Book Review: HTML & CSS: Design and Build Websites

As a web designer, one question I’m asked pretty regularly is “What book would you recommend to someone who is just starting out and wants to learn the fundamentals of building websites?” Over the years, I’ve had a handful of different recommendations, but not of them seemed just right to me. Don’t get me wrong, I always recommended books that I believed in and felt had a good approach to introducing web design and front-end development, but there was an element that I felt that was missing. Having recently read Jon Duckett’s fantastic HTML & CSS: Design and Build Websites, I’ve finally figured out what that element was: presentation.

HTML & CSS: Design and Build Websites

I’ll just get this out of the way right at the beginning of my review: this book is beautiful. From the attractive binding to the full-color photography, from the wonderful use of color to the perfect typography, HTML & CSS is a book that begs to be picked up and leafed through. This is especially important to new designers and developers who might be intimidated by the technical nature of other books.

Who is HTML & CSS For?

While new designers and developers stand to get the most out of the book, it will also serve as a handy and attractive reference for more seasoned professionals. Since this book is focused on the fundamentals, don’t expect deep dives into more obscure topics, helpful tricks, or bleeding edge code. Instead, readers should use this as a framework of their understand of these two absolutely essential web technologies.

What does HTML & CSS Cover?

HTML & CSS is laid out in a very linear fashion, focusing first on the HTML structure of a website, and then diving deep into the CSS that gives it form. Once these two halves are covered, it explores a few practical applications of what the reader has just learned to help cement their understanding and demonstrate how these new skills are applied in a professional context.

HTML & CSS: Design And Build Websites

As you would expect, it starts with the absolute basics, beginning with the structure of a page. From there is begins adding more and more elements, and we slowly get closer to an actual web page. Once all of the HTML content is introduced, we go back to the basics to learn how to style with CSS. It follows a very logical trajectory that builds naturally on previous steps to make things very easy to follow.

What Works?

  • The attractive design and layout of the book make it easy to just pick up and read, removing some of the intimidation factor than can accompany books like this.
  • The books structure works very well. First concepts are introduced and explained, then we see some relevant examples, and finally everything is wrapped up in a brief summary.
  • The code itself is relevant to modern standards and doesn’t rely on tricks and work-arounds that quickly become out-of-date.

What Doesn’t?

  • I’m hard pressed to find much I didn’t like about HTML & CSS, but I will say that there are occasionally long sections of code examples that span the whole page. These are somewhat difficult to read and follow over the entire width of the page. The alternative, adding more margin to the code, would have made the examples stretch into even more pages, however.

The Verdict

HTML & CSS: Design and Build Websites is a fantastic book to introduce web design fundamentals to those who are new to the field or simply curious to learn more. This is, without question, the best beginner level HTML and CSS book I’ve seen.

Buy a copy of HTML and CSS: Design and Build Websites today!

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