Head First into HTML

Head First HTMLFor the past two weeks I’ve been having a doubly terrific time working through Head First HTML with CSS & XHTML.

The first part of “doubly” is greatly expanding what I had known about HTML (a fair amount) and CSS (much less), to say nothing of XHTML (too many letters for me, I thought). I’m about two-third of the way through the book, and have cheerily used what I’ve learned to tinker with the style sheets in some websites.

The second part of “doubly” comes from the quirky but research-based approach used by authors Elisabeth Freeman and Eric Freeman (with lots of support from the Head First folks).

As those folks say themselves:

Learning isn’t something that just happens to you. It’s something you do. You can’t learn without pumping some neurons. learning means building more mental pathways, bridging connections between new and pre-existing knowledge, recognizing patterns, and turning facts and information into knowledge (and ultimately, wisdom).

What the Head First books do is obvious, though it’s not necessarily obvious enough that everybody else is doing it, too. For instance, plenty of what’s-in-it-for-me introductions:

  • Your first payoff for understanding how [HTML] elements are nested is that you can avoid mismatching your tags. (And there’s gonna be more payoff later, just wait.)

Or subtle but effective transitions, previews, and emphasis comments.

  • You should be sensing a common thread by now…

You find recaps and reinforcement as you work through the many problems and exercises.

  • You’ve come a long way already in this chapter: you’ve designed and coded Tony’s site, you’ve met a few new elements, and you’ve learned a few things about elements that most people creating pages on the Web don’t even know…

Some of the preview information is tucked into feedback that you read after finishing an exercise.

    We haven’t talked about this in detail yet, but, yes, <img> is inline. Give it some thought and we’ll come bck to this in Chapter 5.

Page 116 shows a bowl of “element soup,” with 14 HTML elements floating around. Interestingly, four of them have not been explained. A caption on the bowl reads:

Here’s a bunch of elements you already know, and a few you don’t. Remember, half the fun of HTML is experimenting! So make some files of your own and try these out.

Anyone writing for independent learners can profit from the Head First approach. If you’d like to see more, go to their Books page and find a book that interests you. After each title, there’s a link for code downloads, reviews, and a sample chapter.