Author: Laura Lemay & Rafe Colburn
Publisher: Sams, 6th Edition, 2010
Aimed at: Complete beginner
Pros: Well-written and gently paced
Cons: Tendency to cover too much
Reviewed by: David Conrad
Part II gets on with explaining the basic ideas of HTML/CSS and does manage to get across the idea that HTML is about markup and not layout and CSS is about layout and not markup. At the end of this section you should have mastered the basics of how HTML and CSS work together up to being able to create a basic page with links and lists.
To move on to something more sophisticated you need the contents of the next part - Doing more with HTML and CSS. This covers topics like tables, working with images, designing forms and so on. The last part deals with some of the trickiest tasks in HTML layout - columns created using float. It all goes to raise the question of why HTML and not even HTML5 has an easy way of creating a multi-column layout.
Part V is about best practices - writing good pages, dos and don'ts - all very handy and interesting. Part VI goes into the server side with a quick look at PHP and details of how to get on line.
It also looks at content management systems and publishing platforms in general. Here right at the end of the book you are confronted by the idea that if you need a book deals with HTML in these most basic terms then you might be better of using a higher level approach and ignoring HTML etc. In fact, unless you need to create a website that has absolutely unique features and facilities then you probably should be using some sort of CMS or publishing system - a wiki, a blog, a store application etc. And if you do need something special you need a programmer or you need to become a programmer. Finally there is also the whole issue of using WYSIWYG editors - another fine way to avoid having to work with HTML and CSS directly. Admittedly it is always a good idea to know enough HTML etc to be able to step in and manually edit what an editor has produced but raw HTML is rarely the best way to approach building a website.
So what is the verdict?
There isn't much wrong with this book if you want to learn HTML and CSS. It is well written, slowly paced enough for the complete beginner and comprehensive.
So if you really must learn HTML and CSS from the absolute beginning then by all means by a copy of this book. On the other hand you would almost certainly be better off learning about Drupal, Joomla or Wordpress.