More Eric Meyer on CSS

Author: Eric A. Meyer

Review by Iris Yoffa
Journal of the Tucson Computer Society
Tucson, Arizona

This book offers the hands-on approach to learning web design with CSS, a system that works very well for many web developers needing to get quickly up to speed on current technologies. The assumption is that the reader has a strong working knowledge of HTML coding and has had experience with writing at least basic Cascading Style Sheets. The creation of ten separate projects is contained in the 257 pages. These projects do not accommodate the idiosyncrasies of IE 4 or Netscape 4 browsers. The project files are available for download from the book's companion site at http://more.ericmeyeroncss.com.

Each project begins with a brief introductive overview, followed by the project goals, the files you will need, a section for "Laying the Groundwork", and of course, total instructions and detailed explanations to accomplish the task. Each project ends with a " Branching Out" section containing two or three exercises where you modify the existing project on your own! In the margins are found useful tidbits of complementary information, warnings of browser problems or other issues, and web resources.

I began with "Project 1: Converting an Existing Page" of HTML markup and spacer gifs to pure CSS elements. The goals of the project were to reduce the number of images where possible, remove tables used solely for layout purposes, ensure that the resulting markup has a strong structure and is presented in a logical order, and preserve the original layout. I began by stripping out body element attributes, &nbsp; entries, and the font and <br> elements. I then replace most of the table tags with <div id="---"> tags in the body of the page. I then built my styles for controlling element positioning and attributes in the head portion of the page. Not being a CSS expert, I did occasionally refer to my large HTML/CSS reference book for an explanation of tag attributes and possible values. When at a loss, I also read through the code of the downloaded files, which showed how the elements changed for each step of the process. I was able to complete quite a bit of the exercises at the end of the chapter on my own and referred to the style modifications in the files from the companion site when I was stumped.

The nine other projects lead you through the process of using styles effectively for a photo collection or catalog, a financial report, background positioning, list-based menus, drop-down menus, tabbed navigation, a web-log, a home page associated with the web-log, and lastly, the creation of a Zen Garden design http://www.csszengarden.com. Project files are provided for every step of the creation process. Just looking at the evolution of the code is a good education in using CSS for web page development. I've never before used the 'just jump in and do it' approach to coding and was surprised at how effective a learning tool it could be. Although at times the explanations of what I was doing seemed brief, I have to attribute my lack of CSS proficiency as the reason.

In Summary:
The layout of this book is tasteful, elegant, and conveys the feeling of style and accessibility. The projects in the book lead you through the process of creating attractive and easily navigated layouts for your web page content, reflecting the style and accessibility of the book. If you're comfortable with coding HTML and want to look great on the web, Eric Meyer can help you get there.

Where to get it:
More Eric Meyer on CSS
Author: Eric A. Meyer
ISBN: 0-7357-1425-8
New Riders
800 E. 96th Street
3rd Floor
Indianapolis, Indiana 46240