First Monday: Book Reviews First Monday
First Monday Reviews First Monday March 1997 column

What is a "Static" Web Site? new books on "Dynamic"Sites
It seems that it is no longer too difficult to convince even the most technophobic administrator about the wisdom of a Web presence. Creating an Internet "personality" - an appealing and effective Web site - is no easy task. Although no one has yet to define - exactly - a static Web site (a server with documents and files not updated in over a year?), these books go to great lengths in explaining how you can transform your Web server from a mere wallflower at the great, global Internet party into a real go-getter. Graphics, animation, backgrounds, fonts, and other elements are the necessary makeup and cosmetics in developing an eye-catching digital calling card. Oh yes, content (i.e. real information) is important, if you really insist. With these books on hand and their principles absorbed, your site will soar in popularity, catch more than a few of those now superfluous Web awards, and no doubt fill your log files with exciting digital recollections. - ejv


Jim Sterne
Customer Service On The Internet
New York: Wiley, 1996.
326 p., paper. ISBN 0-471-15506-3
Price $US34.95

A bit of a slow starter, Customer Service on the Internet leads the completely non-technical reader through the implications of the emergence of the Web as a serious marketing and customer communication channel. Jim Sterne's certainly done his research, and countless real-life examples (complete with Netscape screenshots) make this quite a cookbook for anyone thinking of a Web customer support presence. The obligatory FedEx, UPS, United, American Airlines, Firefly, IBM, ISN Webtour is filled out by a one-chapter case study of Cisco's Web presence.

A tone of urgency makes Sterne's book quite invaluable as ammunition for a hard-sell to upper management, though I have my doubts whether there are many companies around whose upper management still needs further convincing about the strategic benefits of a customer service Website.

In all, an entertaining read, with a few surprises even for the most tuned in of us, and occasional flashes of inspired writing evincing a genuine understanding of the magnitude of the Web revolution.- Ashish Gulhati, hash@netropolis.org


Darcy DiNucci with Maria Giudice and Lynne Stiles
Elements of Web Design
Berkeley, Calif.: Peachpit Press, 1997.
205 p., paper. ISBN 0-201-88594-8
Price $US39.95

Rectangular in format, with plenty of illustrations, Elements of Web Design takes you on a quick and adventuresome ride into the basics of HTML, graphics, and interactivity. Written with a minimum of technical verbiage, it is accessible, entertaining, and educational all at once. The first half of the book gets you comfortable with the essentials of HTML. The second half of the book introduces you to VRML, PDF, animation, forms, Java, CGI, and ActiveX, among many other topics. Each chapter includes plenty of clear and colorful examples, plus pointers to sites and easy-to-read tables of useful and important tags. Brimming with commonsense advice, this book is both enthusiastic to the possibilities of the medium and realistic in pointing out potential potholes. The excellent design of this book, thanks to its sharp use of space, text, and illustrations, only enhances the experience of reading it. Looking for some design ideas? This book will give you much food for your imagination.- ejv


Scott Fisher
Creating Dynamic Web Sites: A Webmaster's Guide to Interactive Multimedia
Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley Developers Press, 1997.
350 p., paper. ISBN 0-201-44207-8
Price $US24.95

Incunabula imitated their antecessors, hand-crafted manuscripts, before experimentation in print started in earnest after 1500. As in the late 15th century, Web publishers in the late 20th century slavishly imitate print, failing to take advantage of electronic possibilities for interactivity. Fisher's Creating Dynamic Web Sites provides plenty of information to start you on the road to a more user-driven site, breaking away from the safe and tired print model for digital publication. Eight chapters and two appendices describe 3D images, video, animation, audio, and other multimedia vehicles. Exercises and test cases make all of this text practical and immediately applicable. Appendices at the end provide background information on bandwidth and pointers to online sources. Unfortunately, the few illustrations in this book are dark and black-and-white, adding little to the text. In spite of this failing, if you bring your imagination and your computer to this book, it will help you begin to test some ways to break away from print habits. - ejv


Richard Koman
GIF Animation Studio: Animating Your Web Site
Sebastopol, Calif.: O'Reilly & Associates, 1996.
159 p., paper, with CD-ROM. ISBN 1-565-92230-1
Price $US39.95

GIF animations are a highly attractive way to make a site visually attractive, without technically demanding a lot from your users. As the author notes, "GIF animations just work." The opening chapters examine the basic GIF animation programs - GIFBuilder (for the Macintosh) and GIF Construction Set (for Windows). After you master the basics with these programs, you're ready for more advanced manipulations with GIFmation (Mac) and Adobe Photoshop. The last half of the book takes you through a variety of tips, tricks, and pointers, such as combining static images with animation, developing textures, and morphing. Many of the programs mentioned in the book are on the attached compact disc, along with all of the examples described in the text. The combination of the well-illustrated and brightly written text with the digital examples will make you return to this book and CD over and over for help and inspiration.- ejv


David Sachs and Henry Stair
The 7 Keys to Effective Web Sites
Upper Saddle River, N. J.: Prentice Hall, 1996.
318 p., paper. ISBN 0-134-90087-1
Price $US26.95

Explaining by example The 7 Keys to Effective Web Sites takes you from Classroom Connect to Mama's Cucina to the Virtual Vineyards to point out key features, pitfalls, and fixes. Sachs and Stair's emphasis on simplicity, interactivity, and timeliness is emphasized in their concise dissection of each site visited in the course of the book. Black-and-white illustrations of the opening screens of each site provide a glimpse of just a trace of the components at each locale; it makes much more sense just to visit each server as you work your way through this book. A collection of color plates at the end of the book, with illustrations of 32 opening screens, adds little. More like an Internet tour rather than a technical guide, 7 Keys is most useful for the absolute beginner. Experienced Web designers should look elsewhere for advice and suggestions.- ejv


Lincoln D. Stein
How to Set Up and Maintain a Web Site
Second Edition
Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley, 1997.
816 p., paper, with CD-ROM. ISBN 0-201-63462-7
Price $US39.76

For Webmasters and system administrators, Stein's How to Set Up and Maintain a Web Site is a compendium, bible, and resource guide. Eleven chapters and three appendices cover advice on installing and configuring a Web server, Java, server scripts, security, HTML, and everything in between. Examples throughout the text make this book invaluable, and a constant reference for common questions and problems. Looking for help with frames? Interested in putting a CGI calendar on your server? The answers are in this utilitarian and content-rich book. If you are responsible for a site, or manage those who do, you'll need this book and compact disk. There is nothing quite like it.- ejvEnd of article


Copyright © 1997, First Monday

Book Reviews by Edward J. Valauskas, Ashish Gulhati
First Monday, volume 2, number 3 (March 1997),
URL: http://www.firstmonday.org/?journal=fm&page=article&op=view&path[]=518






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