Book Review: The Modern Web

The internet is a place of dizzying and constant change, and keeping track of what’s new and exciting in web design and development can often feel like a full time job. I read a lot of books and articles, listen to loads of podcasts, and watch many hours of screencasts and video tutorials, and it all feels like I’m just scratching the surface of what’s out there.

What I need is something that gets away from the specifics of individual technologies, and embraces a more all encompassing overview of what’s new and what’s coming in the world of web design and development. Peter Gasston’s The Modern Web does just that.

The Modern Web

Who is The Modern Web For?

Unlike a lot of the books I’ve reviewed here, which usually have broader audiences,  The Modern Web is geared toward front-end web developers (and more technical designers). Website owners will likely not get much out of this book, but might be inspired by some of the exciting new technologies that are available or in development.

Let me put it this way: if you get excited by clever CSS techniques, semantic markup, and different ways you can use APIs to interact with users, The Modern Web is the book for you.

What Does The Modern Web Cover?

I won’t review the entire table of contents here, but let’s hit on a few of the high points, at least from my perspective.

The most interesting chapters for me were Chapter 4 (New Approaches to CSS Layouts) and Chapter 6 (Device APIs). It’s exciting to see some of the new layout options that are available to front-end developers, or will be soon. This is often one of the more frustrating parts of coding up a site (especially if you’re not using a framework), so any new resource that puts more power in ours hands is a welcome addition.

Of course I was also quite interested in discussion of new form elements, HTML Semantic mark-up… I could go on and on.

What Works

  • Peter Gasston, is obviously very excited about the technologies covered in the book (and apes, which also also cool), and that comes through in his writing. I love the passion we get here, if for no other reason than it’s infectious.
  • Each chapter ends with a very thorough collection of additional resources for you to explore, which allows you to take the knowledge you gained from The Modern Web and expand upon it through these well-curated articles. They are also collected in the book’s appendices, which is convenient.
  • This is pretty minor, but I have to applaud the binding of the book, which allows it to lie flat without snapping closed nearly as often as most softcover books. It’s really handy when reviewing some of the more in-depth examples on your desktop.

What Doesn’t

  • While I understand the choice from an editorial perspective, I wish more space would have been given to working with browser prefixes in the code. Yes, it would have taken up substantially more space and not looked as good on the page, but I think a lot of front-end developers would find it very useful.

The Verdict

If you’re excited about front-end development and all the new technologies that are becoming available, you will find The Modern Web a fantastic resource. When you’re used to getting lost in details and minutiea, the bird’s-eye-view perspective of this book is refreshing and incredibly engaging.

Buy a copy of The Modern Web today.

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