If you have a reasonably intelligent friend who is not a programmer and wants you to build him a web site, you have several options. You could build it…and probably be stuck maintaining it. You could point him in the direction of DreamWeaver or similar programs, or a template site, and still be the person he runs to for help. Or you could tell him to buy a copy of this book.
Book Review HTML, XHTML and CSS, Sixth Edition - Worth Highlighting (Page 4 of 4 )
Castro has a talent for making you reconsider your original notions when you're planning your web site. She includes a chapter on style sheets for handhelds that should get anyone with a web site (or planning to build one) thinking about whether visitors will be using a cell phone or similar device for access. Her chapter on symbols and non-English characters notes at the very beginning an estimate that "only 35% of the Web surfing public speaks English," which gives the novice web site builder another idea of the size of his audience if he chooses to limit himself to English on his web page. (It's true that translators such as Babelfish are available, but often their success at translating a page into English is limited at best; it seems unlikely that they would be any better at translating a page from English into another language).
The chapter on debugging is short but to the point, and emphasizes the basics. Castro is nice enough to cover not only the technical points, but the psychological ones. For example, she reminds you to go over the stuff you "know" is working, and even mentions some of her own mistakes (like the fact that she has often misspelled src when telling you to check your spelling). She also mentions that sometimes the browser just doesn't support what you're trying to do, so it may not be your fault -- and sometimes all you need to do is take a break, especially if you've been beating on a problem for a while, before you can see why your page doesn't look the way you want it to. This is very helpful advice to users who may never have debugged anything before.
Well, they say that the proof is in the pudding, so I figured I'd conclude this article by throwing together a very simple web page using a few of the things I learned in the book. I knew some of this before, but I wasn't sure how to put it all together. I was very grateful for the index; it's quite thorough, and led me quickly to every item I needed. Though it is simple, I did have to do some minor debugging (forgot to close a tag!); I also had to do some playing around before I got the page looking as I'd imagined. Here's the code, with only one alteration -- I didn't want to show where the image in the web page was coming from, but for the screen shot, I typed in a real URL:
<li>I'm into crafts. If this had been an actual web page, I'd
probably include a link to a page that lists crafts projects I've
done (with links to directions and pictures).</li>
<li>I'm a science fiction fan. Here is where I'd link to a Google
Video (explained on page 306-307 of Castro's book) of a science
fiction musical I cowrote that was performed at WorldCon if I
wasn't so pressed for time.</li>
And here's a screen shot, cropped and reduced to fit:
It's a little big to stuff into a Christmas stocking, but the book will fit nicely under the tree of anyone who wants to learn HTML, XHTML, and CSS.
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