Review: Handcrafted CSS

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A review by Web Teacher of
Handcrafted CSS: More Bulletproof Web Design, Video Edition (includes Handcrafted CSS book and Handcrafted CSS: Bulletproof Essentials DVD)

(rating: 5 stars)

Handcrafted CSS: More Bulletproof Web Design by Dan Cederholm with Ethan Marcotte is from New Riders (2010). It’s a beautiful book designed by Cederholm himself. Most of it was written by Cederholm. Marcotte contriubuted one chapter called “The Fluid Grid”.

Cederholm’s trademark style is to examine every angle of a problem—such as the way to display a menu with an item and a price or the way to create rounded corners. After looking at the various options, he selects the one he considers the most bulletproof and recommends it for use.  To be bulletproof, a design solution must be flexible enough to work in many browsers (or at least not differ beyond use in some browsers), be functional with various levels of zoom, be accessible, and be workable in terms of future upkeep.

Many of the techniques in the book use CSS3. There’s also some jQuery in the mix. No HTML5, though he does suggest it’s the next big thing.

He concentrates on a few “crafty” CSS techniques in the slender volume. This book is not a complete guide to CSS. It deals with selected design problems. The specific topics getting the Cederholm treatment in this book:

  • his flexible approach to problem solving with CSS
  • rounded corners and background clipping
  • text-shadow
  • RGBA and opacity, with several lovely design tricks well explained
  • his progressive enhancement philosophy aimed at better browsers and letting go of pixel perfect sameness in lesser browser
  • modular float management, a very cool idea for dealing with float problems
  • fluid designs with percentages and ems, even fluid media sizing (this is Ethan’s chapter)
  • typography and @font-face
  • select jQuery enhancements

Well written and clear to implement ideas are what you’ll find in this book. You need to know HTML and CSS before you dig in.

Summary: A select set of CSS improvements for designers.

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