Pro CSS for High Traffic Websites book review

What`s the book about?

As the title suggest this book is about professional Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) for high traffic websites (10.000+ visitors/day). This book guides you through the development process of optimizing codes for improved speed and how to handle large style sheets and interact with other teams and team members to  work more effective.

As a webmaster/webdesigner I`m giving a chance to review this book by Apress.

Who is this book written for?

As the title suggest this book is about professional CSS for high traffic sites. High traffic sites can be categorised into:

  • High-traffic sites (10.000+ visitors/day)
  • Large websites (2000+ pages or 30+ sub-sites)
  • Large web development teams or developers new to teams
  • Anyone who want to structure their CSS development

What can you expect from the book?

The book promises to teach you:

  • The value of process
  • Making reusable, robust, and modular CSS
  • How to maximize the performance of your site
  • Integrating with third parties
  • How to keep branding consistent
  • Best practices for cross-browser and accessible CSS
  • Dynamic CSS techniques


Since I summed up what I can expect from the book I will now explains what`s inside the book.

The book starts with a foreword by Bruce Lawson, who works at Opera. Next is information about the authors of the book followed by acknowledgements, a preface and the structure of the book.

The first chapter guides you through things as teams and member functions, consistency (and choosing a model), tools for documenting, task and bug management, version control, diffs. Later on the chapter explains the pros and cons of various development methods.

After you have sorted out the basic development issues it`s time to get started with CSS files. The chapter begins with explains how to create a consistent CSS file, structure and document it.

Chapter three explains how to keep your CSS files clean and effective. Next up are some basic tools are explained and how to use it to debug and test CSS and semantics. Also this chapter explains widely used CSS hacks like the box model, underscore and star hacks. Following these hacks is the browser specific extensions, media queries and conditional comments.

Frameworks and integration is chapter fours title. This chapter explains how to create your own CSS framework, use a third-party CSS framework (and grids)  and how to use and create a reset.css file. Deeper diving into the chapter reveals the principles behind Object Oriented CSS (OOCSS).

Keeping your brand style consistent is discussed in chapter five. The chapter begins with creating (online) brand style guides, creating a basic design library, typography, colour schemes, grids and ends with themes and templates.

Accessibility is chapter six. The chapter starts with all sorts of impairments users could suffer from. Next is how to test your website using WAI-ARIA and WCAG guidelines using screen readers and optimize your site by modifying CSS. The chapter ends with Graded Browser Support .

Device support is content for chapter seven. It begins with explains all media types like screen, print, handheld etc. next up is the use of advanced media queries, a little look inside the Modernizr Javascript library, tips and tricks how to create print sheets and the chapter ends with mobile device styling and a little bit of search engine optimization.

Performance (optimalisation) is discussed in chapter eight. The chapter starts with small manual optimalisation to keep codes short. Followed by minimizing image sizes and minifying CSS and JS files. Further on in this chapter is GZIP compression, the use of CDN`s, sprites and browser caching. This chapter ends with how to setup HTML5 Offline Storage and Javascript to modify CSS styling.

Dynamic CSS using LESS and Sass  – which is slightly discussed before – is explained in chapter nine. Dynamic CSS has benefits when it comes to modifying big style sheets and keeping your brand style consistent.

Testing and debugging CSS is explains in chapter ten. This chapter shows and explains tools for Internet Explorer, Firefox (firebug), Chrome, Safari and Opera Dragonfly. Next are tools for testing graded browser support (GBS), multiple versions of Internet Explorer, device emulations and generating screenshots.

Chapter eleven is the final chapter of the book. It summarizes things and puts everything into action by creating a high performance style sheet for an imaginary project.

Appendix 1-3 features a demonstrative guideline which should/can be used as the basics of style guideline for a project.  The fourth and final appendix describes some basics of team based development.

What did the book teaches you?

As I`ve said before, this book promises to teach you:

  • The value of process
  • Making reusable, robust, and modular CSS
  • How to maximize the performance of your site
  • Integrating with third parties
  • How to keep branding consistent
  • Best practices for cross-browser and accessible CSS
  • Dynamic CSS techniques

As promised, it did explain all of these items.

If you read carefully you will notice that I didn`t talk about third party content in my summary but the book does explain how to handle this!


I found the book very theoretical but practical. It won`t teach you how to write CSS and design your sites but it does give you guidelines how to construct and  order your site. The book covers whatever I can think off is necessary as a CSS editor in a team like performance, hacks, version control and structuring.

The demo CSS was always clean and straightforward.

What I missed in the book was a slight demo of those version control systems, with just 5 pages it would get the reader started using these systems.

The images in the book always referred to the text, for example page 24 -27, page 122 etc.

This is one of those books which you cannot read in one go. You have to read it chapter by chapter and in the meantime put it in action.

During reading this book (a chapter a day) I found myself putting things to practise every time. This also means that I found this book very practical.

I can recommend this book to every webdesigner who uses CSS and want to either structure/redesign his/her CSS leading to an increased productivity & for those who (are planning to) work in a team with multiple developers.

More information about the book can be found on the books official page at

On this page you can also buy this book as printed paper or eBook.

Who am I?

I’m Ramon van Belzen (Ramoonus), a 23 year old webdesigner from Vlissingen, the Netherlands. I’m surfing the web since 1997 and I`ve been programming HTML since 1998. I currently run over 10 websites, most of them as webmaster and webdesigner. I use WordPress, Joomla! or Drupal as the CMS for most of my sites. I use web technologies like HTML 4, HTML 5, XHTML 1.1, CSS2 / 3, JavaScript, AJAX, jQuery, PHP/MySQL and XML. You can visit my website at

Book info

  • ISBN13: 978-1-4302-3288-9
  • 400 Pages
  • User Level: Intermediate to Advanced
  • Publication Date: April 27, 2011
  • Available eBook Formats: EPUB, MOBI, PDF

2 thoughts on “Pro CSS for High Traffic Websites book review

  1. One thing I’m not clear on from your review: how exactly is CSS for high traffic sites any different from CSS in general? Don’t the same principles apply regardless?

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