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Keywords: web design, HTML, XHTML, CSS

Title: HTML Complete Course

Author: Donna L. Baker

Publisher: Wiley

ISBN: 0764540920

Media: Book/CD

Level: Introductory

Verdict: A good introduction for the complete beginner, but missing additional reference material

This big, glossy tutorial aims to show beginners how to design and build web sites using XHTML, CSS and some elements of JavaScript. It does this by walking through the creation of a site from start to finish - from initial outline to final deployment. The site, for a set of holiday resorts called 'Sizzle', makes effective use of tables, frames, graphics, navigation and simple forms. The book is aimed squarely at the Windows user as all of the tools and examples use Windows-based tools, from Notepad to Serif Software's PhotoPlus - although of course there is no assumption as to which platform the finished site is deployed to.

On the plus side the book has high production standards - it is well illustrated, the layout is effective and the order of the topics is both logical and intuitive. The scope of the book is also reasonably wide, particularly as it is aimed at complete beginners. The accompanying CD also includes all the files required to build the site and a selection of useful tools (Adobe Acrobat reader, PhotoPlus, Irfanview, FTP Commander and others).

Also good is the inclusion of a chapter on site accessibility issues and standards compliance. These are precisely the sort of areas that many introductory texts are likely to miss out on.

On the negative side the book suffers from an affliction common to many introductory tutorials - it assumes that the reader has not learned very much along the way. It's forgivable, just, to assume at the beginning that the reader needs step-by-step instruction on how to open and save a file in Notepad, but to be repeating these sort of instructions even at the end of the book suggests either that you assume your readers have learned nothing or that they are incapable of remembering even the most basic information. The step-by-step approach actually ends up slowing progress as even the most obvious tasks, adding new tables or creating a new style, need to be broken down into the smallest of bite-sized chunks.

The book also suffers in that there is little room for more detailed discussions of design issues or alternative ways of achieving the same ends. Neither does the book provide any reference sections which can be used outside of the tutorial, which is particularly annoying given the wide range of material that is covered.

The overall verdict is that this is a useful tutorial for the beginner, but that it sticks too rigidly to the tutorial format and suffers for it in the later sections of the book. With some additional reference material, and a better index, this could have been useful beyond the tutorial.

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