Web design and promotion: 5 must-read guidebooks

Learn the latest techniques for designing modern Web sites -- and making sure visitors can find them.

With all the competition for viewer eyeballs out there on the Internet, it's getting ever harder to make your business or personal Web site stand out from all the rest. So what's an experienced Web designer -- or a novice, for that matter -- to do? How can you create pages that entice with striking visual elements, innovative designs and ease of navigation that will help bring in viewers?

The best answer is to start out with all the latest and best tools that you can include in your Web design arsenal and use them to make your pages shine.

Here are five must-read books on modern Web design, creation and marketing that will help you design and produce gorgeous pages for your clients, your company or yourself. This collection of titles highlights some of the keys for great Web pages in 2010: how to create and use cascading style sheets (CSS), how to design pages using Web standards that will display your pages properly in any Web browser, and how to understand and use search engine optimization.

Designing with Web Standards,
3rd Edition

by Jeffrey Zeldman with Ethan Marcotte
(New Riders, Oct. 2009, $50)

Designing with Web Standards, 3rd Edition book cover

Designing Web pages used to be an exercise in frustration because every browser used different rules to display pages. That meant that you had to build pages, then test them individually in each Web browser so you could make sure that viewers were seeing them displayed just the way you had designed them. It was a major hassle and meant that Web designers had to spend far more time than necessary to be sure everything worked everywhere.

Web standards let designers build to one specification that then can be properly displayed by all browsers that use those standards. The idea is simple: Write your code once and publish it everywhere. It took many years for all the browser makers to get on board the Web standards train, and some browsers still don't adhere to Web standards completely. But the most recent versions of the major browsers are closer than ever before -- which means that these days you really can write Web-standard code.

This book shows you how to better code your Web pages to take advantage of these strategies. Using lots of colorful and clear illustrations and examples, this book will help you "future-proof" your Web sites, using everything from XHTML to JavaScript to CSS and more. There's even information about the next iteration of HTML being developed now -- HTML5 -- which will allow Web pages to be brought to life as richer, more feature-enabled Web applications.

CSS: The Missing Manual, Second Edition
by David Sawyer McFarland
(O'Reilly Media/Pogue Press, Aug. 2009, $35)

CSS: The Missing Manual, Second Edition book cover

Not everyone who designs Web pages is an expert. That's where this book (and others in the "Missing Manual" series) comes to the rescue. When you need to know where to start with CSS -- literally at the ground level -- this is a great volume for you. It helps you understand all the essentials about CSS from elements to selectors and everything in between through well-arranged and detailed definitions, tutorials, hand-holding, work-arounds and more.

Although this book focuses primarily on existing CSS 2.1 standards, it also gently introduces the reader to the world of CSS 3, which is still very much under development. That means that while you are learning about using the CSS 2 code that's active now, you can already be looking ahead to the innovations that are coming with CSS 3. In other words, you can get ahead of the curve even as the curves are being put in place.

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