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Build it, and they will come (and break it)

Dummies guides have always undersold themselves, almost by definition, as they imply good advice only for the most uninitiated of novices. Sometimes, this is almost an absurdity, as Creating Web Pages for Dummies reveals with its 9-books-in-1 approach. But trying to be all things to all designers is also not the answer, as ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK discovers.

Book: Creating Web Pages for Dummies: All-in-one Desk Reference

Author: Richard Wagner and Richard Mansfield

Publisher: Wiley Publishing (2007)

Paperback: 636 pages, plus CD-ROM

Supplied by: Intersoft

One of the open secrets of web design is that you don’t need any special tools to build a web site. Aside from sites that allow you to create and host your own web page or blog on the fly, anyone who can use the basic Notepad text editor or its equivalents can create a web page from scratch. But that is hardly the full story. It is like saying that anyone with a piece of land and a few bricks can build a house. The real secrets like in a combination of the expertise, tools and materials at your disposal. The same applies to building a substantial web presence.

Creating Web Pages for Dummies does not try to pretend that it all really is as easy as opening Notepad. But it lays out the tools, as well as the tips and tricks that underpin much of the expertise out there, in a structured manner that allows you to hone up what is relevant for you, and what you want to explore further.

The nine books it claims to bundle into one include a few rather slim volumes, such as the three dozen or so pages of Web & Page Design, the 50 pages on Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), a similar volume on Flash and the 35 pages on Graphics & Multimedia. Having said that, even these brief guides do help in demystifying the myriad uses of CSS, for one, which is useful even if your are only planning to play around in the template world of blogging.

The compilation comes into its own in detailed guides to web design tools like Microsoft’s Expression Web and Dreamweaver ‚ but that assumes you are using commercial software with professional intent. Although much of the material repeats what you may find in the menus and onboard help on these applications, it saves you the thrill (not!) of the hunt. Great advice on Scripting, a real reference resource on HTML/XML and some neat (if slim) pointers to Online Services add up to a compilation that earns the ‚Desk Reference‚ rather than ‚For Dummies‚ descriptor.

Its main shortcoming is that it tries to do too much, and does no single thing especially well, since it tries to be all things to all web page creators, and will not satisfy any for very long. But it redeems itself a little with the CD-ROM slipped into a sleeve in the back of the book, containing a range of license-free applications for enhancing web design and web site features. CSS Tab Designer, the Filezilla ftp application, G1MP image editor, Notepad2 text editor, and Nvu web site builder all serve as great starting points.

From the disk you can also link to around a dozen web-based services and tools, including examples of great sites.

In summary, the guide will highlight what you need to know, and give you enough knowledge to know what else you need to know and where to go find it. Use it by itself, and something is going to look broken somewhere on your site.

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