Build Your Own Website: A Comic Guide to HTML, CSS, and WordPress
Build Your Own Website: A Comic Guide to HTML, CSS, and WordPress is a useful starting point for the very basics of getting started with your own website, particularly if you want to use WordPress. It’s got a cute comic in it featuring Kim (and her dog Tofu), an artist who wants to put a portfolio on the web. Unfortunately, as written by Nate Cooper and drawn by Kim Gee, the two have little to do with each other.
Each chapter has an introductory comic followed by a substantial text section that actually explains the coding. You could read the text and learn all the information without ever needing the comic. (A good idea for later reference, but not much of an argument for the comic pieces being essential.) The text is dense — there’s a lot of material conveyed — but clear and informative. I know having some comic-format material will get this book noticed by potential customers and perhaps attract those frightened by pure text and code, but the comics feel unnecessary, unless you need a friendly virtual hand to sympathize with in Kim.
Even when there is coding content in the comic, it’s mostly panels of a guru telling Kim the same things found in the text. For some reason, her coding work in the comic is set in a forest (?) where Kim crash-landed her spaceship (??) during a dream (oh!). I don’t know why they didn’t just stick with the introductory classroom, unless it was considered too visually boring. By setting up, for example, 404 errors to be drawn as attacking dragons, the art seems to have gone too far the other way, picking metaphors to make for exciting visuals without much connection to the actual content.
Kim Gee’s style is simple and direct, which is helpful in attracting non-comic readers. It deceptively seems like something almost anyone could draw, which matches nicely with the “you can make a website!” tone of the material. The four major chapters cover the most basic HTML, what CSS is, why you want to use WordPress and how it works, and using themes and plugins to customize your WordPress site. If you don’t want to use WordPress, you will find half the book useless, and it may seem like a big ad to you. (I say this as someone who uses a self-hosted WordPress installation on this site. I like the technology, but the book is very enthusiastic about it.)
I liked the book, and I can see it being helpful for a certain type of user, particularly younger ones, so maybe my criticisms aren’t needed. Heck, I’ve been on the web for 20 years (yikes!) and I found the CSS chapter, in particular, useful as a refresher. I just don’t care for the way the two types of content don’t feel fully integrated. I can’t satisfactorily answer to myself the question, “Why did this book need to be a comic?” (The publisher provided a review copy.)