Anne van Kesteren

How do you learn?

When I started learning real HTML about a year ago (you can read some FrontPage details here (yes Limpid is still not finished, we are working on it and hope to finish it somewhere this week)) I learned it from books. Lots of them. When I knew HTML well enough to make complex frame using sites (minimal 5 frames, there was no limit, everything what was repeating needed his own frame, it will go faster then, I always thought) I started learning CSS. First the basics, with background images and how to place them from a book called: "Webdesign in de praktijk". The chapter about CSS was not written by the author itself, he is more a real designer or something. I can't look it up anymore, I borrowed the book from someone (good book though).

I also bought books for starters, "basiscursus name subject here". Like basiscursus HTML4.01 and basiscursus XML. I also bought books about Flash, MySQL and PHP. My newspaper job paid to well I must say... The other reason was of course that I love reading, especially lecture (this may be the wrong word, please correct me, I mean books like Lord of the Rings if I say lecture...).

After those books I started to become more interested in CSS and I easily found my way to the newest book of Eric A. Meyer: Eric Meyer on CSS. Man that was a great experience, what a book! Strip al the tags out. I remember the first chapter was to the point, if you do this, you will save 50% on the file size :). I didn't make any of the examples; I just read it in the evenings, when I went to bed.

I'm still waiting for my copy of designing with web standards (more than 2 months now!), I guess some Dutch people just have more luck than me. I read two of the online available chapters and one translation of chapter 8. Though he is still using tables (which is legal for people named Zeldman) I think there is a lot in that book where you can learn from. Especially after reading some of the reviews available online.

Until 'Jeffrey' arrives I'm reading my O'reilly books, which are quite technical and difficult for a non-English person, but I'm getting through them. Four of them are on the XML subject; one is the PHP Cookbook, a books which is really helping when I have problems with coding (happens quite often). The XML books are about XSLT, XSL-FO, XPath and XPointer and XML Schema. The last is probably the most difficult one to understand. Together with XSL-FO it is the most difficult one to play with :).

Enough about my learning methods, which is actually reading, testing and talking (on forums). Most reading. How do you learn?


  1. I also started out with Frontpage, but then I learned the magic that was HTML 3.2

    I bought my first book: Basiscursus HTML, only mine was version 3.2 ;-) and I was addicted. But I learned most from trail and error. Just looking into the source-code a lot (and I do mean A LOT) of sites I liked (or thought: How do they do that?)

    Posted by Rogier at

  2. i never read any books on HTML or CSS, which might be the reason i was doing it all 'the wrong way' for quite a while. when i learned about CSS, i didn't care about web standards or reducing the page size, i just thought it was much easier and more powerful than font tags and tables and javascript rollovers. gradually, i started to read about more technical things like validation, semantics, XHTML, etc. later i started to learn how to use PHP (and MySQL). i have made maybe a total of $800 or so for all of the web design work in my life. pretty sad, really, but i do this mostly for fun and haven't had many paid projects. i don't plan on becoming a web designers as a career, either. i'm more of a computer science person, but this stuff is very interesting :)

    the word for lord of the rings-type books: novel? fantasy?

    Posted by vlad at

  3. I got a few books from the public library, on HTML and one on JS. But actually I didn't learn that much from it, and the JS book was pretty bad. (Anne: it was a very thin yellow one, from a Dutch writer)

    *almost forgot the tags*

    Well, that was like 5 years ago now. Last year I bought JavaScript the Definive Guide, which is great. All other things I've learned from articles, tutorials and weblogs. Also, for some reason I got most of what I do right, without any outside influences (influences that I can recall).

    On the LOTR topic, I'm reading it now! In English, BTW.

    Posted by Mark Wubben at

  4. Apropos your Lord of the Rings comment, I think the word you want is "literature".

    I started out with a friend's advice, by trial-and-error, and by looking at HTML source-code. Pretty soon, I began to get books and to look for web resources. I picked up a couple of Babani books, because that was what the local shop had. Then I found Liz Castro's HTML for the World Wide Web, which was much better.

    I knew about separating content and style, but I think the full significance of that didn't really hit me till I read an article on the web. It was "HTML: The Misunderstood Language" by Lawrence Garland. It was on his Velvet Ant website. Unfortunately that site is now defunct but Google has the article cached.

    The Velvet Ant site had a nice page of resources, including links to sites like ALA. I find one thing tends to lead to another on the web; and one good resource oftens points to another.

    Posted by Michael at

  5. Apropos your Lord of the Rings comment, I think the word you want is "literature".

    It might also be "fiction".

    I originally learned HTML by experimenting (this was before there even was a standard, i.e. before HTML 2.0). After that, I think I've learned the most by actually studying the W3C recommendations for HTML 4.01 and XHTML 1.0!

    I can't remember how I got started with CSS, but most of my knowledge on this topic also comes from the W3C recommendations.

    Eric Meyer on CSS is a great book for anyone interested in web design. If you liked Meyer's book, you may be a bit disappointed about Zeldman's (I was). Partially it's the book itself, where all illustrations are in black and white. In comparison to the color images in Meyer's book, they are all but useless.

    Also, as you mentioned, Zeldman focuses on practical (commercial) web design, which means transitional DTDs and table/CSS hybrid designs. In fact, DWWS is probably more useful for someone who is about to rewrite an existing tag soup design in a more standards-compliant fashion. For someone who wants to learn how to be as compliant as possible, when starting from scratch, DWWS may not be the best choice.

    Both of them are very competent writers, and the books are entertaining as well as educational. Zeldman's work suffers from a bit too much of the as-we-will-see-later syndrome, perhaps, but so do most books of this type, I guess.

    Posted by TOOLman at

  6. During early 1999 I took a piece of paper and pencil then spent about half-an hour talking with an Webmaster whom taught me the basics, like what a Document Type Definition was.

    From there on for a while, I just taught myself using Netscape 3.0 view source, and studied various online examples.

    At one stage I was even using JavaScript Style Sheets (JSS) though we are talking only matter of few months before I started properly learning from the W3C Technical Recommendations.

    The rest I absorbed through participating in web development forums by answering other people's questions because it stimulated my mind answering their problems and gave me a goal.

    During late 1999, I abandoned HTML (which I never liked even from day one) and moved onto XHTML.

    Posted by Robert Wellock at

  7. I started learning HTML back in 1997 with Laura Lemay's HTML 3.2 Compendium.

    Just born into the time of table based layout ;)) I handcoded with an HTML Editor called Aardvark Pro. Then I decided to jump onto the train of WYSIWYG and became somewhat of a Dreamweaver expert throughout versions 1.2 to 4, and later Ultradev 4.

    In 2002 things changed for me. I became interested in CSS, but I remained (like most people) a CSS font formatter ;)).

    I used to learn with books as well, but this requires a lot of discipline and time. So I decided to try another learning experience, and took my first HWG Online Course in September 2002. It was about PHP (completely new to me at that time). Well, what to say, it was a very great experience, with a high learning curve.

    So I looked around to see what else they offered. At this time I have taken 8 classes, the 9th just about to begin. I had the chance to delve into CSS having Eric Meyer as an instructor as well as being introduced to Web Accessibility by Kynn Bartlett.

    So this is my new style of learning apart from looking at tremendous weblogs (like this one)

    Posted by Minz Meyer at

  8. No books, just do it. That's how I learned to code for the web. It started in 1994 with a simple bulleted bookmarks page, through FrontPage, through tables-based layout, up to my current sites. I've never read any book, but read a lot of material on the web, and studied designs of sites I like.

    Posted by Jeroen at