Bulletproof Web Design (Book review)

I’ve been a fan of Dan Cederholm’s writing and simple examples of real-world solutions to typical web design problems since long before his first book, Web Standards Solutions. Bulletproof Web Design does not disappoint. It is very well-written and beautfully laid out, and helps the reader understand how to create flexible and bulletproof websites.

What does Dan mean by “bulletproof”, then? Well, it’s a way to describe websites built using techniques that make the site flexible, readable, and accessible even as content changes and the site is being viewed in a browsing device that may or may not support a certain technology. It is exactly the approach I advocate when implementing a design. Always take a second to think “What happens if… [images are not displayed/CSS is not supported/text size is increased/another menu option is added].”

In the first eight chapters of the book, Dan shows how web designers used to solve typical problems as well as why those old solutions are inflexible and outdated. He then provides a better, web standards based solution to each problem.

In the final chapter, the techniques described in the first part of the book are combined to create a website that is bulletproof.

If you are already using CSS and (X)HTML you may think that you are already practising bulletproof web design. Chances are that you in fact are not. Just using CSS instead of tables for layout does not necessarily make your site flexible and accessible.

Regular readers of web standards and CSS oriented blogs may not find a whole lot of new concepts in this book. Despite that, I recommend that you get yourself a copy – it’s great to have simple and to the point descriptions of some of the most useful CSS techniques collected in one single book.

A great reference and a source of inspiration.

Bulletproof Web Design
Author: Dan Cederholm
ISBN: 0321346939

Posted on July 28, 2006 in Reviews


  1. My copy is on the way :) The bookshop did not have it in stock…

  2. I do like Dan’s general focus (not just in the book, which I haven’t read) on solving well-defined, actual problems. That’s the only point of web development, and it’s very easy to forget that.

  3. Dan is indeed a great writer. I’ve got both Web standards solutions and Bulletproof web design, and it’s interesting to see how other developers solve problems I face too. His main focus is more on examples and less on theory, but I think that’s why many developers like his books.

    For beginners, his books are awesome.

  4. It is a great book, while I have bought it after I have learned the basic principles of designing websites in a way that makes them scalable, flexible and adaptive to more situations than the one I, the designer, would like to be the only one, it was a very good and educational read. And the thing you mentioned already, wow, it is really beautifull inside (which I can’t say for the covers though :P).

  5. Yes indeed this is a good book. Whilst it is standards focussed it is also user focussed which sets it apart. Thinking about how users will use sites is a key point to the book and one that is forgotten by many developers.

  6. Roger, I just read this book as well (and wrote a review at http://www.theklaibers.com/2006/07/25/book-review-bulletproof-web-design-by-dan-cederholm/).

    The part I loved the most is that he isn’t PREACHING anything, but simply giving you bulletproof techniques. As you have said (and even I was guilty of in some instances), just because you use xhtml and css does not mean that you are bulletproof. Doing his ‘tests’ of turning off images, css, etc (everything you listed above) helps you to see how your site will react in all situations.

    I love this book and would recommend it to both the beginner and advanced web developer. It is a great resource!

  7. July 28, 2006 by Gabriel Svennerberg

    I think Dan Cederholm approach of presenting a problem and then gradually provide better and better solutions is a very pedagogic way of showing how things are done. I also like his very easy-to-read way of writing.

    Like with his first book “Web Standards Solutions”, I truly enjoyed this one as well.

  8. It is very good. I have read it. However, I don’t use named font sizes. I still preffer to use EMs.

  9. @Sorin

    I agree, it’s an excellent book. Practical stuff that I use on every site I’m working on. I also prefer to use ems or percentages for font sizes, rather than Dan’s method. See How to size text using ems

  10. Roger - Thanks for the review! Really glad you dug the book. Also a hearty thanks to the commenters above for the positive feedback as well. Fantastic to hear it’s been helpful.

  11. August 1, 2006 by Roger Johansson (Author comment)

    Hey Dan! Thanks for writing such an inspiring book. After reading it I want to try even harder to make everything as bulletproof as possible :-).

  12. Yep, I just finished it too - great book, a ‘must’ along with ‘web standards solutions’ for anyone interested in XHTML/CSS

  13. A worthwhile read, I’d say. I was sceptical about Dan’s view on absolute-size keywords as a safer option than sizing text with pixels, but he won me round. The tip that I find very helpful is that a container, when floated, will stretch to fit around floated child-elements inside it. Handy to know!

  14. This is a REALLY great book. I just finished reading this and Dan’s first ‘Web Standards Solutions’ and can highly recommend both. I’m now most of the way through Andy Budd’s ‘CSS Mastery’ - again a great book. I’ve got the second release of Designing With Web Standards sitting in wait. I know some people would look at the plethora of books on standards and css and say ‘how many can you read?’, ‘surely theres a lot of duplication’ but seriously there are so many excellent books out there right now and each one I read, I’m learning a stack of new methods, techniques and perspectives, I can’t get enough. Standards & CSS has really come of age.

  15. I own this book, and have to say it stands apart from many other books in the field, not least of all because it’s lavishly illustrated and a real pleasure to look at, not just to read.

    Dan’s attention to detail and love of design really come across in this book, which sets his examples apart from many other how-to web design books.

    For those who are new to web standards this book is a top read, and even for more experienced readers there are a few new nuggets waiting to be discovered.

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