Express Review: Going Offline by Jeremy Keith

Jeremy nails it again with this beginner-friendly introduction to Service Workers and Progressive Web Apps. The foreword to the book says “you’ll gain a solid understanding of how to put this new technology to work for you right away” and I’d say that is very accurate.

One of the important things the book emphasizes is that any existing website can benefit from service workers, not only fancy single page apps.

If you’re like me and don’t know much about service workers, get this book now: abookapart.com/products/going-offline

The Mobile Book by Smashing Magazine

I’ve just finished reading through The Mobile Book by Smashing Magazine. The book is a fully packed 334 pages of analysis on the current state of mobile and best responsive design practices. Writers include gurus such as Peter-Paul Koch, Stephanie Rieger and Brad Frost.

Bottom line: most people working in web design today should probably read this book, whether they’re designers or developers. The book has useful data on today’s mobile landscape, discussion on how to bake responsive design into our processes, the peculiarities of designing for touch and instructions on how to optimize for mobile.

From the foreword (by Jeremy Keith):

There will come a time when this book will no longer be necessary, when designing and developing for mobile will simply be part and parcel of every Web worker’s lot. But that time isn’t here just yet.
Jeremy Keith

Here are my six key points I gathered from the book:

  1. The Internet of Things is a thing, and is likely to explode in the near future with more Internet-connected devices entering the market that are neither traditional mobile devices nor desktops or laptops. Some don’t even have screens.
  2. Responsive design that focuses only on screen size can result in huge downloads on mobile. We need to pay more attention to conditional loading of secondary content.
  3. Creating detailed Photoshop comps of web sites can set false expectations to clients and other stakeholders. Responsiveness should be part of the design process very early on.
  4. The capabilities of mobile browsers vary wildly (especially on Android), and browser/device detection is increasingly a necessary evil. RESS (Responsive design + server-side components) and server-side libraries like Detector (by Dave Olsen) are a possible solution.
  5. With new hybrid touch-enabled devices, we are less likely to be able to predict whether the user can use touch as an input method. Due to this we need to optimize for touch by default.
  6. Touch interfaces take web design into the realm of industrial design. It’s no longer just about how things look and behave, we also need to consider how people hold their devices. This has significance when deciding where to put key controls.

The Mobile Book is available here.

Page spread from The Mobile Book
The print edition is probably the most high quality book Smashing Magazine has produced so far. A real pleasure to read!

Regarding point 2 in my list: I’ll be presenting a simple example on how to use conditional loading for any content in WordPress in an upcoming post. The same method is used on this site to load the sidebar. Edit: it’s now online, see Simple Conditional Loading in WordPress.

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Flood and Ark by Stephen Baxter

I seem to have read a lot of apocalyptic literature recently. After finishing The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood (highly recommended), I continued on the same theme with Stephen Baxter’s sci-fi novels Flood and Ark.

Being a big fan of Arthur C. Clarke, I became acquainted with Baxter’s writing though his collaboration with Clarke in Light of Other Days and the Time Odyssey trilogy. This was the first time I’ve read any of his own work though.

Flood describes mankind’s struggle to survive in an imaginary near future, where the oceans of the world start rising at an exponential pace. When available land starts to run out, things get interesting as people and nations develop different coping strategies. Or in some cases, don’t. A good read, although obviously at times just a bit depressing.

As you probably guessed, Ark is the sequel to Flood. A story about a desperate effort to send the remnants of humankind into space, it’s not as coherent as Flood. If you can look past the US manage to scrape together a mission to Jupiter and invent a warp drive in the middle of a civil war in a world with vastly depleted resources, it’s a fun and mostly believable read. Then again, necessity is the mother of all inventions, so why not.
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