Head First HTML with CSS and XHTML, by Elisabeth Freeman and Eric Freeman, ISBN 0-596-10197-X

Reviewed by: Robert Boardman, March 2006
Published by: O'Reilly
Requires: N/A
MSRP: US$34.95, CAN$48.95, UK£24.99

Into the massive pile of books which are introductions to HTML comes another, subtitled “A brain friendly guide to HTML and CSS”. This one does not include a CD with all the software you will ever need to build web pages. However, this one does many things right. The use of color and of whitespace in the printed layout along with the conversational tone of the writing all make for an easy-to-read experience. In fourteen chapters the authors take the reader from the basics all the way to building interactive web pages with forms. Along the way they discuss rudimentary and advanced HTML. They introduce the idea of standards along with XHTML. There are several chapters that discuss CSS including the complexities of the element box.

Head First HTML uses clearly emphasized printed layouts to clarify many different features of HTML. The authors do not rely on the reader to type in the code, make adjustments and view the changes. The exercises in the book are amply illustrated with screen shots and various graphic elements including arrows, hand-written comments, screened colors and similar kinds of emphasis to illuminate the process of building and programming web pages. However the authors also expect readers to be involved actively in learning the material. Each chapter contains at least one set of exercises (with answers provided in the text) to help with the learning process.

However, Head First HTML follows the same pattern of so many other introductory HTML books: it teaches HTML first, then introduces standards, and then introduces XHTML. It remains to point out that the XHTML standard is not new though. It has been in use since 1999 and it is therefore long past time when XHTML should have been regarded as normative for web pages. In fact, XHTML is no more difficult to learn than HTML. In my experience, if XHTML is taught from the beginning then there is no transition from HTML to make learners go through. Help people learn XHTML as the standard web markup language, then add CSS as a layer on top of XHTML. There may not be any need to learn HTML.

In their discussion of building lists the authors use the code <img src=”images/segway2.jpg” /> which is the proper form for an image element in XHTML. This is shown on p. 105, but not explained until p. 272. Nor is this proper XHMTL coding used for any other image element between p. 105 and p. 272. A observant student of HTML would rightly question this particular code. Perhaps it was the authors' attempt to introduce XHTML surreptitiously?

This book is definitely one of the better introductory guides to web page building. As someone who has been teaching HTML for over ten years I applaud the Freeman's efforts. I wish more instructional guides were as oriented to active learning as this one. As a book to start learning HTML, this one ranks near the top of the pile. I have reviewed many of them in an effort to find a good introductory text. If the material in the book were re-arranged as discussed above I would happily use it with my students. In any case, I think it will have a long life as a fundamental guide to HTML. Recommended.

KSN Product Rating:

Comments? Questions? Qualms? Technical problems? Send an e-mail!





© Copyright 2000-2006 kickstartnews.com. All rights reserved. legal notice
home | previous reviews | hot news | about us | search | store | subscribe


Forums Search Home Previous Reviews About Us Store Subscribe