Progressive Enhancement and Responsive Design

Wow, what a week to be a working on the web. Two fantastic books came out recently and they both arrived in my little hands in the last week and I sped through them. What they both have in common is the small, compact, not a wasted word style. They also go about explaining the concepts in humorous, fun ways. What books am I talking about? Adaptive Web Design by Aaron Gustafson and Responsive Web Design by Ethan Marcotte.

I read Aaron’s book first as it arrived before Ethan’s was released. It was a great read and for me what was so helpful was the easy manner in which he laid out using JavaScript to make sure it is an enhancement and not a necessity. The checklist at the back will be referenced again and again. Plus there were lots of little nuggets of CSS and JavaScript that I know will stay with me in my work as I continue to refine and change the way I write code. Now I just need to get this book in the hands of the folks I work with, it is a never ending source of frustration to me that so many tasks on our sites can only be completed with JavaScript enabled.

Ethan’s book got read via the iBooks edition. It is actually the first book I’ve read in iBooks, but the functioning videos pulled me away from Kindle reading and I just couldn’t wait for the paper copy to arrive. I highlighted at length while reading and wrote notes and journalled ideas. Responsive Web Design brings together all kinds of ideas that are floating around the internets at the moment and it does so with so much humor and fun that I laughed out loud several times while reading. But on a more serious note, Ethan also addressed the real benefit of responsive design and how many sites could benefit from allowing all users, mobile and desktop, easy access to all their content (something near and dear to me if you’ve been reading this site recently).

But just because desktop users can sift through more content, does that mean they need to? In other words, why is easy access to key tasks only the domain of mobile users? Why can’t all users of our sites enjoy the same level of focused, curated content?

–Responsive Web Design, page 111 of the paper copy

Both of these books will be close to me as I work and I’m sure they will start to show their age as I continue to thumb through them for reference and ideas. I am itching to work on this site, to make some changes and to implement some of what I’ve learned. When I finish reading a book on the web, the true test of how good it is for me is how much I want to dig into code and start implementing what I’ve read. Both these books left me with the desire to code now, to improve and tweak things now, and to tell everyone I know that they need to read them immediately. Thank you both gentlemen, for you have enriched my thinking of all things webbish and I am grateful.