A Comprehensive Editing Analysis

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“The other great thing about this document is how accessible it is.”

The purpose of Terry Felke-Morris’ textbook, the sixth edition of Web Development and Design Foundations with HTML5, is to guide students with their first experiences with HTML5 and CSS3. The book uses four case studies, a group of exercises throughout the book that build four different websites; this suggests that another purpose of this book is that professors can use it in their classrooms for four semesters and not have to use the same examples. I am a teaching assistant for a course titled Web Technologies at Georgia Southern University and I use this textbook because of, among other things, its reusability.

This document is geared towards college-level students—most of my students are sophomores or higher—though I believe an upperclassman in high school could make good use of the book as well, depending on their level of interest. The editor of this text, in considering the uses of the textbook, had to make a decision based on the project budget and time, whether there should be an online version of the text. The constraints of the project permitted an online version of the book, but not a companion website where students could get supplemental information on various topics. Therefore, Terry Felke-Morris created and hosts her own companion website for the document.

In my evaluation, I believe that this document is definitely complete. The author suggests a way of approaching the textbook according to the chapters: chapters one and two can be taught at the same time, chapter seven is optional for students or professors that want to learn or teach the mobile side of HTML5, and the last five chapters can be taught together because they are more information-based instead of focused on coding HTML5. There are a few sections of the textbook in which the appropriateness of the material is questionable.

In the first chapter, which is meant to be an introduction to the Internet and the World Wide Web, there is a section on networking. Though there is an obvious connection between using HTML5 and the Internet, you don’t necessarily have to know anything about networking to create webpages. This section of the textbook could be made more appropriate if the editor added a few sentences, maybe even a short paragraph, addressing the reader and telling them why this is important to know as it relates to HTML5. For example, the author could mention to the reader that it becomes extremely more important for the webpage creator and designer to pay close attention to how big their HTML files become in the process of developing their website because, to be sent across the web, it will be packaged with additional information such as the destination, source, sequence number, and checksum. The reader needs to know that with this additional information packaged with the HTML that they create can become big and burdensome to slower browsers.

This document utilizes many positive signals that effectively help the students interpret the document. The headings within the document improve reader understanding by grouping similar section and creating easy to follow patterns. Throughout the chapters are small sections marked “Faqs” that gives readers supplemental information about what they have been reading, usually incites into the past or future of the material. An image of a thought-bubble signals readers that they have reached the “Faqs” section, a cue to some readers that the information following is not completely pertinent and can be skipped—perhaps, the argument could be made that this section is just noise if it is typically skipped over and can even disrupt the reader’s attention from what they deem more pertinent. The textbook uses two other signals with similar images, this time placed in the margin next to paragraphs of text.

One signal, a balancing-beam image, denotes the context of the paragraph next to it focuses on ethics, while the other is the image of a key and it denotes a focus on accessibility as it relates to HTML5. At the end of every chapter you can find the case studies marked with a blue bar on the edge of the page, which makes these sections visible even when the book is closed. The author also gives examples within the chapters that implement the HTML that she just explained, marked with a heading “Hands on Practice.” This is an effective heading because it lets readers know that they are about to be coding on their own computers—it is my experience that students learn more by doing, in this case coding with HTML, than reading about how to do it. There are a few misspellings in the document that create noise. For example, the CSS selector and pseudo-class pair that can be used to style the way a hyperlink appears after it has been clicked is a:visited; there is a misspelling of this line of code, a:visted, which will break a student’s code is they are copying straight from the document. Fortunately, the author uses her companion website to inform readers of these errors, which helps reduce noise.

For the length of the chapters, the organization or content structure is successful in that in provides readers with the information that they need in a form that is easy to learn and easy to use. However, the organization is lacking in this regard in the case studies at the end of every chapter. In many of the case studies, the steps for creating the CSS to the example websites is given first and the HTML second. As the chapters become more complex this becomes a problem. In my personal experience in a learning environment with this document, readers or, in my case, students often become confused with this organization because the steps lead them to style elements in their CSS that they haven’t even created yet in their HTML. How can you be expected to style an image when you haven’t added any images to your website yet? In fact this organizational flaw is so problematic for students that the professor that I work for and I usually end up creating our own set of supplemental instructions to be used in tandem with the book’s instructions for the case studies so that our students will not be lost in the assignment.

This document uses illustrations to create gaps in overly long sections of text. This not only gives the readers a break from the monotony of the text but is a signal that means the reader will be testing their own code and viewing it in a browser. I am referring to the screenshots that pockmark this document immensely. When the textbook explains how to use a specific HTML5 element, it then provides a screenshot that element in action. For example, in the section on creating style sheets to use webpages on mobile devices, there are screenshots of the code rendered in a mobile browser.

At the end of every chapter, before the case studies begin, there are review questions that are great at assessing how much information the reader has obtained by reading the chapter as well as reiterating key concepts. These sections of the document is a great resource for readers who wish to get more out of the chapters, but there is a problem with them as well. The answers to the review questions are in the back of the textbook. Professors using the textbook will not be able to quiz their students for a grade on these review questions because the students can easily cheat. The teacher’s edition of the book comes with a set of PowerPoint presentations for each chapter for professors to use in their classrooms, but the presentations are typically packed with too much information per slide. PowerPoint slides are meant to be brief and compact. The professor I work for and I also have to create our own PowerPoint presentations for the lectures that we give in our classes.

The other great thing about this document is how accessible it is. As I have mentioned previously, there is an electronic version of the text provided by the publisher and the author has taken liberty to create her own companion website for the textbook. Viewable online, are tutorial videos that can be used in conjunction with the document. There are images that signal readers when a particular section that is covered in the book has an equivalent tutorial video online—the signal is an image of a play button. This feature is wonderful for readers that learn more by tutorials, but in order to view the videos readers must create a membership with the website. Since most of the users of this document are students with little to no income, the videos are not used often because of membership fees to said website. This can create a negative effect when students see the play button image, turning what was meant to be a signal into noise—I mean, what student wants to be reminded every time they turn the page in the document that they are financially impaired.

In edited this document for a seventh edition, the editor would need to set up some objective to deal with the problems of appropriateness, noise, and organization. One objective might be to rewrite sections with questionable appropriateness so that readers are wondering how a specific section relates to the whole—the appropriateness of a document is best when this relationship is a no-brainer for the reader. The editor should make the PowerPoint presentations shorter. The editor could suggest changes for noise, including whether or not specific sections are really needed (i.e. the “Faqs” section) and of course to fix typos that take away from the readers understanding. Another suggestion the editor could make to the author is whether or not to include the answers to the review questions in the back of the document to make the document more useful to professors that do not have the time to create their own quizzes. Most importantly the organization of the case studies should be edited—it makes more sense for steps for writing the HTML of a webpage come before the instructions for the CSS.

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About evinhughes

I am a graduate of Georgia Southern University located in Statesboro Georgia. I have a bachelors degree in Information Technology and a bachelors in Writing and Linguistics.
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One Response to A Comprehensive Editing Analysis

  1. Daniel Díaz says:

    And for people who already know about HTML, especially about previous releases, there is “Dive into HTML5” of Mark Pilgrim. I found this one an interesting reading with good reviews in the history of HTML. Also, it is freely available online!

    http://diveintohtml5.info

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