Progressive enhancement: all you need to know is here

Adaptive Web Design

ONE GLORIOUS AFTERNOON in March, 2006, as a friend and I hurried past Austin’s Downtown Hilton Hotel to catch the next session of the SXSW Interactive Festival, a young stranger arrested our progress. With no introduction or preliminaries, he announced that he was available to speak at An Event Apart, a conference for web designers that Eric Meyer and I had launched three months previously. Turning to my companion with my best impression (which is none too good) of Mr Burns of “The Simpsons,” I asked, “Who is this brash young upstart, Smithers?”

The brash young upstart quickly became an essential colleague. In the months and years that followed, Aaron Gustafson created dazzling front- and back-end code for some of my agency’s most demanding clients. Just as importantly, he brilliantly tech-edited the second and third editions of Designing With Web Standards. The job largely consists of alerting Ethan Marcotte and me to the stuff we don’t know about web standards. I’ll let you think about that one. For five years now, Aaron has also been a tough but fair technical editor for A List Apart magazine, where he helps authors succeed while ensuring that they are truly innovative, that their methods are accessible and semantic, and (thanks to his near-encyclopedic knowledge) that they give all prior art its due. Moreover, Aaron has written seminal pieces for the magazine, and, yes, he has lectured at An Event Apart.

Given my experiences with the man and my admiration for his knowledge and abilities, I was thrilled when Aaron told me the premise of this book and began letting me look at chapters. This isn’t just another web design book. It’s an essential and missing piece of the canon. Our industry has long needed a compendium of best practices in adaptive, standards-based design. And with the rise of mobile, the recent significant improvements in desktop and phone browsers, and the new capabilities that come with HTML5, CSS3, and gestural interfaces, it is even more vital that we who make websites have a reliable resource that tells us how to take advantage of these new capabilities while creating content that works in browsers and devices of all sizes and widely differing capabilities. This book is that resource.

The convergence of these new elements and opportunities is encouraging web professionals to finally design for the web as it always should have been done. Adaptive design is the way, and nobody has a wider command than Aaron of the thinking and techniques required to do it well. In these pages you will find all that thinking and those methods. Never again will you lose a day debating how to do great web design (and create great code) that works for everyone. I plan to give this book to all my students, and to everyone I work with. I encourage you to do likewise. And now, enough preliminaries. Dive in, and enjoy!

Adaptive Web Design: Crafting Rich Experiences with Progressive Enhancement
by Aaron Gustafson
Foreword by Jeffrey Zeldman

17 thoughts on “Progressive enhancement: all you need to know is here”

  1. So… can we get a sound bite of that Mr. Burns impression?

    I’ve got the .epub loaded and ready on my iPhone in anticipation of some downtime today to read.

  2. I just purchased the .epub version and loaded to my iPad2. Purchased immediately after seeing glowing tweets from Jeremy Keith & Cameron Moll. Zeldman’s endorsement seals the deal.

    Can’t wait to read it!

  3. Looking forward to this – and interested to see how it fits beside Andy Clarke’s Hardboiled book – do you think there are conflicts or the truth is something in between?

  4. Your foreword was beautiful Jeffrey, thanks for re-printing it here. And thank you for giving me a chance, way back when, to get involved with A List Apart and An Event Apart. You and Molly (who also kindly took me under her wing) were the best mentors I could have asked for and I’m honored to have been able to work so closely with both of you.

    This is a book that I’ve been writing in my head for many years and it’s nice to see it finally getting out there and people reacting so warmly to it.

  5. I read this book in a single day from cover to cover which is quite an achievement for me (I’m easily distracted!). I think that says something about the quality of the writing. It’s an easy read and very informative without leaving you wondering where to go for more information when those inevitable questions pop into your head.

    I got frustrated with Hardboiled Web Design mostly because of daft Detective references. I’m pretty sure it could have been as concise as Adaptive Web Design without them and I would have finished reading it. That said, Hardboiled does go into more detail in some areas.

    I liked this book a lot, and I’ll be recommending it.

  6. I can’t wait for the day I come home from work to find this waiting on my doorstep! If the first chapter is any indication, this will be a fantastic read and a book that I’ll want to share with my boss and colleagues and all of my web designer friends.

  7. If Ethan’s book is coming out shortly from a book apart, do I need to buy them both? Aren’t they not covering the same material…

    Perhaps they offer different perspective, style of writing…. .thoughts?

  8. Christine: There is almost no overlap between the two books. I think they’re both essential. (I have a financial interest in Ethan’s book, none in Aaron’s.)

  9. I share the same question with Ville above, as I’m curious about how this book compares with Hardboiled. Do they cover the same ground? If I have read one, do I need to read the other? Are the subject matter similar?

    As for Ethan’s book, nothing will keep me from reading that beast when it comes out. I’m just worried that I’m going to buy Aaron’s book only to get the same information out of it that I got from Andy Clarke’s book.

  10. Ok, after re-reading the excerpt from the ALA article, I can see that the focus is going to be different. Should have realized that. I think maybe the titles of the two books got me thinking they were going to cover the same ground, but maybe from different angles. Anyway, I’m in for a copy!

  11. Just got the download and loaded it on my Kobo. Plan to start reading this weekend! I always look forward to new publications on using web standards, to learn new processes and techniques.

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