Standards-based Web site design is more than an approach, it’s more than a methodology, it’s a discipline. It’s not easy. You’ve got to pay close attention to details, and be considerate of so many facets from alt tags to title attributes, from semantic mark-up to well-formed structure. Don’t even get me started on browser compliance. (It’s one the few things that brought me this close | | to quitting my career.) And a multitude of other concepts, it will become overwhelming. It’s tough. Fortunately, there are some good-natured folks out here looking to lend a helping hand if you’re getting stumped. Rubyist, Ryan Heneise, principal at Art of Mission has sparked a conversation and got me to think back to what’s helped me through the years. So, I want to encourage you. There are some great, well-crafted resources out there to help you along your way.

Believe it or not, until just recently (like three days ago), I’ve had only one printed CSS Reference book that has been a staple on my bookshelf since 1999. (And at this point, it could use some staples to keep it together) Indispensable it is: Cascading Style Sheets: Designing for the Web (2nd Edition), by the original dynamic duo who are to blame for this whole thing: H??kon Wium Lie and Bert Bos. There is apparently a 3rd edition out, though.

The book is great because these guys didn’t just sit around pontificating about how great and wonderful they were in giving us the standard, just clean easy to read facts. And there was this nice convention that showed which browsers supported what and whether it was full or partial support. It was really more of a reference, come to think of it.

I say that because I just picked up this really bright pink and green book called CSS Mastery, by this guy who really knows a lot about CSS and is a superstar who can teach it to the masses. CSS Mastery is more like a practical guide to doing fancy stuff. I got this book, well, because it’s being read by many reputable people. And Molly E. Holzschlag reviewed it for technical accuracy. I mean, that alone says it’s cool. (Anyone who has their first name as their .com domain name has gotta be cool.) Actually, if you don’t know who Molly is, she and this other talented guy, pulled together a little site called the CSS Zen Garden. If you want to see what CSS can do, go there. Now. Come to think it, THAT would probably be one of my most favorite sources for stealing from talented people learning CSS.

Actually, Molly probably doesn’t remember me, but she and I went back and forth on an article I was writing for Digital Web back in 2001. Would have been my first major publishing, but then you know what happened in 2001. Well, I know what happened… dot com boom went BOOM, my job went BYE BYE, and I’ve been living in hole for 5 years… but that’s for another time…I DIGRESS.

As for CSS Mastery, so far it’s, okay. It’s NOT a reference book. You need to get a grip on the the language to really learn from this. It’s enough to get ya rollin’ with some nifty tricks, though. I really like how Andy explains decendents and siblings, and specificity (which is a lot easier to write than pronounce). I think I FINALLY get it. Now I don’t have to mooch borrow so much from other designers.

As for XHTML, Ryan put up my sources: The W3C. 1996 marks the year of my first dabbles with HTML… v3.2. (Is that cool? Or does that mean I’m old? Crud. I think I know the answer to that.) and I watched them clean that dirty old language up into the lean mark-up scriptage that it is today. The language at the W3C is not for the faint of heart, though. It can get…complicated. I just saw a rationalization for learning HTML before (X)HTML. That’s what I did… tred in my tracks at your risk however.

Hopefully you find some of the provided links helpful. Drop a line if you have any others.