Web Standards Solutions The Markup and Style Handbook

** May082010

The format used in Web Standards Solutions — presenting several methods for achieving similar results in html and css — makes it perfect for a specific type of web designer: someone who is not yet on the web-standards, semantic-markup, separate-style-from-content bandwagon. I’m sure there are plenty of people who fall into this category, and this book could certainly ease their transition to web standards. However, a total beginner would be better off with a book like HTML Mastery (why bother with the exercise of learning inferior markup options?), and an expert needs something that covers much more advanced topics.

Sins of omission and repetition

This second edition suffers both from omission and repetition, which seems to indicate a lack of care and resources in its production.

A couple of minor examples:

  • I have read in other books, as well as online, that there are accessibility drawbacks to messing with the tab order using the tabindex attribute, but Cederholm fails to present both sides of the case.
  • When discusssing using named anchors or the id attribute for in-page linking, the author mentions that “some older browsers don’t recognize” the id attribute for this purpose. When choosing among the various markup alternatives given, it would be very helpful to know to which older browsers he is referring.
  • Where are the “bonus online chapters” that are advertised on the front cover? There is no mention of them in the book, and a Google search turned up nothing.

A more grievous example is that there is no discussion of CSS3 whatsover. Yes, this book was published last year, but even then people were talking about the new possibilities offered by CSS3, and many techniques were ready to be deployed to capable browsers. CSS3 is not even mentioned in the “Next Steps” chapter at the end of the book.

There is also a lot of unnecessary repetition in Web Standards Solutions. For any desired end result (a unordered list for example), sometimes 3 or 4 possible methods are provided, along with the drawbacks and benefits of each. Often, this is followed by a summary of the same information in outline format. In a couple of cases, there is near-word-for-word repetition, probably introduced in the second edition. For example, when discussing adding titles to links on page 110:

How does this added information become available to the user? We’ll find that out next.

Then there is a small section that is not about how users access the title attribute, at the end of which is this:

But how do users receive the information contained within the title attribute?

Okay, this may seem like nitpicking, and it is. But that’s my job — oh wait, no it’s not; that’s the job of the editor and publisher.


Unless you or someone you love has not yet embraced the basics of standards-based web development, you can safely skip this book. For people just starting out with html, I would recommend HTML Mastery, and for experienced designers yearning for more advanced CSS topics, I can heartily recommend Cederholm’s own Handcrafted CSS.

Respond to this review

Author(s)Dan Cederholm
PublisherFriends of ED

2 comments so far…Comment

Kevin May 09 2010

I actually felt this way about the first edition six years ago. It was just an anemic walk-through of really basic stuff, and really provided little nutritional value to my markup brain. Sounds like the second edition is worth even less. Too bad. The fact that there is no mention of CSS3 (or HTML5) is a big disappointment — Cederholm missed a real opportunity. The landscape of the web is changing radically right now, but this book is all about what was happening in 2003.

Nora May 09 2010

Kevin, thank you for commenting! I had wondered about the original. I could imagine it having been useful, as you said, in about 2003. But even then it might have been a little thin on content, and it sure seems like the publisher just didn’t put any resources into updating for the second edition.

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