Web Design in a Nutshell

"A Desktop Quick Reference"

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Title: Web Design in a Nutshell
Author: Jennifer Niederst http://www.littlechair.com
Publisher: O'Reilly & Associates, Inc. http://www.oreilly.com
Publication Date: 1999
Pages: 580
ISBN: 1-56592-515-7
Price: $24.95

Type of Book    
book coverWeb Design in a Nutshell is a quick reference to the nitty-gritty on everything you need to know to design Web pages. It focuses on the front-end aspects of Web design--HTML, authoring, graphics production, and media development. It is not a resource for programing, scripting, or server functions; yet the author does provide enough background information on these topics to give designers a level of familiarity with the terminology and technologies. The author, Jennifer Niederst, has a solid foundation in Web design. She designed O'Reilly's Global Network Navigator (GNN), and has been working exclusively on the Web since 1993, and has written an earlier Web book for O'Reilly: Designing for the Web. The book is part of O'Reilly's In a Nutshell series of books that focuses on giving you the useful information, without a lot of fluff, and organized so that what you need can be found quickly. Some of the other books in the series are: Internet in a Nutshell; Java in a Nutshell; ASP in a Nutshell; WebMaster in a Nutshell; Perl in a Nutshell; Photoshop in a Nutshell (see our review); AOL in a Nutshell; and AutoCAD2000 in a Nutshell (February). The O'Reilly Web site is well worth visiting. The site has a distinctive look, like its books, with images resembling various animals. http://www.oreilly.com
User Level    
Sophisticated Beginners, Intermediate and Advanced computer users. The book is appropriate for all levels of expertise--from beginners who may require full explanations of new concepts and individual tags, to professionals who need to look up a particular detail.

The book is divided into six parts, each covering a general subject area.

Part I: The Web Environment--Chapters 1 through 4 introduce some broad concepts about the way the Web works. It looks at how differing browser capabilities affect design decisions; discusses varying monitor resolutions and accessibility issues and their effects on the design process; introduces how the Web deals with color, graphics, and fonts; and provides a primer on basic server functions, UNIX commands, uploading files, and file types.

Part II: HTML--Chapters 5 through 13 focuses on HTML tags and their use. Most chapters begin with a listing of available tags with short descriptions, followed by more detailed explanations and practical advice for their use. It gives a detailed introduction to HTML syntax, including how to specify color and special characters; lists the tags used to establish an HTML document and structure its contents, including settings that control or pertain to the whole document; lists all tags related to the formatting of text elements in an HTML document; lists HTML tags related to linking one document to another, including imagemaps; discusses tags used for placing objects such as images, rules, or multimedia objects on a web page; provides everything you'd ever want to know about tables, including a list of table-related HTML tags, troubleshooting tips, and templates for popular table structures; covers the structure and creation of framed documents, including explanations of frame-related HTML tags, as well as tips and tricks; lists all tags related to form creation and provides an introduction to working with CGI scripts; and provides an overview of Server Side Includes, including their capabilities and listings of the available elements and variables.

Part III: Graphics--Chapters 14 through 17 provide background information on web graphics file formats as well as overviews of available tools and practical tips for graphic production and optimization. It describes the popular GIF format and provides tricks for working with transparency and minimizing file sizes; describes the JPEG format and provides tips on minimizing file sizes; introduces the new file format, PNG and discusses its strengths and limitations; and discusses the tools and techniques used in creating graphics with colors from the Web Palette.

Part IV: Multimedia and Interactivity--Chapters 18 through 22 focus on the animation, audio, and interactive capabilities of the Web. It looks at the creation and optimization of animated GIFs; provides an overview of nonstreaming and streaming audio file formats and video file formats for web delivery; looks at Macromedia's Flash and Director Shockwave formats as well as Java applets and interactive buttons created with JavaScript; and provides a general introduction to JavaScript as well as a number of templates for creating popular effects such as pop-up windows, browser-detection, and status-bar messages.

Part V: Emerging Technologies--Chapters 23 through 27 introduces new technologies that are destined to have an impact on the Web's future but are currently in varying stages of development and are not well supported by current browsers. It describes how to use Cascading Style Sheets to control presentation of HTML documents, including detailed explanations of available selectors, properties, and values. It also introduces CSS Level 2 features and provides tips for style sheet use. There is a basic overview of Dynamic HTML and related concepts, and this part briefly introduces XML and explains why it is significant, with a description of XML-based applications for multimedia and vector graphics. Two competing technologies, TrueDoc and OpenType for embedding fonts in web pages are introduced. And it looks at measures being taken by the World Wide Web Consortium to make the Web multilingual.

Appendixes--There are five appendixes:

  1. Appendix A: HTML Tags and Elements--Lists all HTML tags as listed in the HTML 4.0 Specification of April 1998.
  2. Appendix B: List of Attributes--Lists all attributes and their respective tags and values.
  3. Appendix C: Deprecated Tags--Lists all tags that have been "deprecated" (discouraged from use) by the HTML 4.0 Specification.
  4. Appendix D: Proprietary Tags--Lists tags that work only with Netscape Navigator or Internet Explorer.
  5. Appendix E: CSS Compatibility--Lists all CSS properties and the browsers that support them, including a handy "safe list."
Personal Comments    
Web Design in a Nutshell is an easy-to-read, comprehensive, and compact book that fits nicely on your desktop. It does a good job of explaining what good, adequate coding is and is not. There are enough examples to help novices, yet it is thorough enough for advanced professionals and has a perfect balance of detailed explanation and reference. This book is not a hand-holding, step-by-step tutorial, nor a simple Web book for dummies type. It is a reference book with lots of explanations.

Graphics: Adobe Illustrator & Adobe Photoshop
Web Page Editor: Macromedia Dreamweaver 2.0
Scanner: Hewlett Packard ScanJet 6250C Professional Series