Adaptive Web Design (Book review)

You have likely seen the term “progressive enhancement” quite a lot, especially if you’re a regular reader of this website. But do you understand exactly what it means, and do you try to apply it in every detail of your daily work?

If the answer is no, you’re far from alone. The last couple of years, with HTML5 (or more correctly parts of CSS3 and various JavaScript techniques) becoming the new Ajax, it seems that people are so eager to apply the shiny new front-end toys that they forget that the Web is supposed to be universal. And in doing so, many developers unfortunately forget about or ignore progressive enhancement.

One reason may be that there aren’t enough resources that explain progressive enhancement in a practical and easy-to-digest way. Luckily, Aaron Gustafson has written a book called Adaptive Web Design that does just that.

I’m a pretty hardcore advocate of progressive enhancement myself, and I think this book is excellent at explaining what progressive enhancement is, why it is so fundamental to the core of the Web, and, most importantly, how to apply progressive enhacement to your own work today.

Adaptive Web Design does not just contain theory. It also has plenty of practical examples that really help you understand how to use HTML, CSS and JavaScript to build web sites and web applications that use the latest technology without sacrificing universality, backwards compatibility or accessibility. And it does all that in a pretty compact way – you’ll probably be able to finish it in a couple of hours.

The book has one chapter each devoted to progressive enhancement within four specific areas: markup, CSS, JavaScript, and accessibility, with a final chapter consisting of a very useful progressive enhancement checklist. The checklist will of course be most meaningful if you use it after reading the book from cover to cover, but even if you haven’t done that it’s good to run through the checklist before shipping your next project.

If every web professional were to read and fully absorb the information in Aaron Gustafson’s excellent Adaptive Web Design, large parts of the Web would become be so much more, well, adaptive than they are today. We would see fewer cases of entire sites failing without warning when JavaScript is off. We would see less non-semantic markup. We would see fewer widgets that are meaningless and confusing without CSS or JavaScript. And so on.

The Web would simply be more robust.

Adaptive Web Design
Author: Aaron Gustafson
ISBN-13: 978-0-9835895-0-1

Posted on June 17, 2011 in Reviews, JavaScript, CSS, Accessibility, (X)HTML