Reading the actual Web standards can be a bit confusing, so a book that delivers the information in an easy-to-read manner is appealing. HTML Dog: The Best-Practice Guide to XHTML and CSS by Patrick Griffiths promises to give you everything you need to know to create Web pages, while observing Web standards and accessibility issues along the way. I’m pleased to report that this book does a nice job of meeting its objective.

The author

A good sign for any book is the relevance or notoriety of its author. Patrick Griffiths has made a name for himself within the Web development community through his professional work and contributions to various well-known Web sites such as A List Apart, as well as establishing and running his own site, HTML Dog, which serves as a companion to the book.

The technology

The book focuses solely on XHTML 1.0 Strict and CSS 2.1, and it goes no further. It uses these technologies to push the idea of the separation of structure (XHTML) and presentation (CSS). While covering the technology, accessibility and browser support are always in the forefront. The author has always been an advocate for Web standards, and it shows in the book.

The content

The meat of HTML Dog: The Best-Practice Guide to XHTML and CSS is delivered in the first 200 pages via 10 chapters, which follow a tutorial style with an examination of the various facets of the technology. An introduction precedes the chapters — it provides information on the book layout and defines topics such as accessibility, forward compatibility, and search engine optimization to name a few. Here’s a break down of the first 10 chapters:

  • Chapter 1: Offers an introduction to XHTML and CSS.
  • Chapter 2: Presents the details of working with text via XHTML elements and styling text with CSS.
  • Chapter 3: Instructs you on how to create and style links and make them accessible.
  • Chapter 4: Explains the various uses of images on a page, with a focus on the XHTML IMG tag and using CSS to control image presentation.
  • Chapter 5: Features thorough coverage of the CSS box model and positioning, along with techniques for various page layouts.
  • Chapter 6: Covers the importance of lists when styling pages with CSS, along with different ways to format lists.
  • Chapter 7: Gives a brief overview of JavaScript and the DOM. It focuses on how JavaScript and the DOM may be included in a page, while leaving the specifics to other books devoted to the topic (such as Simply JavaScript).
  • Chapter 8: Teaches you how to create accessible and usable tables.
  • Chapter 9: Describes how to create forms in XHTML, as well as style them with CSS and make them accessible.
  • Chapter 10: Focuses on how to deliver pages to nonstandard devices like screen readers, mobile devices, print, and so forth.

The remaining third of the book (which is about 120 pages) is devoted to the appendices that serve as XHTML and CSS references.

The chapters contain plenty of figures to back up the text. In addition, the book is peppered with gray boxes featuring topics that don’t fit with the flow of the text, such as absolute vs. relative positioning, Internet Explorer anomalies, and base colors.

The audience

The book lists its target audience as beginner and intermediate Web developers. It introduces the basics of both XHTML and CSS, along with their application. It is designed to be an easy read to get the reader involved with the technology quickly. The detailed appendices on both XHTML and CSS provide a great reference at your fingertips.

I think that more experienced developers would get minimal benefit from perusing the book’s contents, so I only recommend that new Web developers should invest their money in this title.

The Web site

The book serves as a companion to the vast amount of information available on the author’s Web site, HTML Dog. It is a different approach because a lot of books use Web sites as supplements to a book, but in this case the reverse may be true, as the site provides more information than the book. The book serves as a primer and reference to better use the site.

A worthwhile resource

I am old school when it comes to my development resources. Despite all of the media advancements, I still enjoy leafing through a book. I would definitely recommend HTML Dog: The Best-Practice Guide to XHTML and CSS to anyone who is new to Web development.

If you’re familiar with the book covered in today’s column, share your thoughts about the title with the Web development community. Also, recommend any books that you find valuable in your everyday development work.

Tony Patton began his professional career as an application developer earning Java, VB, Lotus, and XML certifications to bolster his knowledge.


Get weekly development tips in your inbox
Keep your developer skills sharp by signing up for TechRepublic’s free Web Development Zone newsletter, delivered each Tuesday. Automatically subscribe today!