Author: Mark Bell
Publisher: Que, 2009
Aimed at: Beginners wanting to build a no-cost
Pros: Introduces free tools
Cons: Fuzzy illustrations and has the potential to confuse
Reviewed by: David Conrad
There is currently great enthusiasm for building websites by absolutely everyone and this book adds fuel to this fire.
This book is aimed at anyone who hasn't previously built a website and doesn't expect the reader to have any prior knowledge. Its selling point is that it helps you build a website for free and it does this primarily by relying on open source software. It provides plenty of ideas to motivate and guide beginners and has a straightforward structure. After a short introduction that answers the questions a complete newcomer might have Mark Bell outlines the five steps- Planning, Design, Building, Testing, Promotion and Maintenance - that will be covered in detail, each with a specific section devoted to it. Before moving onto to this process of website creation, web hosting is considered with some recommendations for free options and throughout the book useful free software is discussed.
This book will get you started but obviously in around 300 pages it never gets to very advanced topics. It does however often introduce technicalities that really don't need to be raised until later - who needs to know that colour is specified using hexadecimal numbers before they have mastered a lot of much simpler ideas. It also has lots of forward references to HTML which isn't covered until Chapter 10. It also confuses many issues. For example, the book repeatedly refers to headers and footers - an optional layout concept - with the HTML page header which is a division of the HTML structure which usually doesn't actually show on a page, i.e. it isn't a layout feature and not at all connected with the idea of a page header.
There are also lots of screen dumps some of which are purely decorative but others contain information which would be useful if only it could be read. However the size and resolution of screen dumps make them unreadable and thus redundant and frustrating.
By Chapter Nine the book has moved on to using page construction sites which basically allow you to build a webpage without worrying about HTML or anything technical - i.e. all the stuff discussed in the first eight chapters. If you really are a beginner and only need a few web pages then this is the way to go. From here to the end the book oscillates between spurious technicalities and using pre-packaged solutions - some of which are very difficult propositions unless you are more than a beginner. For example, in the section on using a CMS, a good idea, the author considers why you might want to use Joomla. Joomla is a good CMS, arguably the best but it is not a beginner's tool and it sometimes confuses even the expert!
The fact of the matter is that this book isn't a good introduction to website building - free or otherwise.