HTML Dog: The Best-Practice Guide to XHTML and CSS (Book review)

Do you find reading the HTML and CSS specifications a bit boring or uninspiring? Do you think the W3C could have done well to include just a little bit of humour in those documents? Then this book is for you.

Way back in 2003, the book’s author Patrick Griffiths launched HTML Dog, a comprehensive resource containing tutorials, references, articles, and examples that promote best practices for (X)HTML and CSS. This book is, as you will have guessed by now, based on the site.

HTML Dog consists of three parts. The first part is the normal chapter based book that walks the reader through the various aspects of using XHTML and CSS. Yes, XHTML, not HTML - the book is entirely focused on XHTML. Some may see that as a problem, but I don’t. After all this book does teach best practices and sticks to XHTML 1.0 Strict.

The ten chapters of part one explain how to make proper use of XHTML and which element to use for what as well as how to style the result with CSS. Structuring and styling text, creating links (and making sure they are accessible), CSS layout, how to use lists, and how to create accessible and usable tables and forms are some topics that are covered.

At the end (well, the last third of the book) are two extensive appendixes. The first appendix lists and explains the attributes and elements (with a few exceptions) included in XHTML 1.0 Strict, while the second one covers the properties of CSS 2.1. Both are handy references for working offline.

There are a few minor problems, such as a slight misuse of the word “tag” and a couple of incorrectly named selectors, but overall this is a good and entertaining book that does its job at encouraging best practices. Recommended.

HTML Dog: The Best-Practice Guide to XHTML & CSS
Author: Patrick Griffiths
ISBN-10: 0321311396
ISBN-13: 978-0321311399

Posted on April 5, 2007 in (X)HTML, Reviews, Web Standards


  1. Sounds nice :) I’ve been looking around for a nice read and reference to HTML, this could be it.

    But I’m still waiting for HTML Mastery to appear in Dutch bookstores, when that happens, I will decide which book fits my needs best.

  2. Is this book for people skilled in XHTML, or for beginners? I find myself buying far to many books from which I simply don’t learn anything new..

  3. April 6, 2007 by Calophi

    I have this book and I’ve found the appendixes useful for more obscure things that I forget sometimes. I consider myself a more intermediate user and I’ve found some things here and there in the book that I didn’t know already or cleared up some reasons for why things are best practice. There are a lot of subjects covered in this book that I’d never seen in a book before, and I’m glad I picked it up.

  4. So Roger/ Calophl and others, this book would be good for an intermediate XHTML/ CSS user??

    When you do reviews Roger, would it be possible to do an opinion on how would find it worth while etc?? Just an idea that could help people not waste money on books… Thanks :D

  5. April 8, 2007 by Roger Johansson (Author comment)


    So Roger/ Calophl and others, this book would be good for an intermediate XHTML/ CSS user??

    Yes, I think it would.

    When you do reviews Roger, would it be possible to do an opinion on how would find it worth while etc?

    Good point - I’ll try to keep that in mind for future reviews.

  6. April 12, 2007 by Richard

    I’m looking for a book that looks into the deeper process of developing a website.

    Every time I create a website, I feel I’m refining my process — how to structure a page, when it’s worth using a CMS and when it’s not, how to structure a CSS file or multiple CSS files, how to use the cascade and specificity more efficiently to produce leaner code — but I’m looking to basically grab someone else’s best practice and leapfrog a bit.

    Also, where do you keep snippets of code / solutions that you’ve used before? How do you record hacks you’ve done to someone else’s script, in case you have to upgrade it one day? How do you backup web projects? Naming conventions? How do you efficiently test on multiple platforms? Working with a team and keeping version control?

    Short of studying other people’s source, what is the best book / resource for these type of questions?

  7. I have read the whole book of HTML DOG and i feel it only touches the SURFACE of what i needed. It was a good guide, simple to understand and read for any kind of detailed information, but not digging under the hood… I have developed websites since 1996 but I am pretty new to CSS and wanted more advanced lessons.

    I bought recently also Andy Budd’s CSS Mastery and i feel this is what I was looking for, advanced CSS Mastery and its really something for me…

    In the shelf Jeffrey Zeldman is waiting and then i have my Bulletproof Web Design by Cederholm to finish…

Comments are disabled for this post (read why), but if you have spotted an error or have additional info that you think should be in this post, feel free to contact me.