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Title: Web Design Garage
Author: Marc Campbell
Publisher: Prentice Hall
Verdict: Packed full of useful material
The book is structured around a set of 86 topics (in other words tasks), which are organised into eight different categories: Design and Usability, Image, Layout, Link, Form, Tricks and Basic Training Topics (right there at the end). Each topic is short and sweet, and is basically presented as a task and a solution (or solutions). Tasks include things like creating liquid layouts, creating multi-column layouts with tables and much more. In a number of cases the same task is presented in two topics, the first using tables and the second using CSS. This is a good move as it provides an opportunity to show the each method fully and to discuss the pros and cons of tables vs CSS.
There is more to the book than a collection of hacks, however. While it's not the sort of book that most readers are likely to read in sequence from start to finish, there is an underlying message that comes across. Design for usability and simplicity and everything else follows is the message that comes across clearly from the text. Campbell's solutions, both in terms of layouts and in terms of the supplied code, provide a focus on usability which drives the design forward. There's a lot here for the attentive reader to pick up on.
It's also worth noting that the 'basic training' topics are at the back of the book. If you are completely new to developing web sites then this is the place to start. It covers the basics of page structure, web hosting, FTP etc. However it's at the end of the book on purpose. The rest of the text assumes at least a basic familiarity with HTML and web design - it doesn't assume an in-depth knowledge but if you don't know your head from your body then you might want to start at the back of the book and not the front.
To finish then, this is a useful volume that packs a decent punch and is worth seeking out by anyone who wants to get to grips with building good-looking and usable web sites.