“Learning Web Design” by Jennifer Niederst Robbins; O’Reilly Media

Trying to learn how to write a Web site from scratch? If you’re just looking around online for how to do it, good luck! It’s not as simple as it might seem to learn about HTML, CSS, and Javascript.

That’s where Jennifer Niederst Robbins’s book, Learning Web Design: A Beginner’s Guide to HTML, CSS, Javascript, and Web Graphics comes in. A lot of resources that purport to explain the beginnings of anything either involve dry lists of features (in the case of HTML most involve listing and explaining tags one by one). This book does something no other book has, at least not that I’ve found: it tells you at the beginning what you need to learn and what hardware and software you need. If you’ve never written any HTML before, these kinds of things are completely indispensable, and yet somehow you’ll have to scour dozens of sometimes completely contradictory Web sites to find the same information. After searching for quite some time, you’ll often find online something you think is an answer, only to discover that the page you’re reading has been up and has remained un-updated since the late 1990′s. With this excellently written volume, you can see that it’s been written in 2012 and know that it’s (at least as of this review) completely up to date, and everything is here in this one book.

I picked the book up primarily to come up to speed on modern HTML, since I often take the WordPress route of Web design, and it had been quite  a while since I wrote a bunch of HTML from scratch. I had a weekend to build a Web site from nothing, and I found pretty much everything I needed, right here.

Jennifer Niederst Robbins has done a great job of explaining the anatomy, theory, and best practices of Web Design, so that coming from knowing nothing at all on the subject, you should by the end not only be able to create your own site, but also be able to do it the right way, with well marked-up HTML and sensible, at least reasonably search engine-optimized structure. I’ve reviewed quite a few other books on this subject, and it’s rare that everything comes together as well as it does here. As a beginner, you’ll love this book; you’ll be taken through, step by step, in aspects of HTML5, CSS, and Javascript in sections that build in complexity. Robbins doesn’t dumb anything down– she simply build slowly on simpler subjects, but always explains things accurately and understandably.

If you’re familiar with the basics of Web design, like me, you’ll also find a lot of help here. I learned HTML, CSS, and Javascript in scraps over the years, almost always lacking a fundamental understanding of why I was doing something the way I did; let’s face it, if you’re like me, you did a search for what you needed to do, found a snippet of code somewhere, and copied and pasted it. Now you can finally find out why something is the way it is and do it the right way. I was relieved that I could scan the table of contents to find the subject I needed, skip past the bits I didn’t need at the moment, and read an accurate and succinct explanation of the topic I was interested in.

Typically this is the point where I would find some tiny thing that maybe fell flat or that I didn’t care for, or that could have been done more to my liking. Well, not this time. This book would be an excellent resource for both beginners and intermediate folks. If you’re looking for an advanced guide to HTML, or something more in-depth about Javascript, you probably want to choose a book that doesn’t have ‘Beginner’ in the title, right?