2003 Best

Designing With Web Standards

by Jeffrey Zeldman

You code. And code. And code. You build only to rebuild. You focus on making your site compatible with almost every browser or wireless device ever put out there. Then along comes a new device or a new browser, and you start all over again. Now you can change all that.

Among all the CSS books we've reviewed and toiled over in the past two years, only a few really stand out. (See our CSS Bibliography for the best CSS books!) For 2003, this one and Molly Holzschlag's Cascading Style Sheets: The Designer's Edge are the true winners! In fact, we used Molly's book to revitalize the DTG Magazine site, and Zeldman's to craft this page you are reading right now. (Although we've still got some work to do before it's perfect!)

Like we did, sooner or later you'll come to the realization that It's time to stop living in the past and get away from the days of spaghetti html code, insanely nested table layouts, tags, and other redundancies that double and triple the bandwidth of even the simplest sites. Font tags are so '90s! Instead, it's time for forward compatibility. Designing With Web Standards will open the way for many exciting new possibilities in your web design.

While this book is not completely about standards, it sure makes a strong case for adopting them. For instance, how does your web page look in a cell phone? How does it look on a Palm? You know those devices are becoming a societal standard. Do you want to be prepared for what's just around the corner?

Standards aren't about leaving users behind or adhering to inflexible rules. Standards are about building sophisticated, beautiful sites that will work as well tomorrow as they do today. You can't afford to design tomorrow's sites with yesterday's piecemeal methods.

But here's the payoff:

Standards aside, Zeldman brings a lot to the table:

  • Slash design, development, and quality assurance costs (or do great work in spite of constrained budgets)
  • Deliver superb design and sophisticated functionality without worrying about browser incompatibilities
  • Set up your site to work as well five years from now as it does today
  • Redesign in hours instead of days or weeks
  • Welcome new visitors and make your content more visible to search engines
  • Stay on the right side of accessibility laws and guidelines
  • Support wireless and PDA users without the hassle and expense of multiple versions
  • Improve user experience with faster load times and fewer compatibility headaches
  • Separate presentation from structure and behavior, facilitating advanced publishing workflows

If you're serious about long-term web crafting and design as a career you MUST read this book, study it, and use its rules. If you are a hobbyist and only work with html and web pages in your off-hours, then the book will be a revelation in terms of efficiency and quick flexibility. Forget about Front Page, Dreamweaver and GoLive or any of the other bloated antique software that only pads your code with trash, and empties your pockets each year with upgrades. Get into clean, brief and true style with CSS and designing standards.

Designing With Web Standards, by Jeffrey Zeldman lists at around $35.00, buy now at $21.00 and save $14.00 (40%)
Paperback: 456 pages ; Dimensions (in inches): 0.77 x 9.06 x 7.04 Publisher: New Riders; 1st edition (May 2003)

Also See: Joyce Evan's review of this book

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RETURN TO: Best Books for 2003, or the Design Bookshelf

See Related: in the The Typography Department, and under Desktop Publishing Design. Some additional cross references may also be found in the Web Design department.

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