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Microformats Made Simple

Posted on by Clive Walker in Books Microformats

I wrote this post a while back. The content can still be relevant but the information I've linked to may not be available.

In more detail

This is a technical, and quite specialised, book and much of it is devoted to mark-up examples. At the same time, it is not difficult to read and the writing is quite conversational in style – thanks in part to a sprinkling of humorous remarks throughout the book. At least, I found them funny!

What are microformats? The addition of semantic meaning to (X)HTML using class, rel and rev attributes. The content/data can subsequently be used by people and computers.

The main chapters in Microformats Made Simple each explain a single microformat and its usage and also describe the benefits/advantages of its adoption. After all, you will be putting more work into your (X)HTML if you publish microformats so it’s good to see this highlighted.

  • For example, Google, Yahoo and other search engines are using microformats more and more to classify the content that they index. Google explains one aspect of this in Introducing Rich Snippets
  • The book describes many of the widely available microformat browser tools that web developers/geeks use but it also tells you how to create links that, for example, allow your website visitors to download your address details with hcard.

The book is quite honest and it explains the challenges that microformats face

At the same time, the book is quite honest and it explains the challenges that microformats face including usability, accessibility, mark-up code bloat, and microformats adoption. Yes, the author loves microformats but there’s also realism and straight talking throughout the book. For example, whenever an extra <span> tag is added the author acknowledges this (and argues that the extra semantic content is worth it).

Practicality, clarity, and semantics

The book is very practical in its approach. For example, it advises that microformats should be added around the content that you have, rather than adding content just for the sake of using microformats. Some of the compound microformats have many properties and as a microformats newbie I often found it difficult to know which were required and which were optional. The book is crystal clear here. Required and optional properties are listed and described sequentially in each chapter.

The book has many (X)HTML examples with microformat properties and classes applied in a step-wise manner but first the choice of mark-up is explained. For example, several ways of marking-up the same content are described with an emphasis (of course) on semantic structure (POSH). If you need a light refresher on some aspects of semantic mark-up, this is a secondary role of the book.

CSS and style

The final chapter gives a few examples of how it is possible to style microformatted mark-up in different ways and in many cases without the use of additional classes. Just use microformat classes (and values) as hooks for your CSS!


I enjoyed reading the book and I know a lot more about microformats as a result. I feel that I am much better able to identify places where I can use microformats in my mark-up. The success of any web development or web design book that I read is determined by whether I can use its methods in my everyday work. The book definitely achieves that objective.

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