Reading List: The Smashing Book #2
Smashing Magazine’s latest book release is packed with topics frontend developers and designers will love. Here’s our review.
Blogs that Publish
I’m a little late to the party on this one. When Vitaly contacted us a month ago for feedback on their latest release, I started to read through the book casually between client jobs. A few (well-spent) weeks later, here we are. Ready to give the good word.
It’s not every day that a blog grows large enough to start its own line of books. When they do, the result is magic. Similar examples can be found with the recent A Book Apart line put out by the same people behind A List Apart. Publishing is a great progression from standard niche blogs.
There are books that teach concrete skills, and there are those that expose you to abstract stuff that sounds impressive. For those looking to build their skill set, this is a common situation when sifting through resources. Substantial content is hard to distinguish from wordy content at times, and even more so when you’ve just started to learn. Fortunately, certain publishers make this easier for you by developing solid reputations. With this release, Smashing Magazine is slowly becoming one of them.
A good web design book will leave you with some concrete plans, as well as introduce you to more abstract concepts that you can build on in the future. The second Smashing Book is segmented nicely, which means you can jump into any section you want without any issue. All of the chapters are written by folks who pride themselves in being masters of craft for the subject.
A Look at Content
This book is definitely more for the UI/UX folks out there. Hardcore development is not a topic that would fit well within the books flow, so you end up with chapters catering more towards the typical frontend developer. As such, certain chapters are more exploratory than applicable; presumably this is to increase general awareness of the platforms without expecting those same people to be responsible for developing.
The graphic design chapters are some of the best introductions to fundamentals to be published in recent memory. I think everyone has accidentally gotten caught up in trend-based design before. You know the situation: using gradients to decorate an otherwise fine layout, or turning buttons into identical matches of those found on Apple’s website. The graphic design chapter helps distinguish between sensibly made design decisions, and those that just make it “look good” at the moment.
My background is mostly in front-end design, so I may be biased when I say how much enjoyable the usability chapter was. It covered the right bases, especially for those just trying to introduce themselves. Those in digital agencies or web companies will appreciate how candidly the reality of client/project limitations is addressed. Best practice is easy to talk about, but harder to implement successfully when there are other factors in play.
Christopher Kolb’s chapter on the application of game design into UI is a fascinating read. This is a design trend you’ve experienced before without directly noticing. It was a pleasant surprise in topic. Also in this category was Christian Heilmann’s chapter on warning signs in web development. The introduction is a brilliantly candid summary of what it is like to work on real world projects that haven’t (and often can’t) been implemented in 100% proper form.
The chapter on mobile is also a welcome addition. Mobile design and development is one of the largest interactive sections to hit the industry in the past few years. Makes sense to include a new section in this book too. It’s hard to just be a pure “website designer” in today’s market. If it has a screen and people can interact, it’s fair game.
This book isn’t timeless, but neither is the average website. Like most things associated with the Internet, it will need updating in a few years. In the meantime, use this book to your heart’s content. You can get a copy on the official web store. If you already have the book, I would love to hear what you’re experience was like. Leave a comment if you can!