Pro CSS for High Traffic Websites
Author: Antony Kennedy and Inayaili de Leon
Publisher: Apress
Pages: 401
ISBN: 978-1430232889
Aimed at: Web developers
Rating: 4
Pros: An interesting insight into CSS
Cons: Not for the beginner, nor the accomplished expert
Reviewed by: Ian Elliot

CSS for high traffic websites? Does it sound like a book a developer would really need to read.

After all what a high traffic website needs is a good server architecture coupled with caching and compression and CSS isn't really top of the list in terms of what you might get back in performance from effort expended. However, there are other issues with CSS that are associated with high traffic websites - defined to be those with over 10,000 visitors per day. Such large web sites are likely to belong to big companies or to be managed by a team rather than a few lone developers. What this means is that, as well as having to be organized about HTML and JavaScript, you also have to organize your CSS. And CSS is generally an afterthought in the design of most website.


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Generally it is assumed that you know the basics of CSS but there is a very brief introduction to CSS and its philosophy in the preface. Chapter 1 launches in with a look at how you can generate CSS with a team. It is essentially about writing consistent CSS to a specified style. The next chapter is about the detail of building and working with a CSS style guide. This discusses in some detail the different ways that CSS can be written. Chapter 3 is called fundamentals and it explains the fundamental principles of CSS - inheritance, selectors and a range of hacks. This is an interesting chapter but it isn't complete in the sense that if you are a CSS beginner this will only scratch the surface and give you glimpse of what there is to be learned.

Chapter 4 is about frameworks and integration. It suggests that, rather than working with CSS from scratch, you should use a framework just like you would use jQuery for JavaScript. Chapter 5 is a bit off topic in that it is about brand implementation, which is more a design issue than anything else, but it does go into details such as the difficulty of maintaining an accurate font for a brand's style. From here we move on to CSS and accessibility issues and devices as a way of customizing output.

Chapter 8 is about performance which is what you might have assumed the entire book was about. There are aspects of this that I found misleading. Some of the suggested optimizations were so small as to seem silly and likely to introduce errors. For example you don't need to specify a unit for a zero value because zero is zero in all units. However if you are setting a zero value and leave out the units that you think are appropriate you invite another CSSer to come along and change it to a non-zero value with no guidance as to what the units should be. There are lots of similar objections that can be made to other micro optimizations. Much better to just write well formed CSS and use a minifier - which is suggested later in the chapter. No attempt to quantify the savings is made and my guess is that most of them are negligible. 

Chapter 9 is on dynamic CSS, which might confuse you as CSS isn't actually dynamic - yet. Mostly the chapter deals with preprocessors. I can't say that the chapter convinced me that any of this was a good idea.

The book rounds out with a chapter on testing and debugging - which for CSS is difficult - and then a chapter consisting of a case study.

Overall this is an interesting book. Don't take everything it suggests as a good idea and read it critically. The chapters on style and CSS best practice were the best and I doubt if you are going to get huge performance advantages from following the optimization suggestions.

This is not a book for the CSS beginner and it really isn't for the expert either, unless they have missed out on basic good code design practices - which is quite possible given how most people learn CSS. If you haven't taken CSS seriously before, this could open your eyes.

Don't buy this book if you are interested in CSS tricks - it is much more about trying to tame CSS so that it can be used in large team developments. I enjoyed reading it, but I can't say that it is going to be to everyone's taste.

 

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Node: Up and Running

Author: Tom Hughes-Croucher & Mike Wilson
Publisher: O'Reilly
Pages: 204
ISBN: 978-1449398583
Audience: JavaScript programmers
Rating: 3
Reviewer: Alex Armstrong

Node is a way of using JavaScript on the server side - it's relatively new and this slim volume aims at getting you started.



Learn Electronics with Arduino

Author:Don Wilcher
Publisher: Apress
Pages: 280
ISBN: 978-1430242663
Audience: Electronics enthusiasts
Rating: 4.5
Reviewer: Harry Fairhead

Learn electronics by creating exciting projects with an Arduino. It sounds like a really good idea. Unfortunately this isn't the book the title suggests it is.


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Last Updated ( Thursday, 10 November 2011 )
 
 

   
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