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Designing with Web Standards[1] is a web development book by Jeffrey Zeldman (third edition with Ethan Marcotte). Zeldman co-founded the Web Standards Project in 1998 and served as its director during the formative years when the project was petitioning browser makers to support standards. Zeldman left the project in 2003.

The book’s audience is primarily web development professionals who are focused on web standards design work. DWS is used as a textbook in over 85 colleges, including New York University, UCLA, Dartmouth and Brigham Young University.



Written by Jeffrey Zeldman, a staunch proponent of web standards and founder of the award-winning web design studio Happy Cog,[2] Designing with Web Standards guides the reader on how to better utilize web standards pragmatically to create accessible, user-friendly web sites. The 432-page book has the following 16 chapters:

  1. 99% of Websites are obsolete
  2. Designing and Building with Standards
  3. Gentle Persuasion
  4. The Future of Web Standards
  5. Modern Markup
  6. XHTML and Semantic Markup
  7. HTML5: The New Hope
  8. Tighter, Firmer Pages Guaranteed: Structure and Semantics
  9. CSS Basics
  10. CSS Layout: Markup, Boxes and Floats – Oh My!
  11. Working with Browsers Part I: DOCTYPE Switching and Standards Mode
  12. Working with Browsers Part II: Bugs, Workarounds, and CSS3’s Silver Lining
  13. Working with Browsers Part III: Typography
  14. Accessibility: The Soul of Web Standards
  15. Working with DOM-Based Scripts
  16. A Site Redesign
  17. Simple Standards, Sexy Interfaces

For the third edition of the book, Zeldman brought in fellow author Ethan Marcotte[3] to “substantially revise” and update the content.[4]


The book’s third and most recent edition was released on October 25, 2009, by New Riders Press. It has received generally positive feedback, with a four out of five star rating on from 137 reviewers.

Reviewers have noted that the witty, conversational tone of the book mixed with the in-depth technical analysis are enough “to keep you turning the pages.”[5] book reviewer David Wall[5] notes that the book is “a fantastic education that any design professional will appreciate.” Wall goes on to praise Zeldman’s pragmatic approach, as well as the “tightly focused tips” he provides and bolsters with code examples to illustrate his point.

Some critics have said that the book is aimed more at web design novices and mentions a few out-of-date browsers, and is devoid of a lot of detail.[citation needed]

About web standardsEdit

Concepts of standards-based web design include the separation of document structure from a web page or application's appearance and behavior; an emphasis on semantically structured content that validates (that is, contains no errors of structural composition) when tested against validation software maintained by the World Wide Web Consortium; and progressive enhancement, a layered approach to web page and application creation that enables all people and devices to access the content and functionality of a page, regardless of personal physical ability (accessibility), connection speed, and browser capability.

Prior to the web standards movement, web page developers used invalid, incorrect HTML syntax such as "table layouts" and "spacer" GIF images to create web pages—an approach often referred to as "tag soup". Such pages looked the same in all browsers of a certain age (such as Microsoft Internet Explorer 4 and Netscape Navigator 4), but were often inaccessible to people with disabilities. Tag soup pages also displayed or operated incorrectly in older browsers, and required multiple code forks such as JavaScript for Netscape Navigator and JScript for Internet Explorer that added to the cost and complexity of development. The extra code required, and the lack of a caching page layout language, made web sites "heavy" in terms of bandwidth, as did the frequent use of images as text. These bandwidth requirements were burdensome to users in developing countries, rural areas, and wherever fast Internet connections were unavailable.

The Web Standards movement pioneered by Glenn Davis, George Olsen, Jeffrey Zeldman, Steven Champeon, Todd Fahrner, Eric A. Meyer, Tantek Çelik, Dori Smith, Tim Bray, Jeffrey Veen, and other members of the Web Standards Project in the 1990s replaced bandwidth-heavy tag soup with light, semantic markup and progressive enhancement, with the goal of making web content "accessible to all".[6]

The Web Standards movement declared that HTML, CSS, and JavaScript were more than simply interesting technologies. "They are a way of creating Web pages that will facilitate the twin goals of sophisticated and appropriate presentation and widespread accessibility."[6] The group succeeded in persuading Netscape, Microsoft, and other browser makers to support these standards in their browsers. It then set about evangelizing these standards to designers, who were still using tag soup, Adobe Flash, and other proprietary technologies to create web pages.

The impact of Designing with Web StandardsEdit

The first half of Zeldman's Designing With Web Standards in 2003 consolidated the case for web standards in terms of accessibility, search engine optimization, portability of content with an eye toward mobile and other emerging environments, lowered bandwidth and production cost, and other benefits. This section of the book addressed marketers and site owners as well as web developers and designers. The second section of the book was a how-to for designers and developers. How-to books were common in the web industry, although almost none at the time taught web standards. What made the first edition of Designing with Web Standards unique was its focus on making the case for forward compatibility, accessibility, and SEO to all who own, manage, or use web sites, not just developers.

The book is credited with converting the industry from tag soup and Flash to semantics and accessibility via correct use of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Subsequent editions, while continuing to address the state of the Web and the benefits of standards-based design, have also focused on emerging technologies such as HTML5 and CSS3, and on emerging design strategies such as Responsive Web Design (RWD) and "Mobile First."


Designing with Web Standards has been translated into 15 different languages, including (for the last edition) Italian, Chinese, Hungarian, Polish and Portuguese.


Author Last Name(s) Title Edition ISBN Release Date
Zeldman Designing With Web Standards 1 9780735712010 05/14/2003
Zeldman Designing With Web Standards 2 9780321385550 07/06/2006
Zeldman / Marcotte Designing With Web Standards 3 9780321616951 10/15/2009


  1. ^ Zeldman, Jeffrey (2009). Designing with Web Standards (3rd Edition). Berkeley,CA: New Riders Press. p. 432. ISBN 0-321-61695-2.
  2. ^ "Web design, web development, mobile & content strategy by Happy Cog". Retrieved 2014-02-26.
  3. ^ "Ethan Marcotte is a web designer & developer who lives in Boston". Retrieved 2014-02-26.
  4. ^ "Designing with Web Standards". Retrieved 2014-02-26.
  5. ^ a b Jeffrey Zeldman : Designing Web Standards. ISBN 0-321-61695-2.
  6. ^ a b "Web Standards Mission". Retrieved 2014-02-26.