People often ask me to recommend web books. I always have to get more specific: You want beginner, intermediate, or advanced? What are you trying to achieve? Some people will say that they want to learn HTML, when the truth is that they’d be just as happy letting software write the code for them but they don’t know beans about page layout and information architecture.
If I were teaching, these are the books I’d use. For a good overview of the field, simply read the first book from each category except Design, where the first two are essential.
To be read in the order specified unless otherwise noted:
Code: HTML, CSS, and Web Standards
- Designing With Web Standards (if you already know HTML)
HTML 4 Visual Quickstart Guide with XHTML and CSS (if not)
- Eric Meyer on CSS
- Web Standards Solutions
I’m going to be unorthodox and lump graphic design and usability into one category. To me, they’re too closely related to separate.
I should note that while The Non-Designer’s Design Book is lovely, Robin Williams’s web-related books stink on ice. I blame this on her co-author.
Don’t Make Me Think has a good chapter on information architecture, and a good thing, too, because the books devoted to IA alone are impenetrable and overly intellectual. It’s a newer field and has yet to find its prophet.
A short list because the second book could not have been more thorough.
(in no particular order)
More Code: PHP and MySQL
This is by far my weakest category. Salt, take with, grain of…. and please suggest alternatives.
In order to keep all those pesky properties straight, you should keep a comprehensive CSS reference handy, such as the Cascading Stylesheets 2.0 Programmer’s Reference or O’Reilly’s Cascading Style Sheets: The Definitive Guide. (Dreamweaver users have probably noticed that O’Reilly references for HTML and CSS are built in to MX and MX 2004. This will do, but I prefer the dead tree editions.)
People who tell beginners to read the W3C specs are insane. The specs are written for browser developers and are nearly worthless for designers, unless you need to clarify an arcane point of semantics. There’s an article explaining how to read them, if you must, but honestly, life is too short.
Recommendations for an XML/web services list would be most welcome.