HTML5 For Web Designers

***** Jul132010

HTML is a murky and mysterious house, but Jeremy Keith has flipped on the lights and given us the guided tour, in his clear and lighthearted manner, pointing out the many modern conveniences along the way.

Markup for web designers

In Chapter 1, our docent whisks us through the history of markup and how HTML5 came to be. Chapter 2 gives an overview of the philosophy guiding the building of HTML5, such as “paving the cowpaths” and backwards compatibility, as well as basic changes from what came before, such as the doctype (spoiler alert!: <!DOCTYPE html>), syntax, and the fact that you can do this:

<a href="/about">
    <h2>About me</h2>
    <p>Find out what makes me tick</p>

(Which, when you stop and think about it, is awesome. p. 20)

Chapter 3 is where our house tour starts to get really thrilling, as Keith describes some of the rich media elements introduced in HTML5. canvas — whatever. I’m sure some people will do amazing things with it, but I for one don’t relish the thought of programmatically drawing pie charts and the like. But audio and video, when fully implemented by browsers, promise to make life a lot easier for web designers/developers.

It’s a tossup which is more of a pain in the web designer’s tuckus: setting up audio and video flash players or building web forms. Luckily, HTML5 comes to our aid here as well, as described in Chapter 4, by adding attributes such as placeholder and required, and adding new input types like range and date.

No longer unknown, no longer feared

The area I found most confusing about HTML5 heretofore is the new structural elements, such as section, article, and aside. For example, what constitutes an article, and what constitutes a section? The author addresses these basic building blocks in Chapter 5, “Semantics”. It seems these are open to interpretation, and Mr. Keith has his own doubts:

It seems very unintuitive to me that an element named “article” should apply to the construct known as a “widget.” Then again, both articles and widgets are self-contained syndicatable kinds of content.

What’s more problematic is that article and section are so very similar. All that separates them is the word “self-contained.“…it’s a matter of interpretation.

While he doesn’t provide and “hard and fast rules” (there are none) he does provide clear explanation and guidance.

The last Chapter highlights what steps you can take today towards using HTML5, depending on the context and “how ambitious or cautious you want to be”, and provides a list of resources for further learning.

The design

I don’t normally comment on the design of code-related books I review, unless it is egregiously bad. But clearly a lot of thought has been put into the design of this book and it is, overall, gorgeous. The cover has a lovely matte feel, and I can’t imagine marking up the interior. A rich orange-red is employed on the cover and within, and I fantasize about having a whole row of these “A Book Apart” works on my shelf, in all sorts of pretty colors. My one complaint about the design is that the paragraph styles seem to adhere to web conventions, where new paragraphs are defined by a space between them, rather than the text-indent that is traditional in print. Where there are code snippets or images interspersed, this feels okay, but when it is just several paragraphs in a row it looks and feels awkward (you can see this in the video below).


Buy it, read it.

View on A Book Apart

Respond to this review

Author(s)Jeremey Keith
PublisherA Book Apart

Just 1 comment so far…Read it? Leave a comment!

zeldman Jul 27 2010

Fantastic review. Thanks so much!

Comments are closed for this article.