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HTML and CSS Web Standards Solutions: A Web Standardistas' Approach

Posted on by Clive Walker in Books hReview

I wrote this post a while back. The content can still be relevant but the information I've linked to may not be available.

  • Authors: Christopher Murphy and Nicklas Persson
  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Friends of Ed (December 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 1430216069
  • Amazon UK Typical price: £29

In more detail

This book is split into two parts and you are strongly encouraged to read each section first before skipping ahead. That’s typical of the thoroughness and stepwise approach that is espoused by the authors. Do not be put off by that; the book is very easy to read and understand and the stepwise nature definitely helps.

You really will learn something and be able to build better websites by taking this hand-coded approach

The first half of the book introduces web standards and describes many aspects of building well-structured and semantic XHTML markup. This is done by asking you to create pages from a website called Famous Primates. The book explains all the common XHTML tags that you might use and emphasizes validating your pages at every turn. If you have been wedded to a WYSIWYG editor up to now, the code editing method may be a bit of a shock but you really will learn something and be able to build better websites by taking this hand-coded approach.

The second part of the book builds on the XHTML foundation by explaining CSS and the benefits of style sheets. Once again, a stepwise approach is very much in evidence. Starting with the core concepts, moving on to styling text, following this with layouts, and finally list styling. It’s a sensible way of doing it. Styling text first makes CSS easier to understand and is much like I learned it. Moving on to the scary layout stuff later. Only kidding!

Each chapter in the book has homework. Back to school, oh dear! However, this is a good idea and by doing this, you will reinforce what you have learnt in each section. This aspect probably reflects the authors’ own teaching backgrounds but this book would be a great companion to an academic course as well.

If there is one criticism I would have of the book, it is the fact that external style sheets are introduced quite late on. I would prefer if this was earlier in the process because an external style sheet is the best method. Embedded styles in your document may be the first method you use but I would favour an early introduction to external style sheets because it illustrates one of the key advantages of CSS, namely the power to change many pages with one file.

» Related: CSS Mastery by Andy Budd would be a great CSS follow-up book.

Website of the book

Web Standardistas is the companion website to the book. The website has all the code from the book and examples that will help you with your homework at the end of each chapter. The website is also an outlet for the authors to highlight web standards practice and resources from around the web. It’s great to see this actively maintained.


This book provides a solid foundation to XHTML and CSS and the web standards approach. It is more suited to beginners and if you have been on the web using CSS for a while, and are comfortable editing and viewing XHTML, much of this book will be familiar. However, this book is a very good read for anyone who is perhaps not so confident in their web standards skillset or is just starting out with building websites.

HTML and CSS Web Standards Solutions is also a great book for anyone who might be worried by looking at XHTML or CSS in a text editor. If that’s you, read this book!

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  • 27 May 2009 17:42:44

    Thank you so much for posting this. This gives me some ideas on how to create my own CSS website.

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