31st October, 2007

Foreword for Beginning HTML with CSS and XHTML

I was commissioned to write this foreword by Apress, for the book Beginning HTML with CSS and XHTML.

In 1999, I bought a book about the web. This brave and still relatively new world had caught my interest, and the pocket-sized Rough Guide to the Internet featured four or so pages of rudimentary HTML. After about three hours I’d built a web page, and linked to another one. This first web page looked awful, but I was excited.

Later that day I somehow managed to upload it to a domain, and I realised I’d created a website. An actual website.

So naïve was I back then, that I assumed I’d need to leave my home computer on in order for other web users to see my pages! How amazed I was at work the next day when I successfully called my little website up in front of the boss.

So, I decided to buy another book, called Learn HTML in a Weekend. It was a very long weekend. This and other preliminary books taught me a lot, but much of it badly; my code littered with font tags, frames and tables for layout—and CSS had not really taken hold back then.

In the beginning, we used HTML to do all the hard work, as we didn’t know any better. This difficult, limiting and weighty approach to building websites was born out of HTML’s generosity, it being a rich language with early specifications offering rather too much scope for abuse. I can accept that now, but I’m unsure why so many recent books still preoccupy the reader with ill-advised and outdated techniques that can be achieved much better and more easily with web standards.

I care about how people learn to build websites, and I know it can be impenetrable for beginners. Equally, I worry that many professionals are still ripping off clients with shoddy workmanship. This is why I’m so happy to introduce this book. Craig Cook and David Schultz understand that building websites is a craft, and with Beginning HTML with CSS and XHTML they bring you years of experience condensed into an enjoyable, carefully structured reference focused on responsible, powerful HTML, CSS, XHTML and even JavaScript; the perfect introductory package.

In here you’ll find a wealth of practical examples that you can actually use. As a stickler for top-notch code, I’m especially impressed that everything within validates as HTML Strict (which you’ll learn more about soon), and that Craig and David have ensured all methods work cross-browser and will stand up to whatever twists and turns the internet takes next.

You are embarking upon a great adventure, but you have in your hands the best possible map, and two expert guides to hold your hand. Soon you’ll reach your destination and will be waxing lyrical to anyone who’ll listen about your grasp of web standards, wondering why the old boys still work with their outdated methods. Mighty explorers, this book will tell you all you need to know.

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