Book Review – HTML & CSS: Design and Build Websites

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Unless your design education was specifically tailored to web design or front-end development, it’s likely that you did not come into contact with very much coding. Coding, programming, mark-up languages… these can be intimidating words for someone who comes from a predominately visual background. However, they don’t have to be. HTML & CSS: Design and Build Websites by Jon Duckett is a book aimed at designers attempting to expand their skills into basic front-end development.

I’m a Designer, Why Should I Learn to Code?

Basic knowledge of HTML and CSS (and often JavaScript) is becoming increasingly valuable in the workforce. Take a look at the Behance or Dribbble job boards and nearly every web-related position requires or suggests some understanding of mark-up languages. Even if a project has dedicated developers writing all the code, a designer is still expected to have at least a basic understanding of the possibilities and limitations of HTML and CSS. If you are looking for a job, knowing these technologies can be the difference between a job going to you or someone else. They can also mean a significant salary or rate raise, as a designer/developer combo is essentially completing the tasks of two people.

About the Book

Let me just start by saying that this is a beautifully designed book. Although this alone is not a reason to buy it, for all you visual learners out there it certainly makes the process of learning easier. It features full-spread infographics explaining core concepts in more depth. These infographics are combined with code snippets and accompanying images on how they would appear on the web.

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The book examines many aspects of HTML5 and CSS3, comparing these new methods to older methods and explaining when and why each is desirable. Because of the time required for the publishing and printing process, the book does not explore the most cutting edge developments in technology, but it provides what is necessary for designers who are new to HTML and CSS.
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It includes plenty of useful design resources scattered throughout the text; there are links discussing web standards, free font libraries, color picking tools, and much more. Basic elements of typography, color, and search engine optimization (SEO) are discussed. It is certainly not a design book, but these sections create a clear link between design and development.

What’s Missing

The only way to really learn something like HTML and CSS is practice. Although the book has a companion website with HTML files from the examples in the book, they do not have interactive content to really apply what you are reading about. A more participatory component such as Codecademy or CodeSchool could really enhance the learning experience.

Although it serves as an excellent primer, it lacks depth. There are brief mentions of responsive web design, but it does not delve into the process of actually creating responsive sites. Other complex topics also do not get the in-depth treatment that you would likely need to complete an entire website. You won’t be able to learn everything there is about HTML and CSS from the book, but it will show you the basics.

Final Verdict

If you’ve been thinking about trying to learn front-end development this could be an excellent place to start. This book in combination with Don’t Fear the Internet, one of the many fun Jessica Hische side projects floating around the web, has inspired me to really begin digging into HTML and CSS. It may not be for someone that is looking to design complex, responsive sites or enhance a website they’ve already built, but it’s an excellent resource for a student designer trying to expand their skill set.

A wide variety of free resources on the web can give you an outline of the different tools in CSS and HTML, but the only way to truly learn these skills, like many other aspects of design, is through practice. Recreate your favorite website; look through source code of well-designed sites; try to build your own webpage. These are the only ways to completely understand how your design translates into the language of the internet.

Win a Copy

We are giving away a free HTML & CSS: Design and Build Websites book! If you want to win, do one of the steps below:

- Tweet this article (Make sure you mention @studentwebguide)
– Comment on this article

A winner will be randomly selected. Thank you and good luck!

UPDATE! A winner has been chosen. Kirsty Marr was the lucky winner. Thanks for all your comments and tweets

 


Written by Bryan Zavestoski

Bryan is web and mobile designer from sunny Southern California. He is currently interning at AppStack, making shots on Dribbble, and soaking up as much design knowledge as possible from anywhere and everywhere.

48 Comments

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  1. Neal Mullen on March 27, 2012

    This looks like quite a nice book. Back-to-basics it seems. Would love a copy.

  2. Dennis on March 27, 2012

    This book looks to be a great staple for any web designer. Very informative review! Thanks!

  3. Proxy on March 27, 2012

    Nice book !

  4. Stephen on March 27, 2012

    Wonderful article! Learning code as a designer is what is keeping me employed today. Why wouldn't you sharpen both edges of your design sword? It's apparent that digital growth is booming. Knowing enough to be dangerous is what will keep your head above water. Also, CodeSchool is fantastic. I work with the group that put it together and they do an awesome job of creating a way for you to learn and not feel like a 3rd grader. Great resources!

  5. Bryan on March 27, 2012

    Looks like I should be using this regularly.

  6. Tyler Burke on March 27, 2012

    Terrific review. Looking forward to getting my hand on this book to brushen up my skills a bit.

  7. Leah on March 27, 2012

    this would be great introduction of web designing to many learners!

  8. Lucas Morales on March 27, 2012

    I really like the effort they put in its visual aspect, makes me want to read, even already knowing the html/css basics.

  9. Nicole on March 27, 2012

    Great article and congrats for the website, looks that is going to be very useful, already bookmarked! =)

  10. Brian on March 27, 2012

    That's one sexy book!

  11. Robin on March 27, 2012

    Would love a copy, would help help me improve a lot! :)

  12. Mahmoud El-Said on March 27, 2012

    Done ;) it seems to be a good book I would like to have a copy :)

  13. Jessica Sharpe on March 27, 2012

    That's a beautiful book. Can't wait for my Book Design class next year. :)

  14. Yoshua on March 28, 2012

    Your article has swayed me into wanting that book. Beautifully written with a intuitive layout. Thank you for giving everyone here a shot to win this piece of educational art.

  15. Alejandro Flores on March 28, 2012

    Great, it looks awesome and illustrative. Commenting for a chance to win a copy.

  16. Adam Stevens on March 28, 2012

    I have this book and it's amazing and beautiful!

  17. Sem Tolentino on March 28, 2012

    This book is lovely and it would definitely help me learn about HTML and CSS. I'm trying to learn this at the moment but I'm in need of a good book and this will be it. I'd love a copy, thanks.

  18. Pierre Stoffe on March 28, 2012

    This book looks like exactly what I need next to me when coding websites...

  19. Daniel Zamorano on March 28, 2012

    Hey I have read several books of programming but on this book, is not just that the content is smart, the content is also beautiful!.

  20. Beau on March 28, 2012

    A web design book with print design sophistication!? My word!

  21. Samuel May on March 29, 2012

    This book looks so nice. I love how everything is laid out, it looks beautiful. Would love a copy!

  22. Sam Baines on March 29, 2012

    Great looking book and would be a great addition to people for learning the basics of HTML and CSS which is a useful tool for every designer.

  23. Kirsty on March 29, 2012

    I've had this book on my wishlist for a while now,! It looks lovely. Made a comment about it on my facebook that a professor saw and he's requiring it for his web design class next semester.

  24. Gaby Mendez on March 29, 2012

    Some of my fellow studio mates already have a copy of this- I am in desperate need of my own!

  25. ilithya on March 29, 2012

    Always interesting to read about HTML and CSS #happy coding

  26. Matt Richardson on March 30, 2012

    As a recently graduated designer myself anything that helps out people to learn to code and create is brilliant. There simply isn't enough learning at schools and universities for things like HTML & CSS. The site looks brilliant by the way. All the hard work has paid off!!!

  27. Morgan M on March 31, 2012

    That book looks amazing! I'm going to try my luck at the giveaway, but even so, I'm definitely going to get my hands on that book!! :)

  28. Ari Arsyadi on April 1, 2012

    Fantastic giveaway! Hopefully the right guy wins this one. This is exactly people like me will take most of the benefit of using this book. And from the inside shot of the book, I can tell that that Jon did a great job making the process of learning easier. Would really love to win this. Thanks!

  29. Aldrich Tan on April 4, 2012

    nice book!!! i'd love to have a copy. I've gotten so rusty itll be good to get a huge refresh. :D

  30. Marat on April 4, 2012

    Looks pretty nice!

  31. Justin on April 5, 2012

    This is my first time visiting this site and I must say that posts like this would keep me coming back. Well written and very relevant. I also love the design on this site. I would love to grab a copy of this book...

  32. Tariq Ali on April 11, 2012

    i like to get a copy and i wana to become a good designer.

  33. Tariq Ali on April 11, 2012

    Wonderful article!Learning code as a designer is what is keeping me employed today. Why wouldn't you sharpen both edges of your design sword? It's apparent that digital growth is booming. Knowing enough to be dangerous is what will keep your head above water

  34. Erin Martin on April 12, 2012

    I was hoping to find a review on this book from the POV of a student/new grad - thanks so much!! Seems like it would be helpful, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a copy!

  35. Siobhan on April 12, 2012

    This book looks amazing and though I'm comfortable with print design, I could definitely use some HTML help!

  36. Dimitris Maragkakis on April 23, 2012

    i was searching for this book in google in order to read some reviews and i stopped by your website,reading your thoughts about this book. It seems to me that this is the first book that will make me forget athe "head first" for it s simplicity and it s wisdom in how he give us a way to think and learn in html. p.s.By the way, count me in for the giveaway

  37. Tariq Ali on April 23, 2012

    i cant get this book till now plz any 1 mail me if u wana to help me plzzzz

  38. Ana Freitas on May 3, 2012

    looking forward to win this book ;)

  39. Signor D on May 5, 2012

    Here am I! D

  40. Rahrid on May 15, 2012

    I'll fly up if i win this.

  41. Maciej Jasinski on May 16, 2012

    Why books in schools don't look like this! Everyone would have A's then :) Great review ;)

  42. Sergey on May 17, 2012

    I wonder what's the deadline to get one!

  43. Kevin Esther on May 20, 2012

    Reviewing the samples of the book. It is clear the author has achieved his goals using a simple, visual way with straightforward explanations to coding. It's on my wish list.

  44. Ciaran on May 20, 2012

    I would love to win this book. Great website, cheers.

  45. Vytautas on May 23, 2012

    I really want to learn some HTML/CSS to expand my skills.

  46. Joseph on July 3, 2012

    This book is awesome!! I've been thinking about buying a copy for a while now, but I was pretty determined to teach myself for free if possible. Codecademy is such a great resource, but this book looks like a neat way to help you master the basics. Fingers crossed for a free copy:)

  47. Srinivasan on August 26, 2012

    I have been searching for the best book to learn HTML and CSS all over again since morning. I read a number of reviews but when I visited your website, it was a totally different experience. The manner in which you have presented your review befits the awesome book in question. It's quite simply the best review of a book I have read today. Hats off to you!

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