JavaScript is not your interface.

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It’s just one powerful layer that can do some incredible things on an already solid HTML foundation.

Cover of Adaptive Web Design

Adaptive Web Design is an excellent guide to creating rich digital experiences for the web. The author, Aaron Gustafson, is a seasoned web professional who really knows his stuff. More than a framework or methodology, Gustafson introduces Progressive Enhancement as a guiding "philosophy" to approaching websites and apps, treating each part of the design process as a series of layers upon a universally accessible, baseline experience.

Progressive enhancement, when done right, will provide a base level support for ancient technology, while supporting new devices that have not been invented yet, as well as screen readers and other assistive technology. In my own professional experience, I've found that going back to retrofit existing sites I designed to fix accessibility issues is a time and labor-consuming, but worthwhile process. Knowing what I know now, I will be employing a progressive enhancement approach on every new project I take on.

The book is organized into short chapters (layers) on content strategy, HTML, WAI-ARIA, CSS, and JavaScript (in that order). Gustafson includes many clever code snippets in the text itself for examples of progressive enhancement and performance strategies. The Second Edition is up-to-date with web standards, modern browser behavior, and offline storage information. I read the print edition, which includes shortlinks (archived with the Internet Archive) of well-documented hypertext examples. There are seven video examples included as figures in the digital edition that can be viewed on the book's website.

This tome sits alongside my various Rosenfeld Media and A Book Apart titles – books with similar dimensions I find helpful to go back and refer to every few months. A web designer with a few years of experience will get a lot of ideas and inspiration from the text and examples, but I would recommend it for beginners as well, alongside Jennifer Robbins’ Learning Web Design.


This is a cross-posting of a book I reviewed on and Goodreads.
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