Book Review: Responsible Responsive Design


Yesterday Guy Podjarny published his analysis of the use of responsive design among the top 10,000 websites. He found that adoption jumped from 10.8% to 18.7% over the last year. Another recent survey showed that a hefty 90% of publishers are looking at implementing responsive design. However you want to slice it, responsive design is an increasingly popular technique.

But there are tricky issues to navigate along the way: tables, performance, and input modes—oh my! That’s where Scott Jehl’s new book Responsible Responsive Design comes in.

It’s almost like two books in one. The first two chapters blow through many of the common hurdles people come across when implementing responsive design. How to handle tables, different input methods, accessibility, feature detection, testing—it’s all there. Scott deftly moves from topic to topic, explaining the issues and how to address them.

The next two chapters focus on performance (a favorite topic of mine). Chapter 3, “Planning Performance”, is a great primer on what the critical path is as well as the basic performance techniques that will help you optimize for it. There’s also some discussion of process and how things like performance budgets can help.

Chapter 4 gets into performance techniques more specific to responsive design: responsive images, structuring CSS, lazy loading content, cutting the mustard, etc.

There is a lot of meat on the bone here. Scott’s explanation towards the end of Chapter 4 about how to enhance through qualified loading of CSS and JS is pure gold, as is his discussion of feature detection. I was especially happy to see a discussion of Filament Group’s “x-ray perspective” included. They first discussed the approach in “Designing with Progressive Enhancement” (a book that has stood the test of time remarkably well) and it’s stuck with me ever since.

What’s so wonderful about the book is how rooted it is in real-world experience. These aren’t just nice-sounding techniques: these are things that Scott and the rest of the gang at Filament Group have battle tested on their own projects.

I also have to admit to being thoroughly entertained by many of Scott’s delightfully cheesy one-liners. (You know the type. The ones where you both laugh and groan at the same time.) A tech book with personality: not something you see everyday, but something that has become a bit of given from the A Book Apart series.

So who should read this? Well, everyone. If you’ve got the basics of responsive design nailed down but haven’t gone much farther, this will be a revelation. If you feel like you’ve flexed your chops on the advanced stuff, you’ll still come away with interesting ideas for how to improve your approach.

Long story short: it’s an excellent, important book and a must-have for anybody building responsively. When it goes up for sale on the 19th, buy it.