Bulletproof Web Design Book Review

Written on October 26, 2006 in Technical, Review, Books.
Adam Fortuna

Hey hey! I'm a developer who lives in Orlando, FL. Right now I work at Code School, listen to a lot of audiobooks, set way too many goals, write at minafi.com and tweet often.

I don’t usually recommend books unless they change my point of view on something. Granted I read almost entirely tech and finance books, but most don’t make headlines. One i’ve been reading lately makes the grade - Bulletproof Web Design : Improving flexibility and protecting against worst-case scenarios with XHTML and CSS . It’s by the guy who runs SimpleBits.com and has a few major sites under his belt. Some of the ideas are ones I haven’t heard mentioned before (which came as a surprise) and everything so far has been useful. Here’s a few tips and topics it discusses:

  • Setting a font size in the body tag, then setting the font size a percentage of that font everywhere else, allowing the entire page to scale equally

  • Never defining height for anything, ever

  • Using DL/DT/DD tags for more than just definition lists

  • Tab based navigation

  • Rounded corners for boxes

  • Lots of general style and color tips in every section

  • There’s a <caption> tag for tables? Who knew?

  • Standard complaint ways to format data tables with css

  • Getting columns equal length using pure css without tables

None of this was completely new, but the way it was written was a little different than previous books and tutorials. Most tutorials start out with some base HTML that isn’t changed, but the css is styled as needed. Usually when developing it’s more back and forth- - you’ll add a class as you need it or realize you need a wrapper div, and that’s how the book is written, by going back and forth between the css and html. Sometimes this means the screenshot at some stage is ugly and incomplete, but since that’s how all my sites are it’s not a bad step to go through.

This is one book that although I read over a year ago, very often ends up on my desk. Although I’m no designer, and sometimes it’s a painful process for me to get something looking the way I want it, the tips in this book are extremely useful best practices. The “Bulletproof” title is well worth it. The idea is that your pages should all be bulletproof — they should work in any sized browser, should be able to be changed with minimal effort and work across the browsers.

The book does a good job of explaining why each of the practices employed are bulletproof as well. I’d consider it a must read CSS if there was ever one, and a much better read for programmers than any other css books I’ve read.

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