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DZone's Top 10 JavaScript and Web Design Books

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DZone's Top 10 JavaScript and Web Design Books

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Developers typically have one or more indispensable books that they have always kept close at hand when diving deep into the coding realm.  But which ones are really the best of the best?  And how can other developers find out what the essential titles are in various categories of development?  

DZone has the answer.  

With the help of DZone's 300-member Book Review Team, we're picking our Top 100 Book Recommendations for Developers.  Over the next few months, we'll be bringing you our top picks in each major category of development, including Java, .NET, Agile, Web Design, and more.

For our inaugural volume of DZone's Top 100 Book Recommendations for Developers, we're naming our Top 10 books for learning about web design and the languages of the browser.

DZone's Top 10 JavaScript and Web Design Books

1.  Don't Make Me Think!  A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability by Steve Krug

Usability design is one of the most important--yet often least attractive--tasks for a Web developer. In Don't Make Me Think, author Steve Krug lightens up the subject with good humor and excellent, to-the-point examples.

The title of the book is its chief personal design premise. All of the tips, techniques, and examples presented revolve around users being able to surf merrily through a well-designed site with minimal cognitive strain. Readers will quickly come to agree with many of the book's assumptions, such as "We don't read pages--we scan them" and "We don't figure out how things work--we muddle through." Coming to grips with such hard facts sets the stage for Web design that then produces topnotch sites.

Using an attractive mix of full-color screen shots, cute cartoons and diagrams, and informative sidebars, the book keeps your attention and drives home some crucial points. Much of the content is devoted to proper use of conventions and content layout, and the "before and after" examples are superb. Topics such as the wise use of rollovers and usability testing are covered using a consistently practical approach.

This is the type of book you can blow through in a couple of evenings. But despite its conciseness, it will give you an expert's ability to judge Web design. You'll never form a first impression of a site in the same way again. --Stephen W. Plain, Amazon.com

2.  JavaScript: The Good Parts by Douglas Crockford

Mos t programming languages contain good and bad parts, but JavaScript has more than its share of the bad, having been developed and released in a hurry before it could be refined. This authoritative book scrapes away these bad features to reveal a subset of JavaScript that's more reliable, readable, and maintainable than the language as a whole-a subset you can use to create truly extensible and efficient code.

Considered the JavaScript expert by many people in the development community, author Douglas Crockford identifies the abundance of good ideas that make JavaScript an outstanding object-oriented programming language-ideas such as functions, loose typing, dynamic objects, and an expressive object literal notation. Unfortunately, these good ideas are mixed in with bad and downright awful ideas, like a programming model based on global variables.

As you move ahead with the subset of JavaScript that this book presents, you'll also sidestep the need to unlearn all the bad parts. Of course, if you want to find out more about the bad parts and how to use them badly, simply consult any other JavaScript book.

With JavaScript: The Good Parts, you'll discover a beautiful, elegant, lightweight and highly expressive language that lets you create effective code, whether you're managing object libraries or just trying to get Ajax to run fast. If you develop sites or applications for the Web, this book is an absolute must.

3.  Dynamic HTML: The Definitive Reference by Danny Goodman

The first edition, years ago, was absolutely the Bible on how to write web apps that would run on multiple browsers.  In addition to a great "user guide" section on how to do various things, it included extraordinarily complete "reference manuals" for HTML, DHTML, JavaScript, and CSS, with tables showing which version of each browser first supported each feature, plus caveats, special cases, etc.  Must have taken FOREVER to gather all that info!  I've used it to write what I call "filthy rich client" Web interfaces for over a decade, including 5 years of Ajax-intensive UIs before the term Ajax was even coined.  Never would have been possible without this book.

Since then, the 2nd and 3rd editions have been great.  I've bought all three, and am hoping for a 4th to cover XHTML and recent versions of Firefox, Safari, etc.  --Fred Stluka, DZone book reviewer

4.  JavaScript: The Definitive Guide by David Flanagan

The indispensable reference for JavaScript programmers since 1996.  This book is both an example-driven programmer's guide and a keep-on-your-desk reference, with new chapters that explain everything you need to know to get the most out of JavaScript, including: Scripted HTTP and Ajax, XML processing, Client-side graphics using the canvas tag, Namespaces in JavaScript--essential when writing complex programs, Classes, closures, persistence, Flash, and JavaScript embedded in Java applications.

"A must-have reference for expert JavaScript programmers...well-organized and detailed."
-- Brendan Eich, creator of JavaScript

5. Stylin' with CSS: A Designer's Guide (2nd Edition) by Charles Wyke-Smith

The author takes aground-up approach to writing semantic HTML and CSS, explaining the benefits of clean separation of style and content while showing how to do it clearly and concisely. His explanation of CSS positioning is the best introduction to the topic I've ever read.  --Don Womick, DZone book reviewer

6.  Designing with Web Standards by Jeffrey Zeldman and Ethan Marcotte

Standards, argues Jeffrey Zeldman in Designing With Web Standards, are our only hope for breaking out of the endless cycle of testing that plagues designers hoping to support all possible clients. In this book, he explains how designers can best use standards--primarily XHTML and CSS, plus ECMAScript and the standard Document Object Model (DOM)--to increase their personal productivity and maximize the availability of their creations. Zeldman's approach is detailed, authoritative, and rich with historical context, as he is quick to explain how features of standards evolved. It's a fantastic education that any design professional will appreciate.

Zeldman is an idealist who devotes some of his book to explaining how much easier life would be if browser developers would just support standards properly (he's done a lot toward this goal in real life, as well). He is also a pragmatist, who recognizes that browsers implement standards differently (or partially, or not at all) and that it is the job of the Web designer to make pages work anyway. Thus, his book includes lots of explicit and tightly focused tips (with code) that have to do with bamboozling non-compliant browsers into behaving as they should, without tripping up more compliant browsers. There's lots of coverage of design and testing tools that can aid in the creation of good-looking, standards-abiding documents. --David Wall, Amazon.com

7.  Web Design for Developers: A Programmer's Guide to Design Tools and Techniques by Brian P. Hogan

Developers don’t get to spend a lot of time thinking about design, but many secretly wish they knew how to make their applications look just a little bit better. This book takes you on a journey through a web site redesign, where you’ll learn the basic concepts of design, color theory, typography, and accessibility.

You’ll learn how to take a sketch and transform it into a digital mockup in Photoshop, and then finally into a working web page. You’ll see how to develop logos, icons, and buttons using Illustrator and Photoshop, and then code a web page that will load fast, be easy to maintain, and most of all, be accessible to all audiences.

8.  Eric Meyer on CSS: Mastering the Language of Web Design by Eric Meyer

If you were looking for someone to help you understand how to use CSS effectively in real-world projects that would be compatible across browsers, who would you go to? That one's easy -- Eric Meyer -- the guy web professionals call the CSS master or guru! Eric always wanted to add a third leg to the "two-legged stool" of CSS books he has written. I was fortunate enough to have the pleasure of working with Eric to make a practical project-based guide to CSS a reality.

Eric targeted this book at folks who have a pretty good knowledge of HTML and at least a basic knowledge of CSS. For those of you in that category, you'll love this book. You really get to work right along side Eric as he takes you through the progressively more advanced projects. This is one book you'll truly want to have on your desk if you want to incorporate CSS into your work!  --Linda Bump Sr. Acquisitions Editor, New Riders Publishing

9.  JQuery in Action by Bear Bibeault and Yehuda Katz

A good web development framework anticipates your needs—jQuery practically reads your mind. You'll fall in love with it when you see 20 lines of code reduced to three. jQuery is concise and readable. And with version 1.4, there's even more to love including new effects and events, usability improvements, and more testing options.

jQuery in Action, Second Edition is a fast-paced introduction to jQuery that will take your JavaScript programming to the next level. An in-depth rewrite of the bestselling first edition, this edition provides deep and practical coverage of the latest jQuery and jQuery UI releases. The book's unique "lab pages" anchor the explanation of each new concept in a practical example. You'll learn how to traverse HTML documents, handle events, perform animations, and add Ajax to your web pages. This comprehensive guide also teaches you how jQuery interacts with other tools and frameworks and how to build jQuery plugins.

10.  Handcrafted CSS by Dan Cederholm with Ethan Marcotte

Seemingly non-obvious details can often separate good web design from great web design. You might not appreciate the quality of a well-designed website until you start using it, looking under the hood, putting it through tests, etc.

Handcrafted CSS: More Bulletproof Web Design is an attempt to share some of these details that matter most. By encouraging “progressive enrichment” to utilize advanced CSS and CSS3 properties that work in browsers today, to reevaluating past methods and best practices. This book will show how craftsmanship can be applied to flexible, bulletproof, highly efficient and adaptable interfaces that make up a solid user experience.

Which of these choices did you agree/disagree with?  What books would you add/subtract in this list?

Read the other parts in this series:


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