Review – The Art and Science of CSS


The Art and Science of CSS


I first heard of this book (The Art and Science of CSS) via Twitter when Jina Bolton was getting all excited about the first press copies in March 2007. Also having Andrew Krespanis as the Technical Editor, I know it would be good, as least technically. Like a lot of books these days this book is broken up into several chapters with separate sections written by each of the authors Cameron Adams, Jina Bolton, David Johnson, Steve Smith and Jonathan Snook.

From the general blurb on the cover I would say that this book is aimed at web designers that consider standards based design to be boring and uninteresting. Well that writes me out the demographic to start with. So is this book worth looking at if you are familiar with CSS? This really does depend on your level of understanding of current techniques. Most of the methods that presented in detail with this book can be found out on the web in various places. If you have been reading the right blogs and the attending the right conferences then you will know most of the information presented in this book. However if you weren’t in that zone and can not instantly pull the latest and greatest from your CSS, then this book is for you.

In no time flat it explains a fair number of leading edge CSS techniques with a ever present degree of good humour and readability. In fact this is not the usual boring dry technical manual. As usual Kevin Yank and the team at Sitepoint have produced a entertaining book that both acts as a step-by-step guide, and an adhoc manual for transforming the dull styling of CSS layouts into pages of design beauty.

The chapters of the book breakdown the CSS design process into function design and content types such as:

  • Headings

    Good chapter covers the basics of headings for design, general image replacement methods and use of sIFR.

  • Images

    This is basically all about styling images, and bringing in contextual content for images and styling that with use of minimum semantic markup.

  • Backgrounds

    Looks at the use of layering backgrounds and using the positioning layout points to your advantage. It also deals with the future direction of CSS3. Which elements of I want now, and really just can’t wait for these browser manufacturers to get it together and implement the CSS3 draft.

  • Navigation

    There is a little overlap here between navigation and the background chapter. No overlap is wrong its more extension of the theme and technique. That said there are some very interesting ideas on navigation elements and their presentation in this chapter beyond the sprites method.

  • Forms

    Forms always seem to be the web designers and developers bane. But this chapter does present some simple solutions and general directions for the rendering of forms beyond the usual presentation methods. Good discussion on the correct way to do error messages in forms. More designers and developers should take note of this method.

  • Rounded Corners

    Now this was the chapter, that I should have know about, so this is the one that I personally think opening my eyes a little more. Like you always get told, you can’t know everything.

  • Tables

    So we are not using them for layout, but for tabular data. But still it doesn’t have to be boring does it. This is a good discussion on the use of filters (non standard, I know) and layering of backgrounds via the parent child aspect of the markup. One disappointment is the obtrusive use of a JavaScript in one example. But that can be forgiven, its not a JavaScript book is it. I would have used JQuery and placed it in unobtrusively anyway.

Would I recommend this book? Yes if you are not within the leading edge of the Web Industry, or you are even a little bit unsure about your CSS skills being totally up to date, or you just want to have a different take on design and break out of the CSS box mode; then this is the book for you, . I even didn’t have a problem with the layout or the typography of this book, good read, full of useful information and techniques.

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