I need to be brought up to date in web development
November 14, 2010 7:52 PM   Subscribe

I have been out of website coding the past seven years. I still have a webiste but it is coded in very simple HTML with little or no CSS. From what I remember back then CSS was not supported fully by all he browsers. Broadband internet was also not as widely used as it is today so I hesitated in using images for my site. Is there a book that will bring me up to date with the latest coding technologies (Ajax, HTML, CSS)?
posted by alshain to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 52 users marked this as a favorite
I found Jeffrey Zeldman's Designing With Web Standards great for someone who was familiar with the technology, but needed a good way to understand what the best approaches for standards compliant—and cross-browser compatible—HTML + CSS were. It's very front-end focused; if you want to know how to build more dynamic sites with database-driven backends (such as what you would want to use some fancy AJAX interactivity for), then this isn't the book for you, but it sounds more in line with your question.
posted by dubitable at 8:04 PM on November 14, 2010 [3 favorites]

I don't have any book recommendations, but would recommend that you split this up into chunks. My recommended learning path would be to brush up on HTML, learn CSS, learn basic JavaScript, get acquainted with JQuery, and then start doing things with AJAX.

You'll also likely need to learn a server-side scripting language along the way. PHP is a good place to start.
posted by schmod at 8:05 PM on November 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

I can recommend this one. it will walk you right through the stuff you want to learn about as you build a scuba-diving website.
posted by circular at 8:29 PM on November 14, 2010

Check out CSS Tricks. It is a very helpful site. Go through the videos especially.

One hint: using a CSS reset ( I use one by Eric Meyer ) will help a lot with getting things looking similar in most browsers.
posted by backwards guitar at 8:31 PM on November 14, 2010

Oh yeah, no ajax though...but I would check out Jquery books like "novice to ninja" because Ajax the technology is pretty narrow in focus and Jquery sounds like it'd be more helpful to you.
posted by circular at 8:32 PM on November 14, 2010

Another vote for the Sitepoint book that circular mentioned. It isn't perfect, but it is better than most of the other HTML/CSS books out there.
posted by sophist at 8:44 PM on November 14, 2010

I reference http://www.w3schools.com/ site for a lot of coding needs. It is a great resource.
posted by butcher at 9:09 PM on November 14, 2010

For HTML and CSS, agreed that the Zeldman book is good. For Ajaxy stuff, try the Manning "jQuery in Action" book; the second edition just came out. That, alone, will give you a decent sense of "Ajax" as it's more broadly often used (that is to say, whiz-bang client-side interactivity).

For actual Ajax in the strict sense (asynchronous server-side interaction), you will, indeed, need some server-side expertise. I'm actually going to disagree with schmod, though: don't bother with PHP. There's a lot of PHP code out there, and some of it is pretty good, but in my opinion, at least, what good PHP code there is is good in spite of the language. PHP, as a language, won't really encourage the development of the kinds of habits that make for good programmers, and if you're trying to get a sense of the cutting edge, something a little more mature would serve you better. What, specifically, doesn't really matter; my personal inclination is towards Python, but Ruby would also be a solid option.
posted by andrewpendleton at 9:33 PM on November 14, 2010

For HTML and CSS, I'm going through this book: HTML and CSS Web Standards Solutions: A Web Standardistas' Approach. So if you don't want to build a site about scuba diving, you can make one on primates instead.

I find the book well-organized and easy to understand. It may not be as deep as the other book, but as someone who last touched HTML 15 years ago and who never touched CSS at all, I'm finding it easy to follow and am learning a lot.
posted by spinifex23 at 11:17 PM on November 14, 2010

I am not an expert, but I think the most useful skill to have now is to know how to use an existing CMS like Wordpress (or Drupal or whatever) to build a site. Unless you have some really specific requirements, using a CMS is probably the easiest way to build and maintain a site. They also have tons of existing plugins for various functionality you may want. You will have to learn some CSS to edit or create your theme.

I guess I'm not answering your question about what book to look for, but any CMS should have detailed instructions on how to use it. These days I wouldn't build a site without a CMS, and I wouldn't build a CMS even if I could because there are great free ones available.
posted by snofoam at 5:31 AM on November 15, 2010

Not a book, per se, but a course of study:

jQuery. jQuery.ui. ThemeRoller. Done :)

If you really want to get gory after that, start looking at how jQuery does browser and feature detection, and you will get all the cross-platform details you want. I looked, and stopped wanting those details! Along the way in grokking jQuery, you will pick up enough css to get by.

Some basic guidelines for the modern era:

* assume js is mostly supported
* assume css is mostly supported
* div, ul, ol (rather than tables)
* stop reinventing the wheel on things :)

Best of luck!
posted by gregglind at 7:05 AM on November 15, 2010

alshain, as you can see you're getting responses from all over the map: people talking about CMS systems, which server-side language to use, AJAX, etc. etc.

However, it's not really clear to me what your goals are, which is why I conservatively listed just a book about HTML and CSS and web standards, based on your question. But it may be helpful if you refined your question a little to specify what your goals are with your web development. For example:
  1. Are you trying to get a good grasp of certain technologies from a hobbyist's perspective, or towards the goal of professional skill development?
  2. Are you just looking to maintain a blog, or personal portfolio site, or what (or not)?
  3. Do you, actually, have any interest or use in server-side development technologies?
  4. Why, exactly, do you want to learn AJAX? And perhaps more to the point, what does AJAX mean to you? I don't mean to be condescending here; but a lot of stuff gets lumped into so-called 'AJAX' libraries these days...I myself have been guilty of throwing the term around in vague ways when actually it means something pretty specific.
I would argue that you shouldn't bother with any of this stuff—AJAX, server-side programming, etc., unless you know what you are going to do with it. Granted, I totally get you if just want to learn about it, I don't mean to suggest that is invalid. But it's not clear from your question, and technology fetishists have the tendency to go off on their own pet tangents if you ask a vague question.

and speaking of technology fetishists going off on tangents I just want to cast a vote of support towards andrewpendleton's assertion that you should stay away from PHP and head towards Ruby or Python because I would love to see the scourge of PHP removed from this earth. That is all.
posted by dubitable at 8:29 AM on November 15, 2010

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