Teach Yourself HTML and CSS in 24 Hours

Author: Julie C. Meloni & Michael Morrison
Publisher: Sams, 8th Edition, 2009
Pages: 456
ISBN: 978-0672330971
Aimed at: Web designers who want to get involved in HTML/CSS
Rating: 4.5
Pros: Clear presentation of web basics
Cons: Often strays off topic
Reviewed by: Ian Elliot

If you need a clear presentation of HTML/CSS this is a good place to start but do you really need one?

This is a book about HTML, including HTML 5, and CSS and a whole lot more. If you are a web designer then you might think that knowing both of these topics in exquisite detail is exactly what you need to get ahead - and it might be. 

You could describe the approach as "hand coding HTML and CSS" which is of course not what everyone does. Most designers use some sort of tool to generate HTML and CSS rather than starting from scratch. Even so you do occasionally have to hand edit some HTML or tweak a cascading style sheet but this is much more difficult than generating the code from scratch. You have to fathom your way through the way that editor generates code.

Having said all of this it is still nice to know how everything works but once you start to delve into the technologies it is difficult to know where to stop. What modern HTML/CSS page can do without Javascript? And if you are planning to create forms by hand then presumably you are going to code the server side using PHP or something similar. If you are up to speed with Javascript and PHP then you probably don't need this sort of very detailed approach.

The book is printed in colour with clear layout and clear explanations. Sometimes the topic is just too technical to expect a complete coverage in an beginners/intermediate book but this can be forgiven. It starts from the very beginnings with the history of the web and how to setup a website using FTP etc. From here it moves to building your first web page and through the basics of fonts, margins, text, lists and tables. When it reaches tables it touches on the idea that CSS is a better option for multicolumn layouts but doesn't explain how to do it.

When it reaches images it spends a lot of time explaining how to manage JPEG and images in general before getting on to using images in HTML. The same is true for its coverage of multimedia - it provides information around the subject and not just the HTML/CSS aspects. Finally we reach some more advanced CSS material with a consideration of layout and the box model.

At hour 18 the book seems to go off into a range of diverse topics that are more "peripheral" than core HTML/CSS. We have creating mouse rollovers, handling forms, dealing with search engines and a brief introduction to dynamic websites. The most important section deals with fixed versus flowing page layout but it is much too short to do more than raise the issue without providing the solutions.

Overall this book is more an introduction to the basics of creating a web site but without using any tools and sticking only to fairly basic HTML and CSS. If this is what you are looking for then it is a good steady-paced introduction that wont confuse you. What it isn't  is a cookbook of methods that shows you how to do larger things like construct a multicolumn layout or anything even slightly creative.

As long as you want a beginner's introduction to how web pages work this is a good choice.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 10 February 2010 )