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Book Review: The Zen of CSS Design: Visual Enlightenment for the Web

CSS or Cascading Style Sheets to give them their full name allow us to seperate the text of the webpage from the visual style. This has a number of advantages including: making the content easier to manage; the ability to change the look of a website without having to update every single page; and allowing people to turn off CSS and view the basic page, which is particularly useful for those with disabilities.

This has been held back in the past partly due to the lack of CSS support by the browsers. But now that the old browsers are gradually disappearing it means we can now finally make proper use of the concepts. As browsers that don’t understand CSS can still show the underlying content we don’t even exclude those on Netscape 4, and earlier browsers. Internet Explorer 5 is another problem as rather than not supporting CSS it is implemented incorrectly, but that is something that is considered in this book.

The book started out as the website CSS Zen Garden which has become a popular Internet Site. The CSS Zen Garden shows has CSS can be used to transform a single webpage to look completely different by just changing the CSS, the html stays exactly the same.
The book is different to most CSS books in that it looks at the overall design and sees how they can be implemented in CSS. This has it’s advantages and disadvantages. The good thing is that the book goes much further into the design aspect than most other books, and is useful if you want to learn how to "design" rather than just create a website. On the negative side the book is not very good to use as a reference.

The book does not go into too much detail on some of the aspects, and often gives a web url to go for more information. This allows the authors to keep to the core content (the design aspect), but does mean that you often have to go and look elsewhere to get the full details. This does detract from some of the usefulness of having a hardcopy of the book, as you have to spend time in front of the computer looking up the urls. I have included most of the referenced urls on my del.icio.us page at: del.icio.us – Stewart Watkiss – csszen.

Most webmasters would benefit from reading this book, but I’d also recommend getting a reference guide to refer to once you’ve started implementing a website using CSS. I have the O’Reilly Pocket Reference, which whilst not appropriate from learning CSS from is a useful to use alongside The Zen of CSS Design.

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