Friday, November 7, 2008

The Web Collection Revealed

“The Web Collection Revealed: Macromedia Dreamweaver 8, Flash 8, and Fireworks 8”
Authors: Sherry Bishop, Jim Shuman, and Barbara M. Waxer
Review: Scott Lawrence

I have been designing websites as a hobby/part time job since the age of 9. I had a running gag with my parents every year during Christmas where I would create a version of my Christmas list that was always improved upon the previous year. It got to the point where the items I wanted became irrelevant and I looked forward to Christmas simply to try and out-do my previous attempt and create a list that would impress everyone. Eventually I decided that a physical list would no longer suffice, and I opted to create a web version using the long since dead free hosting site, My first site was terrible looking, and obnoxious in every way and broke every rule of thumb for web design. Over the course of the next few years, I began to gather ideas on how to create a new and improved site, but had little knowledge of how to complete these great ideas. Out of necessity, I slowly began to teach myself HTML coding, JavaScript, and how to use editors such as Photoshop, FrontPage, and others. I eventually started making sites for $400 a piece for local companies or local bands that had absolutely no idea what HTML even was. Eventually I burned out and quit trying to keep up with the technology advances moving faster than any one person could learn.

I ordered this book from the internet because of my interest in the subject of Flash. When the book arrived I saw a note that was absent from the website, “Beginner to Intermediate”. Instantly I wrote this book off as a total waste of time. Fortunately I was wrong. There were clear gaps in my self-motivated web design education that this book finally was able to fill. Furthermore, there have been huge strides in technology advances since I hang up the web design towel only a few years ago. For the majority of this book, I found myself glancing at pages and skipping them as it went into vivid detail about how to create tags, tables, and other aspects of web design that have not changed and had become second nature of the years. However, the topic of Cascading Style Sheets shows up, a concept that was so new that most browsers would not support them at the last I had heard of such a thing. CSS is a way to create an outside source file that tells all of your web pages how to look, act, and position themselves, allowing large websites to be much simpler. As I read through a concept I knew practically nothing about, I found the authors explanations extremely easy to read and understand. These simple explanations were followed up by pictures that finally helped me understand what some of those buttons in Dreamweaver were actually supposed to do. By the end of the book I actually found myself saying out loud, “Wow I had no idea you could do that!”

My main interest was in learning Flash, which I already own several books on the subject, but I have gained very little knowledge from any of them. What little I did know I had discovered by playing around with the software myself in my free time, like trying to make a ball bounce across the screen. There were amazing things such as “Shape Tweens” and “Text Animations” that I knew were available, but had no idea how to use. The book again clearly explained how to create a navigation bar instead of a simple animation. It demonstrates the main concepts behind Flash that were the essential reasons I was unable to utilize this powerful software to its full extent. I would greatly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in making powerful, engrossing websites but has very little core knowledge of how to do so. The more advanced users will notice that the book lacks any real explanation of Action Script, one of the most powerful aspects of Flash. However, for someone who has dabbled in web design, this book will help you start making websites like a pro in no time at all. Clear to the point explanations, plenty of images, a project guide included on the disc, and a straight forward approach to using the three programs as well as integrating them together makes this one of the best technical instructions books I have read. As you recall, I taught myself at least 3 or 4 coding languages, so I have read well more than my fair share of technical books, and this one stands above the rest.

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