25th November 2013
Having authored work for Smashing Magazine in the past I know this for sure: they care a great deal about the quality of their content. They have an entire editorial team dedicated to scrutinising every word and every technical claim by contributors to their publication — which is an amazing thing because it is reflected in the high quality writing consumed by thousands every day.
Their book series is an extension of this quality going beyond the screen in the form of a beautifully presented collection of work from some of the web’s greatest thinkers. The Smashing Book 4: New Perspectives on Web Design is 480 pages long and geared towards the intermediate web designer (or developer). I felt right at home when I settled into the contents. The theme that runs throughout is the idea of looking at things from a new perspective.
This is evident in chapters from very qualified thinkers and doers like Harry Roberts. In his chapter on Modern CSS Architecture and Front-End Development Harry details the considerations for planning for today’s more complex web.
The book covers themes that fit a mature web. Nicholas Zakas' chapter on writing and maintaining future-friendly code is littered with useful takeaways. It's easy to get stuck in our web development bubble and write code simply to get things done — Nicholas reminds us the importance of communication and that our code is meant to be read by humans as well as computers.
Addy Osmani's chapter on finding and fixing mobile web rendering issues is another example of the level of detail each chapter covers. He covers everything from achieving the magical 60fps refresh rate for animations to paint and layout problems. The book really takes the themes from The Smashing Book 3 and evolves them to address the real everyday issues that arise from advancing our fundamental knowledge of topics like responsive web design, performance and typography.
Corey Vilhauer and Nishant Kothary's chapters deal with designing for the needs of real people — editors and users alike. Nishant delves into the psychology and behavioural patterns of stakeholders with useful, palpable advice on design reviews and achieving sign-off.
The closing chapter of the book sees my friend and mentor Christopher Murphy produce a rousing piece about creative spirit. Chris use his experience of educating in the field of web design (which I have had the privilege of experiencing first-hand) and dissects James Webb Young’s technique for producing ideas from 1965, expanding the key themes effortlessly which in turn results in an inventory for idea generation.
The Smashing Book 4 is excellent value for money. Imagine if the stellar line-up of authors and their valuable, relevant topics were presenting their work at a web conference — you would expect to pay at at least £250 for entry, a variable amount for travel depending on where you live and other living expenses for the duration of the conference. The Smashing Book 4 is conference quality topics in the palm of your hand, permanently committed to paper (or the medium of your choice) ready for you to consume whenever you want.
The web has grown up and The Smashing Book 4 is the perfect field guide for making and maintaining things for a future-friendly web.