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Preface

Preface

In the beginning, the Web was simple. When I first encountered it in early 1993 (working for O'Reilly's Global Network Navigator), there was only one browser for viewing web pages, and it ran exclusively on the Unix platform. There were only about a dozen tags that did anything interesting. Designing a web page was a relatively simple task.

It didn't stay simple for long. With the explosion of the Web came an avalanche of new technologies, proprietary tags, and acronyms. Even for someone who is immersed in the terminology and environment on a professional basis, it can be truly overwhelming. You just can't keep all this stuff in your head anymore.

Since leaving O'Reilly's Cambridge, MA offices for a freelance career, I never feel more alone than when I get stuck—whether it's because I don't know what audio format to use for a project, or I just can't remember what tag uses that MARGINWIDTH attribute. And I'm not ashamed to admit that I've been reduced to tears after battling a table that mysteriously refused to behave, despite my meticulous and earnest efforts.

It's at times like these that I wish I could walk down the hall and get advice from an expert co-worker. Without that luxury at my home office, I do the best I can with the volumes of web design information available online (on the Internet, no one knows you have red, puffy eyes). Unfortunately, finding the answer to a specific question is a time-consuming and sometimes equally frustrating process in itself. Deadlines often can't accommodate a two-hour scavenger hunt.

I wrote Web Design in a Nutshell because it was the book I needed—one place to go to find quick answers to my questions. Apparently, lots of other folks needed it too, as it went on to be a best-seller and found a permanent home on the desks of web designers around the globe.

The difficult thing about writing about the Web is that it's a moving target, constantly changing and evolving. A lot has happened with the Web since I wrote the first edition in 1998. We've seen new technologies emerge and others fade away. The raging browser wars have quieted and the industry is inching towards standards compliance. Countless software versions have come and gone.

This new edition has been thoroughly reviewed and revamped to reflect the new web design environment. All HTML chapters have been updated to reflect the 4.01 specification, and the browser support information now reflects Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 (in beta as of this writing) and Netscape 6. In keeping with current trends, there is a new emphasis on creating web pages according to standards—using HTML for structure and Cascading Style Sheets for all style information. Although traditional nonstandard web tricks are still included for the sake of thoroughness, they are presented in a more cautionary tone.

In addition to the buff and shine on existing chapters, I've added a number of new chapters on important topics, including: printing pages from the Web (Chapter 5), making web pages accessible to users with disabilities (Chapter 6), Flash and Shockwave (Chapter 26), multimedia presentations with SMIL (Chapter 27), XHTML (Chapter 31), and designing for the wireless web with WML (Chapter 32). I'm pleased to say that this edition is a significant improvement over the last.

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