Book review: The Art & Science Of CSS

Read this book review of SitePoint's <i>The Art & Science Of CSS</i> by Jonathan Snook, Steve Smith, Jina Bolton, Cameron Adams, and David Johnson to find out why Tony Patton thinks it offers something for every Web designer.

Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) provides a vehicle for controlling the look and feel of Web sites. Combining CSS with HTML allows Web developers and designers to separate presentation from the code, so developers get to play with the code and designers can focus on presentation.

There are a variety of books and online resources available that cover the technical details of CSS, but it can be hard to find a resource to explain CSS usage along with examples. SitePoint's The Art & Science Of CSS by Jonathan Snook, Steve Smith, Jina Bolton, Cameron Adams, and David Johnson fills this need.

A different approach

The first thing that struck me about The Art & Science of CSS book is its format. It is delivered in a soft cover workbook that guides you through the various facets of styling Web sites with CSS. Another feature that makes this book stand out is the use of color; that is, all screenshots are presented as you would see them. Also, design notes are sprinkled through the text in green boxes with CSS code appearing in purple. This seems to be consistent throughout SitePoint books, as I described in my review of Simply JavaScript. While the layout and presentation make it visually appealing, the most important aspect of any technical book is the content.

The content

The book provides a hands-on guide to putting CSS to use for real-world Web design. It leaves a thorough coverage of the technical details of CSS to the technical specifications. It will not teach you the fundamental of using DIV elements or CSS basics like classes and IDs, but it provides clear and well-paced coverage of design Web sites with CSS in a little over 200 pages. The hard copy of the book is $39.95.

The book is divided into seven chapters that focus on a different aspect of CSS. The following list provides an overview of the chapters.

  • Headings: Discusses the use of headings within a Web page with the headings defining page hierarchy. Typefaces are covered, along with a discussion of using Flash and images in a way to display effectively for all users.
  • Images: Covers the concepts of space and color in Web design, along with thorough coverage of using CSS to style and place images.
  • Backgrounds: Focuses on using one or more images as the background, along with using CSS to style and position backgrounds. A case study is included to drive home the topic.
  • Navigation: Includes thorough coverage of the various navigation options with CSS. This includes basic vertical navigation, tab-based navigation, breadcrumbs, and multiple-level navigation. The chapter includes a section on known issues with respect to Internet Explorer.
  • Forms: Covers styling labels, fieldset and legend tags, avoiding tables for layout, and styling JavaScript error messages.
  • Rounded Corners: Provides everything you ever wanted to know about using nicely rounded corners via CSS.
  • Tables: Provides everything you need to know about tables. Tables and CSS are often seen as enemies within the world of Web design, but tables do have their use within a Web interface. Tables can be used to present data, and CSS can be used to professionally style such tables.

The book is chock full of sample CSS code, along with HTML and JavaScript where necessary to illustrate a point. Sample chapters and the code are available for download from the publisher's Web site.

A great hands-on workbook

SitePoint offers an impressive book that delivers what it promises. If you have never designed or coded a Web page, you should start with more introductory books that lay a foundation for the concepts covered in this one since this book does seem to assume basic Web design knowledge. However, this book offers something for every Web designer. The information is delivered in an easy-to-follow and understandable tone that simplifies even the most complex techniques.

Other book recommendations

If you like the approach used in this book, I think you would also enjoy SitePoint's The Principles Of Beautiful Web Design, which offers a step-by-step guide to Web site design.

What books have you found useful in your daily Web development activities? Share your thoughts and experiences with the Web Development community.

Check out the Web Development Zone archive, and catch up on the most recent editions of Tony Patton's column.

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!

By Tony Patton

Tony Patton has worn many hats over his 15+ years in the IT industry while witnessing many technologies come and go. He currently focuses on .NET and Web Development while trying to grasp the many facets of supporting such technologies in a productio...