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  • How I Have Written My Books

    When I was first given the opportunity to write a book — at that time, it was for Against The Clock Publishers — I took advantage of the opportunity to produce a book that I would be proud of it would:

    As I was planning to write the first book, I remembered reading the signature of someone’s email that stated Real World, not Hello World. Some books, not all, teach concepts and methods in isolation, such as inserting an image in a blank page.

    I remember the first HTML tutorial I studied on the Internet and, although the content of the site is now outdated being based on HTML 3.2, I liked the methodology used in the tutorial. What I liked about it was that throughout the whole tutorial, you created pages and added content, working towards the final goal of creating a mini-Web site about volcanoes. When you had completed the tutorial, you saw how the pieces fit together.

    I liked this so much that I have tried to mimic this method in my books by carrying a couple of sites through the book from early conception to final design.

    Web Standards and Accessibility

    Throughout the books, I tried to ensure that lessons incorporate the requirements for meeting Web standards and principles of Web accessibility. For example, all images are given alternate text whether the student/reader inserts it (the alternate text is either provided or the student/reader is asked to think of alternate text on their own) or whether the images are in prepared files (OK, I discovered later that I had missed a few in the Dreamweaver MX 2004 books).

    Although the books don’t have specific chapters on either Web standards or accessibility, any time an appropriate opportunity arrived, I explain the best way to use the code, the wrong ways that code has been used in the past, i.e., using the <blockquote> tag for indenting, and how the users benefit from following the standards and applying the principles of Web accessibility.

    Furthermore, although the CSS chapters don’t appear until the second book (Level 2), I teach basic CSS throughout Level 1, what options are available (such as the multitude of background properties) with the intent of encouraging the student/reader to consider CSS for styling before HTML. Along the same lines, I do not teach the <font> tag and avoid most presentational tags and attributes.

    Although I do not ever require the student/reader to switch to a Strict DTD, if the student/reader were to follow the principles I teach, it would not be difficult for them to successfully validate their code against the Strict DTD.

    Principles of Web Design

    Most lessons in my books focus on creating something but some lessons focus on exploration and observation. For example, even though you insert JPEG, GIF and PNG versions of the same image into the page using exactly the same methods in Dreamweaver, I feel it is important that the student/reader learn the differences between the features of these image file formats and see the value of understanding these differences. The first two lessons in the Foreground Images chapter demonstrate these differences.

    After most lessons in each chapter is a To Extend Your Knowledge section. I try not to use this section to teach more functions and features of Dreamweaver: it is my opinion that if I go to that much trouble, that additional information should be incorporated into a lesson. I use the TEYK sections to expand the knowledge about the topic of the lesson such as the difference between acronyms and abbreviations, versions of browsers and the opinions of prominent specialists on the pros and cons of frames.

    There is more to Web design than what Dreamweaver can do and what can be written in two books: if I can encourage students/readers to look at the bigger picture of Web design, they will be better prepared for their future.

    I don’t shy away from HTML code and I encourage the student/reader to become comfortable with code as well. Although Dreamweaver is good at producing compliant code, at times, you may wish to create code that either Dreamweaver doesn’t do easily or doesn’t to at all (except in Code view). While it is not necessary to work in Code view all of the time, it also isn’t necessary to be afraid of it. Most (if not all) of the better Web designers are comfortable with the code, even though they may have originally been taught design using the visual interface of Dreamweaver, PhotoShop, Quark Express or other applications.

    Format of the Essential for Design Books

    Why Would I Do This?

    I use this section to discuss the topic of the chapter in a general sense such as how it applies to Web design and other background information such as what is meant by Web-safe colours and hexadecimal notation.

    Visual Summary

    The Visual Summary provides annotated screenshots of the functions and features in Dreamweaver that will be employed in the chapter.


    There are 8 to 10 lessons in the books in which the student/reader is taught the basic methods of creating and using the topic of the current chapter such as forms, background images and colors or JavaScript. Each lesson begins with another discussion, like the Why Would I Do This section but focused on the topic of the lesson.

    My goal, when designing the lessons, is to teach a principle or a method and the lesson would not be complete until the goal has been achieved. In some cases, a lesson may contain a single exercise, and in other cases, a lesson may contain multiple exercises. The lessons contain many screenshots through the exercises to guide the student/reader and provide them a means of confirming their efforts against the book.

    Screen ID, Multiple Choice and Discussion Questions

    The next section in the books is a testing section in which there is a screen shot with empty labels, 10 multiple choice questions and 2 to 3 discussion questions. A great deal of thought has gone into the discussion questions (I credit my editor, Terry Graybill, for her great assistance with these questions). Generally, unlike the two preceding testing sections, there is no concrete answer to the discussion questions: the student/reader is expected to think about the lessons and principles learned and formulate a response. An example might be, if you were asked to create an educational Web site for children 10 years or younger, what Web design features might you consider?

    Skill Drills

    Skill Drills have 6 to 8 more complex applications of the lessons learned in the first part of the chapter. In many cases, the Skill Drills show an alternate method of applying the same technique such as another method of inserting an image. Skill Drills rarely have more than one screenshot, commonly only the final outcome of the exercise. There is much less hand-holding through the exercises, requiring the student/reader to hopefully remember what they were taught in the lessons or, if necessary, refer back to the lessons for guidance.


    Challenge exercises , similar to the Skill Drills before it, provide additional practice using the features and functions of Dreamweaver learned in the lessons and Skill Drills. I take this opportunity, not just to provide more difficult exercises — more difficult in that there is even less handholding and more generalized instructions — but also to play with the new information learned in the chapter. For example, in the Foreground Images chapter, one challenge exercise is to prepare and insert images into a frames-based photo album (the frames are prepared but empty of photos except for one sample photo).

    Sales Pitch

    Any college, university or design-school that is interested in teaching the use of Dreamweaver to create standards-compliant, accessible Web pages, should take a serious look at my books. Not only do they teach how to use Dreamweaver to create Web pages and Web sites, they also teach sound principles of Web design that enable the student/reader to make the correct decisions about how to properly apply (X)HTML code.

    I welcome comments about the books whether they are positive or constructive. If you can help me improve this teaching resource, please don’t hesitate to contact me.