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A Book Apart #1

HTML5 for Web Designers

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The HTML5 spec is 900 pages and hard to read. HTML5 for Web Designers is 85 pages and fun to read. Easy choice.

HTML5 is the longest HTML specification ever written. It is also the most powerful, and in some ways, the most confusing. What do accessible, content-focused standards-based web designers and front-end developers need to know? And how can we harness the power of HTML5 in today’s browsers?

In this brilliant and entertaining user’s guide, Jeremy Keith cuts to the chase, with crisp, clear, practical examples, and his patented twinkle and charm.

87 pages, ebook

First published May 4, 2010

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Jeremy Keith

22 books52 followers

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5 stars
1,171 (36%)
4 stars
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3 stars
550 (17%)
2 stars
154 (4%)
1 star
123 (3%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 182 reviews
Profile Image for Graham Herrli.
96 reviews67 followers
January 12, 2013
How often do you laugh out loud while reading about coding standards?
(a) All the time!
(b) Exceedingly rarely, but I'd like to.
(c) Never. I hate laughter.

If you answered a, I'm afraid of you. Please keep away.
If you answered c, I'm afraid for you. Come here; you need a hug.
Otherwise, this book's for you. Jeremy Keith presents a history of the evolution of HTML5 in a terse, satiric tone that makes this book a must-read for anyone hoping to gain a greater familiarity with HTML5.

The book is the first in the A Book Apart series, and does a good job of setting the tone of brief efficient communication. Each sentence conveys a meaningful bit of information.

Keith's limited code samples provide clear examples of how to promote graceful degradation of audio and video content as well as how to test for browser compatibility with various new HTML5 features. I've even copied a couple of these samples over into a .js and a .css file of my own to form the basis of libraries to make my pages compatible with older browsers. Or maybe I'll just use the Modernizr library, which the conclusion pointed me to.

The book will probably appeal to linguists as well. After a history of the evolution of HTML, Keith moves to information about how particular aspects of HTML5 originated or were selected, before progressing to a chapter on the semantics of the language.

If I go on about this book much longer, I'll make it sound boring, and it's really quite a light read. Go check it out!
Profile Image for Nitya.
1 review38 followers
July 9, 2010
I had pre-ordered this book and received it yesterday - it took me just over an hour (the duration of my commute into NYC) to zip through it. Based on this, my quick review.

The book is a slim 86 pages. Given the amount of detail in the HTML5 spec, this may seem lightweight. And in fact the author does spend the first 2 (of only 6) chapters discussing the history and process behind the creation of this spec - which further unsettled me. BUT.... once you get to Chap 3 (Rich Media) through 6 (Web Forms 2.0, Semantics and Using HTML 5 Today), you immediately derive a benefit from the brevity.

I see this book as an HTML5 buffet table. You can get a quick taste of all the different flavors and features that make the spec so compelling to web designers -- and then given sufficient tools and pointers for those who want a vertical 'dinner' on the aspects of primary interest.

The key takeways for me:

HTML5 favors practice over theory and, as the author puts it, "paves the cowpaths" rather than trying to forge a new road that will require a new learning curve from web designers.
Transparency tops lock-in. This should make rich media content easier to search, index and manipulate by not only making semantics visible but making every interaction with that content observable to the application.
Adoption is quite risk-free. While browser support is not yet ubiquitous, the author explains a few ways in which designers can get to evolve their web applications while still playing nice with browsers that are yet to catch up.

Summary: Loved the buffet. Now going in search of a week long series of dinners.
Profile Image for Zlatan.
9 reviews1 follower
November 3, 2010
I really don't want to be a party pooper, but I must say that I learned more about HTML5 by reading a couple of blog articles on the subject here and there. The only new things I actually learned is that the anchor element can now act as a block-level element, some new form features, the function of the "scoped" attribute, and the new content models.

I would suggest you to save your money, and instead find some online sources on HTML5, or just read Mark Pilgrim's free e-book that covers the same subject.
Profile Image for Caitlin (Ayashi).
210 reviews3 followers
July 9, 2010
Great fast read for someone who wants a quick history and briefing of what the state is of HTML5 today. Good place to look for tips to start to use HTML5 now, too! After finishing the book, I'm pretty excited to give a simple HTML5 website a shot :)
36 reviews5 followers
May 16, 2021
Quite old now. Read it to get what was then the near future, bur is now the backstory.
May 9, 2012
Nice primer on HTML5 for those already familiar with previous implementations of hypertext mark-up specs. This is not a tome of thorough reference, nor an introduction for beginners (author lists several resources in the end of the book for those seeking either). This small book (under 90 pages) is designed for experienced developers interested in basic information on what adoption of a new standard would mean for them.

Author starts with brief history of mark-up languages, starting with SGML up to HTML 4.01, flavours of XHTML, and eventual failure of XHTML 2 project. In first theoretical chapters J. Keith discusses what led to demise of XML-based HTML, and introduction of a new arguably more practical approach to ensure backward compatibility of legacy code, and faster adoption of new standards. In describing design approach to the new specification, author, for example, explains difference between previously “deprecated” elements, and now either “obsolete” or redefined elements (b and co. are back).

Afterwards we are presented with chapters of practical reference on topics like rich media (embedded audio and video sans plug-ins, JS APIs etc.), Web Forms 2.0, new semantic mark-up. Rounds up the book a chapter on basic ideas for implementation of HTML5 today, though given infancy of the specification, and lack of browser support at the time, it comes off as a set of rough guidelines — rather cursory, and underwhelming.

One particular point on implementation and backward compatibility. Any legacy code (HTML or XHTML) should be valid HTML5 document (quote: “At the very least, you can take your existing HTML or XHTML documents and update doctype to !DOCTYPE html” (p. 82)), but DOCTYPE switching is not currently (2012) consistent with what author writes on p. 13:

The minimum information required to ensure that a browser renders using standards mode is the HTML5 doctype. In fact, that’s the only reason to include doctype at all. An HTML document written without the HTML5 doctype can still be valid HTML5.

In reality, one Internet Explorer 9 chocked up on my recent attempt. Basic XHTML-syntaxed static pages (otherwise perfectly rendered in FF, Opera etc.) had issues with basic CSS rendering (pixel-based dimensions, and float property for columns). After substituting HTML5 doctype for traditional XHTML 1.1 doctype, IE9 rendered as it should. So ease of this transition seems to be greatly exaggerated, though IE9 is supposed to support many new specs and technologies.

Overall, it is a good book, easy and fast, sprinkled with bits of humour, pleasurable read.
Profile Image for Stephanie.
Author 3 books6 followers
March 30, 2011
This is a wonderful book. It doesn't attempt to teach you HTML from scratch. It's intended for people who've been working with HTML for a long time and just need to know what has changed in HTML5. It's concise, readable, and informative. Best of all, it's funny. Jeremy Keith writes about web design with obvious affection, even when it's exasperating: "Internet Explorer has special needs." "It would be inaccurate to say [the XHTML 2 spec] was going nowhere fast. It was going nowhere very, very slowly." It's just 85 pages long, so you can zip through it in an hour and a half, tops, and the last chapter is a guide to using HTML5 immediately (and working around the middling support in current browsers). It's ideal for getting started with HTML5 in a single afternoon.
Profile Image for Wessam Khalil.
40 reviews39 followers
February 16, 2015
I did not spend a lot of time reading this book as it is a very short book. By reading this book, I have revised some of my information regarding HTML5 and its history.

If you are about to read this book, be informed that this book will not teach you how to write HTML mark-ups, and it will not teach you how to write CSS. It will not introduce you to the whole web design world.

This book will give you information around HTML5 history and specification. It is a light reading for experienced web designers and developers who are already familiar with HTML.
Profile Image for Tom.
88 reviews11 followers
July 19, 2010
Great quick read summarizing the history of HTML, its philosophy, and the major additions to the spec that web designers would care about: semantics, web forms and rich media.

Being a software developer by trade, I was hoping for a bit more, but this book does a great job of getting one started on the HTML5 path. It takes about an hour to read, so you really can't lose.
Profile Image for cauldronofevil.
66 reviews
March 16, 2023
HTML5 for Web Designers by Jeremy Keith is a small 85 page paperback that is really the size almost all computer books should be. Published by “A Book Apart”. “Brief books for people who makes websites.”

Its written in a very conversational and engaging tone, primarily (and very helpfully) describing the process by which HTML5 came into being. This dispels a-lot of confusion, especially in regard to XHTML which was long touted as the future of the internet.

I especially appreciate the way it points out both the good and bad design decisions made. Most computer books are written as if there are no flaws whatsoever in the software!

It’s a very thin book so it doesn’t provide a lot of examples. It simply describes new features and some of the reasoning behind the features. Just enough so that you can look for further details elsewhere if you need them.

Of course, while it is a very useful overview of HTML 5 it comes with the usual caveat that ‘Who the hell knows if any particular browser supports any particular syntax!?!’

The book is written in a fun tone an easy to read. An example:

“The good news is that you can use the pattern attribute to specify exactly what kind of value is expected. The bad news is that you have to use a regular expression. Most of the time, you’ll never need to use the pattern attribute. On the occasions that you do, you have my sympathy.”

The final chapter is how you can use HTML5 features despite the fact that they aren’t all supported by all the browsers. Good luck with that.

It’s an interesting an informative sashay (their words, not mine) around the HTML5 is encouraging and informative.

I’d give this four stars as an excellent and not too much introduction to HTML5.
Profile Image for Kara Babcock.
1,923 reviews1,261 followers
August 19, 2010
I am very excited for HTML5. My experience with web design began in March 2004. I was young(er than I am now), and I decided to make a personal website on GeoCities. It was a gaudy affair that reflected my lack of design skills and made use of notorious elements like . In the years that followed, I learned about web standards and accessibility. Now my websites still reflect a lack of design skills, but at least they're accessible! So I'm happy that HTML5's specifications are being developed with accessibility and web standards in mind, as well as a healthy dose of realism when it comes to browser implementation. We're never going to get a pure and perfect Web. Let's see how close we can come though.

Jeremy Keith is also excited for HTML5, and that excitement is evident in HTML5 for Web Designers. From page 1 to page 85, Keith succinctly communicates the good, the bad, and the unfortunate about the HTML5 specification. He touches on almost every important part of HTML5, including what may be the most pertinent question right now: can we use HTML5 today? (The answer is yes. I am using it on my site.)

Almost every review I've read comments on this book's length. Its length is a selling point, as the A Book Apart website advertises it, and it is also a weakness. Owing to the book's brevity, I can easily review each chapter, and then I'll conclude with an explanation of why, on balance, the quality in these pages truly does exceed their quantity.

The first chapter is the "brief history of markup" chapter that seems obligatory for every book on HTML. Every author gets to put his or her spin on the rise of the Web, the browser wars, the arrival of AJAX and Web 2.0, etc. That's not a bad thing, and for those of us who are familiar with that history, it is always good to review. When discussing HTML5, a good knowledge of where we have been is essential. HTML5 is an attempt to create a markup language for the Web that puts our past behind us while embracing the legacy it has left. Hence, in designing HTML5, WHATWG wants to curtail future "browser wars" by involving browser developers in the process. At the same time, we can't just ignore what we already have in HTML 4.01. It's a delicate balancing act, and the opening chapter reminds us of the challenges involved.

In chapter 2, "The Design of HTML5," Keith focuses on how HTML5 differs from HTML 4.01, XHTML 1, and XHTML 2. He throws out a lot of the catchphrases making the rounds in the development community ("pave the cowpaths"). Aside from that, the changes he notes are fascinating examples of immediate relevance to web designers, e.g., the irrelevance of doctypes, the new rules regarding the anchor element, and the hooks into JavaScript APIs. That last one is really cool, because it is the change about which I've heard the last. And then Keith admits that these are "completely over [his:] head," so he won't be covering him! Not that I blame him. They sound over my head as well.

Chapter 3, "Rich Media," covers three new elements in HTML5 that are making waves: , , and . Keith looks at each in turn, exploring the advantages, disadvantages, and state of implementation with major browsers. Since my web design seldom involves multimedia, I haven't tried out these elements for myself. It's great to see demonstrations like Detexify, which shows off the power of . I like that Keith addresses the shortcomings of the implementations of these elements thus far, e.g., 's inconsistent format support. HTML5 for Web Designers is effusive about HTML5 but also realistic.

I was really looking forward to the chapter on "Web Forms 2.0." Indeed, this was one of the reasons I bought the book. I haven't worked with forms in HTML5 yet, and the improvements to form controls look pretty cool. Keith once again does an adequate job summarizing the changes to forms. I was somehow expecting . . . more, so chapter 4 left me feeling underwhelmed. However, I think this is the result of a misunderstanding on my part about what HTML5 offers for forms rather than a flaw in this book.

The last two chapters, "Semantics" and "Using HTML5 Today," are similar in content and significance, so I will address them together. These chapters are perhaps the most important in the book, but they are also the most redundant. There are many great online resources on HTML5 already; indeed, Keith links to a lot of them, including the fantastic HTML5 Doctor. So what Keith does in these chapters is little more than reiteration of what I've already read. I learned a few new things, but most of the content in these chapters is covered in more depth on sites like HTML5 Doctor.

That is the trade-off to having a brief book. HTML5 for Web Designers is just a summary of what HTML5 offers. It doesn't claim to be anything more, and for designers who are unfamiliar with HTML5, this will probably be enough. As someone familiar with some of HTML5 and unclear on other parts, I found this book useful but not quite as enlightening as I had hoped.

Should you buy it? You can definitely learn everything you'd learn from this book elsewhere, and perhaps just as quickly, for free. That being said, sometimes it is useful to have a reference book nearby. HTML5 for Web Designers is a beautifully-designed reference book, and it obviously won't take up much shelf space. Keith's writing is clear and entertaining. So the book's quality ultimately comes down to your expectations. Be realistic about what you will get from an 85-page book, and you will find this satisfactory.

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Profile Image for anne.
Author 5 books3 followers
September 19, 2018
Note that this is for the original edition; the newest edition is sitting in my shopping cart at A Book Apart.

This book breaks downs a few very important points about HTML5 that other books I've read on the topic do not, and they all involve history. Jeremy Keith explains how we got here, from the beginning with HTML 2.0 through the WHATWG and WC3 kerfuffles to the present (2010) day.

Knowing the history of HTML helps considerably in understanding what decisions were made and why. Understanding the design principles -- especially in the light of graceful degradation -- is also quite helpful.

As mentioned, this is an old edition and I'm sure the new one is chock full of more up-to-date information. At the same time, because of the solid principles Jeremy Keith describes the web standards groups are using, the first edition isn't inaccurate so much as missing all the cool stuff that's developed since so if this is the only edition you have access to, it's still worth the read.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
20 reviews
July 16, 2019
Picking up a coding book, I'm always afraid that I'll hit of boring brick wall of sleep-inducing description and instruction that is impossible to follow. Not only is this book highly readable, and in fact even entertaining, but it also is easy to understand and retain the material. It starts with a background on the birth of HTML5, and uses this description of its history and the philosophy behind it to help explain what HTML5 is doing and why. Along the way it includes suggestions and commentary about what features are currently working best and why, what sort of browser support is available currently, what tricks to employ for greater browser support and backwards compatibility, and how to deal with accessibility issues. I highly recommend the book to anyone with an interest in the future of web developmen
10 reviews
February 9, 2018
Version 2 of HTML5 for Web Designers is a short book, but a good overview of the overall changes and improvements HTML5 has made over previous iterations. For those of us interested in diving more into key aspects of HTML5 including the new semantic elements, form validation, etc - this is a great primer to get you up to speed on those topics.

Especially for newer designers and front-end developers who have really only known HTML5, this is a good reference that provides some of the historical background of HTML beyond the basics, and provides some insight on how to correct utilize the changes from a design and development perspective. It's a great mix of historical, academic-level background and practical application for such a short book.
Profile Image for awwsalah.
187 reviews19 followers
May 25, 2017
it kind of disappointed me. it's theoretical book but not a practical, not as i expected.
he explain some certain staff in a detailed way, lije like the HTML history.. but when he reached the third chapter he rushed the whole staff quickly, like he's remembering you the script but not to teaching.. maybe this book is not for someone starting web development. i won't recommended this book to newcomers.
Profile Image for Le Trang.
Author 1 book
February 16, 2023
This made a pleasant read, even though it's technically technical content. I chuckled along from first chapter to the Glossary. The Web has changed drastically for the last 10 years, but this book is still much relevant. I'm still amazed about how all the web developers in the world could agree on how the web should be built, which html tags to use etc. It's a true form of democracy. A great read for anyone who cares about the Web or simply curious about its history.
Profile Image for Nagham Al Halabi.
45 reviews6 followers
March 3, 2019
This book provides a good introduction to html5 and the world of semantics, it's a bit outdated though (this shows mainly in the futuristics tone of the author and the examples given). I liked the short history of HTML5 that was provided at the beginning of the short simple handbook.
Profile Image for Vasyl.
12 reviews5 followers
August 26, 2020
Компактна книжка про HTML5 та веб-розробку 10 річної давності, яку зараз можна прочитати лише щоб відчути ностальджі проте, як в якості експерименту можна використовувати нові теги та яким чином з'явився HTML5. Сміливо можна скіпати.
Profile Image for Grant Baker.
46 reviews9 followers
August 11, 2017
A little dated at this point (that's the nature of books on tech) but still an excellent book that encapsulates the purpose of the A Book Apart series—short, descriptive, pragmatic.
Profile Image for Danny de Vries.
13 reviews3 followers
August 3, 2018
Especially useful for people who only started developing for the web a couple of years ago. Great primer on how HTML5 came to be.
August 2, 2019
Well written and to the point. A fair amount of prior knowledge is needed to follow well. Looking forward to reading more in the series.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 182 reviews

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