Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Looking at Source Code Control Solutions

Lately, I’ve been looking at options for doing source code control within our group. What really got me started rethinking source control was these articles titled Source Control HOWTO by Eric Sink.

This series of articles does great job of describing what source code control is all about. It covers a lot of different concepts within source control, and how different products handle these concepts. Best of all, the series is a pretty easy read. I learned a lot from these articles and appreciate that Eric made them available. I highly recommend them.

We have been using an older version of Microsoft Visual SourceSafe. Although we have not run into some of the corruption issues some people have experienced, I’d like to find a better way of handling source code. The choices I see include:

  1. Continue running the old version of Visual SourceSafe
  2. Upgrade to the newest version of it
  3. Use another commercial product like SourceGear Vault
  4. Use an open source product like Subversion

A few weeks ago, I decided to try out Subversion. It was easy to install on one of my test servers, and I really like the way it works. It has already solved a problem I was having keeping a project current between our production server, test server, and my development platform. I’m thinking it might be time to put Subversion on a real server, and increase our use of it.

It might seem a little strange that a developer working mostly in .NET would use an open source product for source control. As this results of this survey question from CodeProject shows, I’m not alone. When asked what source code control people use, Subversion got 33% while Visual SourceSafe got 27%.

Book Review – CSS Mastery

CSS Mastery (Advanced Web Standards Solutions)” by Andy Budd, Cameron Moll, and Simon Collison, is a good resource for how to use web standards and CSS in designing and laying out web sites. Although it’s by different authors, it is a good followup to the book “Web Standards Solutions“.

This book takes a task, and explains in detail how you might handle it. For example, chapter 5 is on creating navigation bars and chapter 7 is about site layout using CSS. We use many of these techniques in most of the web sites we develop.

Other useful chapters are on troubleshooting problems with your CSS, and hacks to deal with browser incompatibilities. We have Microsoft to thank for many of these hacks. IE 7 is much improved over previous versions. It is still good to be aware of these techniques.

Here is a link to the publisher’s web page for the book.
Advanced Web Standards Solutions Cover Image

The two Web Standards Solutions books give a good starting point for people that want to learn more about CSS. In addition, there are thousands of web sites that offer help with CSS. I also recommend having an expert you can ask questions, thanks again Matt.

Recently, I was asked if I know of any training on using CSS, so I’m looking for recommendations. If you know of any professional development opportunities on learning CSS, either online or traditional, please post a comment.

Action Buttons on Web Forms

Today I read an article titled “Primary & Secondary Actions in Web Forms“. They tested 6 forms where they changed the location and/or appearance of the primary and secondary action buttons, ie “submit” and “cancel”.

It surprised me that the users finished the form quickest when the two buttons had the same appearance. I would have thought that by having the submit button stand out more, it would have been faster because it would pull the user to the correct button. However, when tracking the eye movement, users had more fixations when the buttons had different appearances.

Although it was slightly slower, users said they appreciated the visual effect of having the submit button stand out more than the cancel button. It made them more confident that they were clicking on the right button.

The article also made the point that many forms do not need secondary actions. Don’t include them unless they serve a real purpose.

This article is an interesting read, and will be a part of a book by Luke Wroblewski titled “Web Form Design Best Practices“. After reading this article, I am looking forward to reading the book once it come out in early 2008.

Book Review – Web Standards Solutions

About two years ago, we were just getting going with web standards and cascading style sheet (CSS) based layout. We were struggling to make some of our pages look and feel the way we wanted them to, and with inconsistencies between different client machines and browsers. It seemed like we were spending a lot of time with the CSS, and I was questioning to myself whether it was worth the trouble. I just didn’t “get it”.

Matt Heerema, our web designer at the time, sensed that I was struggling, so he loaned me his copy of “Web Standards Solutions” by Dan Cederholm. He told me it was an easy read, and that it would help me in understanding why complying with web standards was something we should strive to accomplish. He was right.

Sometimes technical books are somewhat dry, with a lot of theory, and you need to force yourself to read though the tough parts. Not this book. After starting reading, it was hard to put down. The chapters are short, informative, and interesting. I read the book in about 3 sittings.

Each chapter in the book takes a topic, and shows 3 or 4 methods of implementing that functionality in your web page. For example, the chapter on headings shows how you can make text stand out as headings on your page using a span tag with embedded styles, paragraph tags with bold text, or heading (<h1>, <h2>, etc.) tags. It explains the advantages of using the the heading tags, which is the web standards compliant method. It then goes on with some “Extra Credit” of how to apply some styles to your heading tags to make them really stand out.

This book will give you an appreciation for why web standards are important, and will give you an introduction to CSS. It will not give you a complete understanding of CSS, but will hopefully leave you hungry for more. You can then pick up another book that does more advanced CSS techniques, such as the followup book “CSS Mastery, Advanced Web Standards Solutions”.

I liked this book so much, I purchased a copy to have on my book shelf. Whenever someone says they are interested in learning more about web standards or CSS, it’s the first book I recommend. It is a must read for anyone doing web development. More information can be found from the publisher’s web page.

The Markup and Style Handbook Cover Image