Creating a Website: The Missing Manual by Matthew MacDonald aims to be an “engaging, clearly written, and funny” introduction to web design for users with no previous experience – and it succeeds. The book starts by helping users quickly create their first web pages, covering the structure of web sites, the essential HTML tags, and how to upload a site. From there it progresses to more advanced topics, including the selection of a HTML editor, and text elements such as heading tags and paragraphs. CSS is also addressed, explaining how to create style sheets that define a site’s fonts, colours, and layout.
There are numerous code examples throughout the book code (which are also available online). I would have liked to see more “After” screenshots showing the effects of the code though. Where necessary, “Up to Speed” and “Frequently Asked Question” boxes provide important and relevant tips – for example, how to select the most appropriate file formats for images, or whether to use inline CSS or a separate style sheet. These help students make appropriate design choices rather than just showing them the options they have.
Once the essential elements are covered, the book addresses more advanced but important issues such as search engine optimisation, visitor tracking (web traffic analysis), and using Google Adsense and Amazon Affiliates. All of these are important topics which ITGS students may need to know for their clients in the ITGS project.
One thing I like is that the book includes examples of what not to do. For example, the Understanding Multimedia chapter warns of the mistakes some web sites make – such as including flashing animated GIFs or irritating background music. Similarly, the Colours section reminds readers that while they have 16.8 million colours at their disposal, most web sites only use a small number. Tips like this really help students understand that web sites need to be designed, not just created.
The book is also well structured – rather than being an alphabetical reference work, topics are arranged in the order students are most likely to encounter them (though I personally would have put the links and graphics sections closer to the beginning). This makes progression easier, and I can see this book being useful both as a text for a series of web design lessons in the Business and Employment chapter, and as a guide for students completing web sites for their internal assessment projects.