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on 28 September 2005
Having bought this book about 2 weeks ago, I felt I had to come and review it. I very rarely actually do this!
I only tend to create websites in my spare time at the moment, but am looking to do a bit of freelance work in my spare time. Unfortunately, until now, my creative skills have been a bit limited! I wasn't bothered about things such as accessibility, and most of my websites were built with tables as they were more convenient and consistent across browsers.
But recently, I've been getting into the whole "web standards" thing, so I needed some inspiration. I found the CSS Zen Garden website and from that, decided to try out the book.
First thing to point out (as many have already done) is that this book won't teach you CSS in any detail. It already assumes you know the basics. This book is focussed on the actual design process - coming up with creative new ways to style web pages, and some of the many "tricks of the trade" that web designers have used in creating style sheets for the Zen Garden website.
The designs selected for the book are all outstanding, and for each one, a different topic is covered - layouts, transparent imagery, Fahrner Image Replacement (FIR), the Box Model hack for browser consistency, etc... It contains a huge amount of technical information on designing excellent looking websites using CSS.
In the margins of the book, it also gives handy notes and URLs for websites to look for further information.
For website creators like me who have been focussed on the more technical aspects (such as writing PHP/ASP scripts) rather than making good-looking, easy to use, accessible sites that conform to web standards, I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
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on 19 May 2017
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on 21 November 2005
The book started out as the website CSS Zen Garden ([...] has become a popular Internet Site. The CSS Zen Garden shows has CSS can be used to transform a single webpage to look completely different by just changing the CSS, the html stays exactly the same.
The book is different to most CSS books in that it looks at the overall design and sees how they can be implemented in CSS. This has it's advantages and disadvantages. The good thing is that the book goes much further into the design aspect than most other books, and is useful if you want to learn how to "design" rather than just create a website. On the negative side the book is not very good to use as a reference.
The book does not go into too much detail on some of the aspects, and often gives a web url to go for more information. This allows the authors to keep to the core content (the design aspect), but does mean that you often have to go and look elsewhere to get the full details. This does detract from some of the usefulness of having a hardcopy of the book, as you have to spend time in front of the computer looking up the urls.
Most webmasters would benefit from reading this book, but I'd also recommend getting a reference guide to refer to once you've started implementing websites using CSS.
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on 12 December 2005
This book complements the already successful Zen Garden web site. It takes examples submitted to the site and then picks them apart, giving the reader an understanding of how the designers achieved their results.
Each example serves to highlight different areas of web/graphic design; layout, typography, use of images etc, whilst providing a unique way to utilise CSS.
There are no examples to work through as such, but you can d/l the CSS for each submission from the Zen Garden site. You can then build the CSS up from scratch, which will show you how each property effects the final result.
To summarise, this is a very useful book that not only serves to show off the amazing potential of CSS, but is a valuable resource for web/graphic design theory. I would definitely recommend it!
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on 10 April 2005
This book is not a CSS tutorial, rather a sales pitch and guide for 'correct' use of the technology. It uses the csszengarden.com website as a case study for explaining how to make innovative use of CSS by explaining the structure, then the thinking behind the various designs submitted to the site. So it's actually more of a guide to design - but one that I would recommend that web developers read.
I say this as a (sometime) ASP/ASP.NET/PHP developer, who up until this point, "doesn't do design". I saw it as an inconvenience in the creation of otherwise technically brilliant (modesty eh!) web applications. Yet the whole css zen garden concept could actually make the life of web developers a lot easier.
Developers could eschew design altogether while creating web pages/forms that offer true flexibility for real designers. But the beauty of this book is that it actually gives hints, tips, and pointers, that in the absence of a designer in teams of programmers, could help make web developers into half decent designers.
This is more of an interest book that will hopefully change the attitude of the new breed of unwilling web designers that the .NET framework has created. It may also help designers that aren't currently working with new media to bring their talents to the web in a way that doesn't involve using Macromedia Flash.
It's not perfect but it will open your eyes.
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on 18 April 2005
At first I was a bit skeptical about the unusual structure of the book, but after delving a bit deeper it works.
Rather than just making up some hypothetical design to demonstrate the relevant CSS rules, this book does the opposite: it starts with some excellent, finished designs (and I'm not simply saying this because one of my own works, "door to my garden", is among them) and proceeds to deconstruct them, explaining the overall structure and underlying basics as well as the refined tricks and techniques used.
An excellent resource for beginners who may still be skeptical about CSS, as it draws them in first with examples of what can be achieved, but seasoned stylers will enjoy the intriguing look into the different designers' philosophy, approach and detailed explanations of the more advanced parts of their stylesheets.
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VINE VOICEon 14 March 2005
This amazing book not only teaches you how the designers who submitted their work to CSSzenGarden.com made their designs, but how you too can create a masterpiece of a website.
It teaches that people shouldn't design for IE, or use tables or frames. Fantastic! It also explores other areas of web design, such as the use of space, colour and lighting. It's wonderfull to see so many concepts and lessons in one book, and a very refreshing change from other web design books.
You do need quite a firm grounding in the use and application of CSS before being able to understand some of this book, but don't let that put you off. Buy this book today, and spread the word: we don't want tables or frames anymore!
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on 20 May 2006
I think this is a great book which will not only explain how to accomplish some useful CSS features but also inspire you create stunning standards compliant web sites. This book shows some fantastic examples of what can be done with a good knowledge of CSS and some imagination. I would suggest buying a book to teach you the ins and outs of css first (if it is new to you), and then to get this book to take your designs to a new level.
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on 30 May 2006
I bought this book thinking it was a CSS book, and would give me some insight into how the CSS Zen Garden designs were done. Let me say right off that it was a big disappointment from this point of view. This book is NOT a CSS book.

The book concentrates mainly on design ideas, which is also useful, but not what it claims to cover. Some of these ideas were explained well, some less so.

The book was pleasant reading, and was very nicely produced, but it's doubtful you'll learn a great deal from it. Buy it for interest, don't buy it for education.

P.S. I gave it four stars as it was a very nice read, it just wasn't what I thought when I bought it.
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on 3 March 2006
CSS design as we are all aware is the recommended standard for creating the right 'look' to your website but the miriad of selectors, properties and values can seem a little daunting and many books show you some design tips but many show you how to structure and create the code.
Zen is different it illustrates in beautifully coloured pages just what is possible with CSS. I for one was surprised that such things were possible as my first outing with CSS made me think that previous design layouts using tables seemed more flexible. After reading through Zen I have a renewed vigour to tackle and apply CSS properly across the projects I now take on.
I recommend this book for many reasons but the main one is that it clears the cobwebs from your imagination and shows what is possible.
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