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Keywords: HTML, CSS, Web design

Title: Learning Web Design

Author: Jennifer Niederst

Publisher: O'Reilly

ISBN: 0596004842

Media: Book/CD

Level: Introductory

Verdict: Highly recommended

Clearly aimed at the beginner, 'Learning Web Design' covers all of the major steps in the creation and deployment of static web sites. It starts with a basic introduction to the Web, from what an outline of HTTP and an explanation of URLs, to the components of a web page and an overview of how a browser works. This groundwork is followed by chapters on FTP, the difference between print design and web design and on over-view of the web design process.

Once these basics are done the book moves on to a section on learning HTML. The eight chapters in this section go from creating a basic page and on to more detailed topics, including the use of stylesheets (CSS), the use of tables, frames, the use of colour and more. The writing style is friendly enough and the author manages to pack in a lot of information along the way. This is helped by a good design, with effective use of fonts, colour, side-bars and box-outs. Technical content on the mechanics of HTML and CSS is peppered with useful do's and don't's, best practice tips and pointers to additional information.

The next section of the book looks in more detail at web graphics. In particular the use of JPG and GIF files is explored, with useful pointers as to what the relative merits of the two formats are and when they are best used. The detailed exercises in these chapters focus on Adobe Photoshop, PaintShop Pro and Macromedia Fireworks (no mention of the GIMP, unfortunately). As well as straight graphics, the final chapters in this section look at the creation of animated GIF files and the use of slicing and roll-overs.

The final part of the book is focused less on the mechanics of site creation and more on design and usability issues. Throughout the previous chapters design issues have been addressed, but it is in these final chapters that much broader issues are brought out. Site 'look and feel', navigability, colour schemes and so on are all discussed. Overall the advice that the author dispenses is sound, easy to follow and illustrated with good and bad examples of web design.

The final chapter looks at more advanced topics, including audio, video, flash, DHTML and more.

In many ways this is an ideal book for somebody starting out in web design. It combines a solid introduction to the technical side of things and a firm focus on design and usability. The book itself is a fine example of good design, with good use of fonts, layout and colour. It also avoids the trap of other introductory books, such as 'HTML Complete Course', in that it does not stick rigidly to a single long example. A diverse range of examples are used, and these are supplemented by exercises and tests, all of which enhance the learning derived from the book.

Overall this is one book that can be highly recommended.

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