Web Standards Solutions: The Markup and Style Handbook by Dan Cederholm

May 18, 2005

The title of this book is particularly apt because solutions for designing with web standards is exactly what it's about. Beyond that, the book is difficult to define. It's not a sermon on web standards, although almost every example shows the benefits of doing so. On the other hand, it's not just a manual on CSS, although Cederholm shows how to markup and style everything from lists to forms to layouts.

If pressed, I'd have to say it was most like a conversation--albeit, a conversation with a really funny, bright designer who happens to be an expert on web standards and CSS and who doesn't mind sharing his own personal store of tricks and methods.

Cederholm is an engaging writer, which makes his book easy to read. His web log, SimpleBits, is equally palatable. One of the better design blogs, I frequently find myself rooting around in the archives. But what really makes this book so outstanding is that Cederholm not only shows readers (for example) how to style headers with CSS, he also explains why you would want to. He doesn't just tell you (for instance) why minimizing markup is good, he shows you exactly how to go about it. You could call this taking the practical approach. I call it having respect for one's readers. And it's a very appealing quality.

However easy this book is to digest, Web Standards Solutions is not a beginner's book. I don't think I would have gotten as much out of it if I hadn't wrangled with a little CSS first. But once you have a basic understanding of CSS, you'll find this book extremely helpful. In just a few weeks of owning it, my cover is bent, the spine is cracked at the chapter on forms and again at the discussion of lists, and the chapter on minimizing markup looks somewhat worse for wear. Ah, yes. The signs of a good book and money well spent.

If you're a beginner, too, I highly recommend Web Standards Solutions as your second or third book on CSS. I'm willing to bet your copy will look just as beat up as mine in just as short a time.