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Web Authoring with Robin Williams

When it comes to selecting a computer book, you usually can’t go wrong with a Peachpit book by Robin Williams. Robin wrote The Little Mac Book (the book for Macintosh beginners), The Mac is not a Typewriter (see TidBITS-106), The Non-Designer’s Design Book, and more. I’m a fan of Robin’s work, so I recently read her latest book, Home Sweet Home Page, which Robin wrote with Dave Mark. This book aims to introduce the Internet to a novice, and to help that novice make an exciting, useful, family Web site.

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Home Sweet Home Page begins with a light smattering of topics that concern Internet newcomers: finding an Internet service provider, URLs, how to identify links on Web pages, using search engines, and so on. Unlike most books about Web authoring, the book almost completely ignores HTML; instead, it discusses in general terms how to get started (choose software, plan page arrangement, organize files and folders). It points out that Web is a cheap way to publish with color and sets guidelines for page design, with pithy advice like "if it looks hard to read, IT IS," and "Don’t be a wimp." The book’s grand finale is a series of project ideas for sections of a family Web site. For example, the book shows how to organize links and dates in a family calendar and discusses the use of thumbnails in a virtual photo album. The projects section doesn’t offer much step-by-step how-to, but it does come packed with suggestions for organization and composition.

The design and layout is Robin Williams all over – casual, friendly, and professional. The book’s 180 pages have a lot of white space and not much text, making for an extremely approachable looking pages. Although the content is accurate and contains excellent advice, it’s not long enough to answer many relevant questions that might come up, especially for an Internet novice. Fortunately, the book sets readers up to ask intelligent questions.

Based on experiences with my family, I question how many families are (or are willing to become) Internet-savvy and have the motivation to maintain well-rounded Web sites. However, the book is a perfect start for families who do have the urge, and budding Web authors can use it to experiment with (or on) their families while learning Web design fundamentals.

Even so, if you consider yourself at least an amateur Internet user and Web author, you’ve probably advanced beyond the bulk of the book’s material. I think this is a shame, because the book especially stands out for its page design and site organization advice – advice that would be welcome in a more sophisticated book for readers to grow into – instead of the current book, which many readers will rapidly outgrow.

Robin tells me that she is currently working on two more books of interest to Web authors. The first (expected in January, though Peachpit’s Web site incorrectly says December), Home Sweet Home Page and the Kitchen Sink is simply Home Sweet Home Page bundled with a CD-ROM containing connection kits for the likes of AOL and AT&T WorldNet, along with clip art, fonts, and other goodies. The second, The Non-Designer’s Web Book, will be out later in the year.

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Home Sweet Home Page, Robin Williams with Dave Mark, ISBN 0-201-88667-7, 180 pages. $14.95 U.S., $21.00 Canadian.

Peachpit — 800/283-9444 — 510/548-4393 — 510/548-5991 (fax)

<[email protected]>

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