Review: Smashing Book #3: Redesign the Web

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There are a lot of books on web devel­op­ment, and even more writ­ing avail­able for free online. You have to have some­thing spe­cial to stand out in this mar­ket, and the lat­est to try is Smash­ing Book #3: Redesign The Web. Smash­ing Mag­a­zine used to be known for their ‘Top 50 What­ev­er’ lists, but in the last few years, as clones and com­peti­tors sprung up around them, they’ve carved out their own space online with qual­i­ty prac­ti­cal writ­ing, so I was keen to see what was in their lat­est book of orig­i­nal content.

A few dis­clo­sures before I begin: I received this book for free as a review copy; I have writ­ten pro­fes­sion­al­ly for Smash­ing Mag­a­zine; I know some of the con­trib­u­tors to this book on a social basis. With all of that said, this review is based on my hon­est opin­ion with as lit­tle con­scious bias as pos­si­ble. One more thing: I haven’t read the whole thing. I dip in and out of tech books so if I wait­ed until I’d read every chap­ter, this review would be made long after release of the book. Caveats aside, here’s the review.

Redesign The Web is not only a prac­ti­cal title, it’s a call to arms. This book is a man­i­festo of mod­ern web devel­op­ment, it wants us to start a new era of high pro­fes­sion­al­ism and it’s show­ing us the way with new approach­es to plan­ning, design think­ing, con­sid­er­a­tion for the user and cod­ing best prac­tices. Long-run­ning TV shows often have jump-on episodes, where key plot points are resumed for the ben­e­fit of new view­ers, and as a snap­shot of the best writ­ing about mod­ern build meth­ods, this book is a jump-on point for web development.

There are 11 chap­ters, which are broad­ly grouped into strat­e­gy, devel­op­ment, and design. What­ev­er your job, you should con­sid­er read­ing them all; as I’ve said in a pre­vi­ous post (which I now can’t find), if your job is mak­ing web­sites it’s not suf­fi­cient to know only your role, you must also have a good under­stand­ing of every stage of the build, from plan­ning to deliv­ery. This book will help with that.

The chap­ters are writ­ten in a way that’s clear, con­ver­sa­tion­al, and often very tech­ni­cal but with­out being con­fus­ing; they’re like extend­ed ver­sions of arti­cles writ­ten in the Smash­ing Mag­a­zine house style. Exam­ples and code snip­pets have excel­lent clar­i­ty and make it easy to use for reference.

A few chap­ters of note: David Storey and Lea Ver­ou do an admirable job of explain­ing the basics of CSS3, doing in 40 pages what took me half a book. Com­bin­ing depth with brevi­ty is a desir­able skill, and I’m a lit­tle envi­ous. Dmit­ry Fadeyev’s chap­ter shows some excel­lent and inspir­ing exam­ples of good user expe­ri­ence, and cov­ers the con­cept of UX admirably. The chap­ter I got most use from was Stephen Hay’s Work­flow Redesigned, which posits an approach to mod­ern web design which gave me lots of good ideas about my next project.

It’s beau­ti­ful­ly designed, from the cov­er by Veer­le Pieters to the ani­mal-based illus­tra­tions by Kate McLel­land, even down to the full-colour screen­shots in every arti­cle, it’s an object worth buy­ing and own­ing. If you have the paper­back, it even smells great!

As I men­tioned at the start of this post, I haven’t read it all; of the 11 chap­ters, I’ve still five to go. But even with that said, I can unre­served­ly rec­om­mend that you make this an addi­tion to your bookshelf.

2 comments on
“Review: Smashing Book #3: Redesign the Web”

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  2. […] Gasston of Bro­ken Links calls the book a call to arms — “This book is a man­i­festo of mod­ern web devel­op­ment, it wants […]