11 July 2011

Book Review--Creating a Website, the Missing Manual

Creating a Website the missing manual, Third edition
by Matthew MacDonald
O’Reilly 2011

O’Reilly Publishing provided me access to an electronic copy of this book for review purposes.

Matthew writes this book as if the reader has no previous experience with coding and even no experience with really understanding how the web works, i.e. how servers render webpages and understanding how a URL works.  So if you have lots of experience with these areas then this book probably isn’t for you.  If however, you’ve never designed a webpage before or it’s been a long time since you’ve coded this is the book that you want to pick up.  The book is divided into five parts:

  1. Welcome to the web--which covers the basics of how the web works, basic HTML, and uploading your webpage to the web
  2. Building better webpages--covers how to use CSS, add images to the website, and creating pages
  3. Connecting with your audiences
  4. Website Frills--learning and using JavaScript for basic tasks
  5. Appendixes

So by the end of the book the reader is able to know how a webpage works, design their own basic one (and know some good practices for doing so), and learning a little bit beyond the basics with JavaScript.  The book is also accompanied by a website for future updates and an appendixes with online resources for learning more HTML and websites mentioned in the chapters for finding additional resources.

Having previous experience designing webpages I started reading and reviewing this book as a chance to find a guide that would be a handy reference or a bit of a refresher course when my mind decided to go to sleep.   The good:  Each chapter is written in a clear, easy to understand format that covers the basics of getting started.  The bad:   I did have a few problems with some of the information given and how it was worded.  First is that it seems jumpy in some places, he wants you to swim before you can walk.  For example, he starts off with saying create your first webpage and see how it looks in the browser before really discussing how everything is set up.  I get that he wants to provide an example, but I would have told them to take a look at a simple webpage and pointed out the elements to the page first.

He also doesn’t really cover some of the basic programs well, such as FTP applications and text editors.  With FTP programs he just hopes that you’re web provider lets you do it via the browser.  For text editors he only highlights three free programs and misses some really popular ones, such as TextWrangler, textpad+++, or NetBeans.  He also seemed to indicate that the pay ones were better if you were doing more complicated things, which just isn’t quite true.  It was just a bit disappointing to me perhaps, because I come with experience with webdesign.  That being said for someone that is a complete novice at webdesign the book does cover the basics well so that anyway, even a person that has just started using a computer the week before, could pick up the book and begin building a webpage.

Even though it does have a few problems, it’s still a good basic book for the beginner or a good refresher for someone that hasn’t done webpage design in a while.  If you’re looking to get into depth with CSS or JavaScript I would recommend one of O’Reilly’s other books, such as CSS: The Definitive Guide or Head First JavaScript.

I review for the O'Reilly Blogger Review Program

No comments: