Beginning CSS Web Development (Book review)

Looking for a book that will bring your level of CSS knowledge from newbie to intermediate or advanced? This is it. I would actually say that the title is slightly misleading as there is plenty of good stuff in the book for people who would never consider themselves CSS beginners. Only those who really know CSS will read this book without learning something.

The book’s author, Simon Collison, has published many helpful articles on CSS and other web design and development stuff on his personal website, CollyLogic. In this book he shares his experiences from working with the Web in the hopes that it will help readers avoid some of the confusion and frustration that is often associated with learning CSS (or anything new, for that matter).

I think Simon does an excellent job of that by starting with the concepts of CSS in the first part of the book. Lists, links, text, font choices, colours, forms, tables - all the basics are explained. Don’t expect a lot of boring theory though, since practical examples are used to explain everything.

With the foundation in place, part two explains more advanced topics such as a number of different CSS layout techniques, tips and tricks, and troubleshooting. The book’s final chapter is a case study that makes use of a lot of the concepts and techniques explained earlier in the book. There’s also a handy CSS reference that’s worth photocopying and keeping next to your keyboard.

Accessibility and usability are kept in mind throughout the book, which is really great considering how easy it is for people to go overboard with background images and whatnot when they start learning CSS.

There are some areas where I don’t fully agree on the methods Simon has chosen to describe. One example is the section on form layout. Simon mentions three options for laying out forms: tables, paragraphs, and definition lists. Out of those options, I would only consider using paragraphs, but I wouldn’t call a label + form control combo a paragraph. My personal preference is to use fieldset and div elements. But that’s just what it is - my personal preference. There is almost always more than one correct way of doing things when it comes to HTML + CSS.

But hey, don’t let that minor criticism from me put you off. This is definitely a great book that deserves to be on your desk.

Beginning CSS Web Development
Author: Simon Collison
ISBN: 1590596897

Posted on November 30, 2006 in CSS, Reviews


  1. November 30, 2006 by Chris Bird

    Roger, would you still recommend this book to somebody who already owns Andy Budd’s “CSS Mastery”?

  2. December 1, 2006 by Daniel Tiecher

    I do not recomend doing this, this book should be read before CSS Mastery and not after. Maybe you should read The “Zen of CSS Design: Visual Enlightenment for the Web”. A really great one for the more experienced designer.

  3. I had somewhat of the same critique of the book - dealing with form elements. However, understanding the context and audience of those looking to learn more from this book - it is good that he is giving them all possible options and showing the ups/downs.

    Forms are tricky, part of me likes using dl to organize them (this is somewhat fuzzy according to the specs). However, complex forms often require some more thought (and, sometimes, additional markup).

    Overall, I think his book was excellent. His writing style was fun, engaging, and educational.

    Did you drink tea while reading through the chapters? he

  4. December 1, 2006 by Roger Johansson (Author comment)

    Chris: CSS Mastery is a bit more advanced so if you have reached that level you will be familiar with most of what is explained in this book. If it’s within your budget I don’t see a reason not to own both though.

    Nate: Nope, no tea for me (can’t stand the taste of it). Coffee is my thing.

  5. December 4, 2006 by This is a test

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  6. December 4, 2006 by Roger Johansson (Author comment)

    As you have probably already noticed, you do not have to register to post comments here.

  7. There are just too many CSS books now! It is confusing which to start with which to continue etc. I am at the case study of this book, the very last section, it has been a good book and i have learned a lot but am still confused about some. I mostly learn through visualization and demonstration, not that this book doesn’t have that however someone needs to come out with a book that just goes over a bunch of different CSS sites, deconstructs them and how they were built etc. Now I have read reviews that the Zen of CSS design is that type of book however it is more about DESIGN then taking apart the cool looking sites.

    I skipped alot in this book just to get down to what i wanted which was POSITIONING. I want to know how to put a column here and there and whether to use floating, absolute positioning etc. Overall I would recommend this book to a beginning to intermediate. My plan is to check out CSS Mastery next, then from there either Bulletproof Web Design or Pro CSS Techniques.

  8. Qwik: Andy Budd covers positioning quite well in CSS Mastery. On the web, I would check out Regarding deconstructing a site, there are two excellent case studies at the end of CSS Mastery (one is written by Simon Collison and the other by Cameron Moll).

  9. From what I’ve read about this book, it’s very similar to Dan Cederholm’s “Designing with Web Standards”, which I already own. Has anyone read both? Are they dissimilar enough to warrant a purchase of this one?

    qwik: I agree completely. I’d love to see books that skip the most basic presentational stuff and gets deeper into all types of positioning and tries to cover all of the most common pitfalls. I also agree that deconstructing a range of websites and in the process explaining the benefits/problems with their elements and they way they’re built would be a great way to structure a book.

    It seems that most of the more popular books on CSS these days are for beginners, or at least starts out with chapters that aren’t much use to intermediates.

    With this in mind, which books would people suggest?

  10. Thanks for sharing such a useful book.

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