Basic Web Design


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Course Description

This course examines the construction of passive web sites. Passive web sites are set of HTML and CSS pages linked together, without server-side or client-sides scripting. Students learn what the web is. They learn how web sites work, how to build them, and how to build them well. This involves technical know-how, as well as design skills. The course covers both areas.

The course emphasizes the use of standard compliant XHTML 1.0 and CSS level 2.1. Standards compliance is an integral part of the composition process. Students are allowed whatever tool they wish to use to create their sites, but final project sites must be standard compliant.

The course covers all of XHTML 1.0, except some features that the instructor considers minor, in the sense that they are rarely used and mainly a feature to prepare sites for accessibility issues. The course covers much of CSS 2.1. Again, minor features (e.g. aural properties) are omitted.

The course covers the issue of web site design as far as simple passive web sites are concerned. Discussion of design starts as soon as basic XHTML is covered, in parallel to the CSS material.

Course objectives

After taking this course students


There are no other formal prerequisites for this course. Students should have been using the web before. They should be able to use a Microsoft Windows computer, e.g. click on an icon to run a program, cut and paste between applications, and copy files from one location to another. Students should also be familiar with basic concepts of computer hardware and software, concepts like files, and memory. They should have a very basic understanding of the Internet. Everything that goes beyond that is explained in class or by personal tuition from the instructor. No prior knowledge of HTML and CSS is assumed.

Students are provided with free web space where they can design their own sites. This web space continues to be available after the course ends. In order to operate that web space students only need a computer with an Internet connection.


Thomas Krichel
Palmer School of Library and Information Science
C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University
720 Northern Boulevard
Brookville, NY 11548–1300
work phone: +1–(516)299–2843
skype: thomaskrichel

Private contact details may be obtained from the online CV.

Class structure

Classes are held in the CW Post on Sundays between 13:00 and 18:00. The instructor promises to be in his office shortly after 12:00 for extra help and questions.

Each class has a lengthy presentation by the instructor. For some part of class time the students work directly with their computers under the supervision of the instructor. However, students are expected to do much of the work on their web site at home. To support the students in this process, the instructor will be on campus for extra sessions for students who need additional support. Support via skype is available pretty much around the clock, i.e. unless the instructor is moving around or is asleep.

Class details

Here are some class details. The powerpoint slides attached are drafts, they may be revised as the course progresses.

2010–09–12 13:00 to 18:00 Introduction to the course and to the world wide web
2010–09–19 13:00 to 18:00 XML and the HTML body
2010–09–26 13:00 to 18:00 HTML head, CSS introduction and HTML tables
2010–10–03 13:00 to 18:00 important CSS without positioning, page and contents design
2010–10–17 13:00 to 18:00 CSS positioning and site design
2010–10–24 13:00 to 18:00 CSS advanced selectors and accessibility

To print the slides in Microsoft powerpoint, press control-p to print, then under "Print what" choose "Handouts", and under "Color/grayscale" choose "Pure Black and White". You can also use openoffice to print the slides. The slides posted here are draft until the time that the class is held.


The technical specifications of HTML and CSS are on the web. XHTML 1.0 is defined in W3C HTML Working Group (2002). To understand it, you need to refer to the definition of HTML 4.01 in Raggett et al. (1999). CSS level 2 revision 1 is defined in Bos et al. (2003). http is defined in RFC 2616. URLs are defined in RFC 1738, but that definition was updated in RFC 2396. MIME types are documented in IANA 2002. The documentation of Apache is online at

If students want a textbook on HTML and CSS, they are spoiled for choice. However, students should be aware that most books teach the loose version of HTML and place much less of an emphasis on style sheets than the course contents does. This is a really LIS-style course with an emphasis on separation of contents and presentation.

Castro (2006) is a widely used and reasonably priced book for beginners. A book that the instructor likes a lot is Musciano and Kennedy (2002). But it is expensive. A good, though outdated book on CSS is Bos and Lie (1999). Another good book is on CSS is Meyer (2006).

Some specialized web sites and wikis deal with web design. Among them are

As far as the design of web sites is concerned, Krug (2005) and Nielsen (2000) are classic references. The most relevant contents of these books is covered in the course, but there are also bits and pieces from various web sites. Morville and Rosenfeld (2002) is a book on information architecture, but is so boring that is no longer covered. Other resources include Clark (2007), Lynch and Horton (2002), Horton (2006) and Zeldman (2005).

The following mailing lists may be worth subscribing to.

Finally there a bunch of home-grown resources.

Mailing list

There is a mailing list for the course at All students are encouraged to subscribe. As a rule, answers to email sent to the instructor are copied to the list. There are exceptions to this rule


Before each class except the first, there is a quiz on the issues covered in the previous class. The average of all the quiz results counts for 5/15 of the assessment. The worst performance in a quiz is discounted. On the second class meeting, the students hand in a one-page typed statement about the web site that they want to build. This statement should cover both the purpose of the web site and the site's architecture. The assessment of this statement counts for 1/15 of the grade.

At the last meeting, students also hand in a web site assessment. This assessment should cover the web site of an academic library and information science department in the US or abroad. The assessment should not aim to describe the web page. It should discuss the strength and weaknesses of the site in terms of the usability criteria reviewed in the class meeting from the week before. The assessment should roughly be two typed pages long. If students don't like the first grade they get on the assessment are given a chance to improve it. The web site assessment counts for 2/15 of the course.

The remaining 7/15 are assessed through the student's ability to build a web site. The site must validate against the strict version of the XHTML 1.0 specification. The site must have a style sheet with the main presentational elements. The site should provide an information source about a topic, though it need not be comprehensive by any means. Students are recommended to develop the web site on behalf of some other person. That person may useful feedback on the site help to avoid creating something that is too designer-centered. The informational contents of the site should go beyond simple link collections or path finders. Personal web sites, such as for the student describing herself, are not allowed. However students may built a personal site for someone else. The total amount of information contained should roughly be equivalent to a conventional student essay. It has to be finalized one week after the last class. There a is published list of criteria for the assessment of the web site.

Marianne Galati
Gina Russo
Tracey Moloney
Melissa Heide
Nikita L. Bacchus
Maura Powers-Smith

Valid XHTML 1.0!