Nutshell" is an invaluable resource and a must-have textbook for everyone starting Web design. It will serve as the main source for my upcoming classes for Internet beginners.


Copyright 2002, Susan Plaumann, All Rights Reserved

Photo of Susan

Susan Plaumann is currently working as an Assistant Director to the CEO at Pixelpark AG, Berlin, Germany, being responsible for Human Resources and Facility Management as well as overseeing long-term vocational training. Before this she worked many years as an IT project manager, technical writer and trainer. Susan has a background in Business Administration as well as extensive experience in teaching, supporting and writing for computer users, the last ten years of which have almost exclusively been on web-related topics.




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