Review: Expression Web 3 in 24 Hours

by cdwise 22. October 2009 19:22

I recently received a copy of Morton Rand-Hendriksen's "Sams Teach Yourself Microsoft Expression Web 3 in 24 Hours" for review.

Summary

This book is best for: Beginners who want to have personal or hobby website up and running quickly.

The way I review books is to start with an overview on the book format and table of contents. Like all of the Sams 24 hour series this book is organized into chapters each focused on a particular topic or task.  This series reminds me of a traditional classroom. There is a lecture (informational section),  exercises homework (try it yourself) Q&A followed by a quiz. Each chapter is designed to take one hour (give or take) to complete and for the most part are independent of each other so you do not need to work your way through the book from start to finish in the order presented with one exception: no matter how tempted you may be don't skip the first chapter or you may regret it later when you can't find the item you are looking for.

As with any book or tutorial you are using to learn about web design or development when you have a download of some files available, make sure you get the files on your computer as soon before you begin any exercises. Morton provides you with the download link early in chapter 2 use it.

What I Like

This book gives you a good over-view of how websites work and using the tools in Expression Web. In particular I like:

  • The authorize style- for this type of quick get it done now book the information is presented in clear understandable prose. Clear and concise easy to follow for the person who isn't familiar with web terminology . Overall the book does a good job explaining what the beginner needs to know with introducing proper terminology such as absolute and relative which don't always mean the same on the web as in the real world.
  • Little bits of "why" and web history in the "One-Minute" and a By the Way" sections.
  • How to import content from Word and other applications. This is something too often over looked by book authors and newbie web creators.
  • Hour 8, introducing code view and how it can help you learn along with Intellisense to help the user accomplish things that cannot be done using pure design view-wysiwyg. Hopefully this will help people got over the fear many experience of "code" being "too hard".
  • Providing multiple ways to use CSS from toolbar auto generated or using panels to code view Intellisense.
  • Working from processor for php to email. I just wish there was one for ASP.NET as well.

What I Don't Like

This is of course subjective and in many ways is more reflective of the limitations imposed by the format than the book itself:

  • The clear and concise text is sometimes a little too concise. Complex issues such as cross browser compatibly are oversimplified and dismissed too easily. This is fine for personal/hobby sites but can be fatal for business sites. In particular the CSS only dropdown menu that does not work in IE 6 is one I cannot recommend using on a business site.
  • Telling people to upgrade their browser is not an acceptable method for dealing with browser issues on a business website. Too often the reason a person isn't using a better browser is browser is because they have no choice. Either they are in a corporate environment where the company has standardized on one browser (and locked the computer so they cannot change it) or they have hardware software constraints such as older computer systems a limited internet access. Remember not everyone has broadband available and some pay by the byte.
  • Accessibility is basically ignored. A couple of sentences on what on alt attribute in Hour 6 on images and why it is important to use them would make a real difference. This omission is one of the reasons I feel this book is best for those who create hobby sites not for SOHO or small business sites. (An alt attribute should give the information conveyed to someone who can see the image so if your image is your company logo the correct alt is the company name not “logo”. If the image is purely decorative use an empty alt attribute alt=””.)
  • I also find contradictions between saying in Hour 6 that "Expression Web is Not an Image Editor" with the amount of time/space devoted the Picture Toolbar in Hour 7. The advice in Hour 6 to use a real graphics editor is the correct thing to do and fortunately Expression Web 3 comes with Expression Design so you have one.
  • I disagree with the advise to use CSS Resets in Hour 14, especially for beginners. Most reset stylesheets and the consequent requirement to explicitly style each element used is beyond what can should  be expected of a CSS-web design beginner.

Conclusion

If you want a website up quickly this book is a good place to start. However, if you are creating a website for a business you will need to learn about accessibility (the ADA- Americans with Disabilities Act and similar legislation in the UK, Canada, EU, Australia, Philippines and many other counties apply to business websites) and cross browser issues. Fortunately there are many resources you can use to build on the base you will get from this book.

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v3 | Expression Web | Review

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