Monday, January 28, 2008

Book Review: Codin' for the Web: A Designer's Guide to Developing Dynamic Web Sites

Codin' for the Web: A Designer's Guide to Developing Dynamic Web Sites
by Charles Wyke-Smith
ISBN 0-321-42919-2
Review by Megan Fister,
Central Pennsylvania Adobe User Group (CPAUG) - Manager

Having loved Wyke-Smith's previous HTML and CSS primer "Stylin' with CSS: A Designer's Guide", I had high expectations for "Codin' for the Web: A Designer's Guide to Developing Dynamic Web Sites." I was not disappointed. There are a lot of PHP books available, none of them have helped me gain the confidence with PHP this one has. As a Web designer who wants to break into application and dynamic web site development, this book was exactly what I was looking for.

Wyke-Smith states in the introduction "PHP is a powerful language, and it can take years to learn to make full use of its capabilities. In writing an introductory book like this I have often had to strike a balance between the most technically correct way to write something and the simplest most understandable way to write something." The author does and excellent job of striking this balance, however, this book is suited more to those new to PHP programming and will leave advanced PHP developers wanting more.

The book begins with a fantastic primer about basic programming concepts such as; arrays, flow control, and functions, using the PHP language for demonstration purposes. Without a doubt, this was on of the best books I've read to explain these crucial concepts. As you progress through the book, new concepts and code constructs are explained in a thorough and easy to understand fashion. Visually, the book is very appealing, the code is cleanly laid out and color coded to aid comprehension. Additionally, full-color screen shots help demonstrate the effects of the code for those times when you are reading the book away from your computer.

Each chapter naturally builds on the previous and each one walks the reader through practical examples that most web designers would find reusable in real-world situations. By the end of the book, you will understand how to create an advanced email form, database, simple content management system (CMS) and build a Web site using PHP and mySQL.

Wyke-Smith writes and explains web programming concepts in a casual and easy to understand manor. The author is forthright and explains his methodology right along side of the code. With that, you can then go on to create your own code and maintain good coding practices with what you have learned. In a way, Wyke-Smith books "Stylin'" and "Codin'" help build so much confidence that when you're done, you don't feel like you "need" them any more. Sure, you'll keep it as a great reference, but you'll have the confidence to tackle PHP projects on your own, and move on as a more advanced developer! If you want to learn PHP, and currently have some HTML and CSS under your hat, this is the book to get you started.

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