Stylin’ with CSS: A designer’s guide (2nd Edition)

Author: Charles Wyke-Smith 
Publisher: New Riders, 2007
ISBN: 978-0321525567
Aimed at: Beginner/intermediate Web designers
Rating: 4
Pros: Good coverage of all things CSS
Cons: Pure CSS, with no coverage of how to integrate it with server-side techniques
Reviewed by: Dave Wheeler

My heart lies with code. I’ve always considered that trying to make Web pages look nice was an art best left to people with more tolerance of the arcane behaviours of browsers. And I still do. However, with this book Wyke-Smith has gone a long way towards convincing me that it is possible even for me to produce decent-looking sites.
I found his attitude to browsers refreshing. I had clearly mistakenly been attempting to make my pages look the same in all browsers: he argues that it doesn’t matter if the page doesn’t look perfect in non-standards compliant browsers, as long as it’s acceptable enough. On the other hand, though, he points out that making the pages accessible and semantically correct is vital. The author goes a long way to making sure that you know how to do that.
The book covers everything you’d expect, ranging from how to write (X)HTML that will work well with CSS through to how to then hack your nice CSS to make it work with IE6. It covers a lot of ground, to a good depth, providing useful tips and lots of links to sites where you can find helpful scripts or CSS samples. There were a number of revelatory moments in the book where I’d find myself thinking “So THAT’S how it works!” One thing that I did find somewhat annoying was the constant references to Wyke-Smith’s own “Stylib” CSS library. For example, there’s a neat chapter on how to build a menu using nothing but CSS, which then concluded with a recommendation that there was a better implementation that I could download instead. There will always be a tension between providing material that is understandable as opposed to optimal, but it left me feeling a little short-changed at times.
Pitched firmly at the Web Designer, there’s nothing in the book that shows how to integrate CSS with, for example, ASP.NET master pages or the CSS-friendly control adapters. Arguably that’s reasonable given the target audience, but CSS does not live in an island by itself: I felt that the book could have benefited from showing how to get the most out of CSS and a server-side technology. On the whole, though, if you’re looking for a book that’s purely about CSS and how it works then this is not a bad choice
<Reviewed in VSJ>

Last Updated ( Saturday, 10 January 2009 )