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by Jen Simmons

If you travel to Silicon Valley and navigate between the global headquarters of some of the world’s most famous internet companies, you can head to the Computer History Museum. Wander through the museum, past the ancient mainframes and the story of the punch card, and you’ll eventually find yourself at the beginning of the Wide World Web. There’s a copy of the Mosaic browser on a floppy disk tucked in a book of the same name, a copy of Netscape Navigator that was sold in a box, and something called “Internet in a Box,” the #1 best-selling internet solution for Windows. Then there are the websites. Some of the earliest, most notable, and most important websites are on permanent display, including something called the “Global Network Navigator,” from 1993. It was designed by none other than the author of this book, Jennifer Robbins. Long before most of us had any idea the web existed, or even before many of you were born, Jen was busy designing the first commercial website. She’s been there from the very beginning, and has watched, taught, and written about every stage of evolution of the web.

Learning Web Design is now in its 5th edition, with a gazillion new pages and updates from those early days.

I am constantly asked, “What are the best resources for learning web technology?” I learned by reading books. Blog posts are great, but you also need an in-depth comprehensive look at the subject. In the beginning, all books were beginner books, teaching HTML, URLs, and how to use a browser. When CSS came along, the books assumed you’d already been using HTML, and taught you how to change to the new techniques. Then CSS3 came along, and all the books taught us how to add new CSS properties to our preexisting understanding of CSS2. Of course there were always books for beginners, but they were super basic. They never touched on professional techniques for aspiring professionals. Each new generation of books assumed that you had prior knowledge. Great for those of us in the industry. Tough for anyone new. But how in the world are you supposed to read about two decades of techniques, discarding what is outdated, and remembering what is still correct? How are you supposed to build a career from knowledge that’s so basic that you have no idea what real pros code in their everyday jobs?

You can’t. That’s why today when people ask me for a book recommendation, I have only one answer. This book.

This book you are reading now doesn’t require any prior knowledge. You don’t need to have made a web page before, or to have any idea where to get a code editor. It starts at the very beginning. And yet, unlike all the other books that start at the beginning, this one will get you to the good stuff, fast. Jen will explain every step you need, including some very advanced concepts. She’s packed this book full of cutting edge, insider knowledge from top experts.

I honestly don’t know how she does it. How can someone teach the basics and the advanced stuff at the same time? Usually you’ll learn those things years apart, with lots of struggling in the dark in the meantime. Here, Jen will lift you up from wherever you are in your journey, and take you farther. Every one of us—myself included, and I’m on the CSS Working Group (the group of people who invent new CSS)—can learn a lot from this book. I do every time I pick it up.

Pay attention to the notes in the margins. Read the websites she recommends, watch the videos. Jen is giving you a shortcut to a professional network. Follow the people she mentions. Read the links they suggest. These might be your future colleagues. Dare to dream that you will meet them. They are, after all, only a tweet away. It is a small world, full of real people, and you can become part of it all. This book will get you started.