Review: Building a Web Site For Dummies

Building a Web Site For Dummies (For Dummies (Computer/Tech))Building a Web Site For Dummies
by David A. Crowder

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Building a Web Site for Dummies / 978-0-470-14928-7

This book is a great example of why reading reviews before buying is so necessary, even when dealing with "trusted" brand names. I picked this up in a store without going through my usual policy of checking the online ratings first, and boy I wish I'd saved my money.

Are you a newbie thinking about building a website? Would you like a "building a web site" guide for absolute dummies? Well, this is not it. Contrary to the title, this book assumes you already KNOW how to program and build a web site and assumes you already HAVE a web site that you just want to tweak. The HTML section is a "refresher" section, that claims to assume the reader already knows how to program in HTML, although if you already know how to program in HTML, I'm a little confused as to why the 16-page "refresher" section feels the need to tell you the most obvious stuff, like that the definition of the word "font" and what it does an an attribute. Refresher courses generally skip the basics and handle "medium-level" material that the user may have forgotten - that's why it's meant to "refresh" your memory. This feels like the author just copied the first chapter of a decent HTML for beginners book, but cutting out most of the content to get around copyright issues, and then calling it a day 16 pages in. So - yay - this book is worthless as a resource for beginners AND as a refresher course for old-hands.

The CSS section has the same problems as the HTML section and is additionally only 7 pages long. Fantastic.

The claim is circulating in some of the reviews (and in the book itself) that this is really a book for *refining* your existing web site, but it doesn't even do that well. The very little amount of information is buried in a thick, folksy writing style that seems to hope you won't notice the lack of content and preponderance of padding. The examples are clunky, and the images offered here are incredibly ugly - I wouldn't want these designs on my website. Most of the chapters are links to other web sites and recommendations for various "Dummies" books (as in, "I'm not going to go into HTML, but this other HTML for Dummies book does!" and "I'm not going to go into CSS, but this other CSS for Dummies book does!" or "I'm not going to go into Dreamweaver, but this other Dreamweaver for Dummies book does!" over and over again). The web site building advice is completely banal: update your content regularly, make your web site easy to use, include a way for your readers to contact you, etc. Chances are if you've been on the internet even a little in the last few years (enough to pick up HTML and CSS on your own, anyway!) then you already know this stuff.

In closing, I'd like to quote some of the "padding" that manages to make this book hit a 300+ page count without containing any useful information whatsoever:

"How to Use This Book:
Keep this book next to your computer and never lend it to anybody. It's far too precious for that. Make your friends buy their own copies. If you need to make space on your bookshelf, throw away anything else you own to make room for it. When you travel, take it with you. Hold it in your arms at night and tell it how much you love it."

"How This Book is Organized:
This book is divided into eight parts. I organized it that way, with a little help from the folks you see in the Acknowledgments. You did read the Acknowledgments, didn't you? Don't tell me that you're the kind of person who reads the Introduction but doesn't read the Acknowledgments. Please tell me that you didn't miss the Dedication, too?"

Yeah, this author is laughing all the way to the bank.

If you really want a decent "building a web site for beginners" book, I've found "Blended HTML, XHTML, and CSS" by Henry Bojack to be a very solid alternative, if you can find it at a decent price.

~ Ana Mardoll

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