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Smashing Book #5, A Review

When Smashing Magazine first came out I ran a web design blog that was more popular than it. Out of nowhere this site about design came and started to pump out content at a ridiculous rate. A lot of the content was simple list posts, but it made sense back then because people loved inspiration.

In 2009, I wrote an opinion piece talking about how Smashing Magazine had killed the design community. It really didn’t, but it did help to breed some copycats that copied everything, but the soul of Smashing Magazine.

Since I wrote that piece, Smashing Magazine has taken steps to improve every single month. Now I have no problem saying it is the most important website in the web design and development community. It truly is amazing how frequently they can produce content that teaches you and helps to push your skillset forward. You could probably base your whole web development education around articles found on the site.

When Vitaly (the Editor-in-Chief) of Smashing Magazine asked me if I wanted to review their latest book, Smashing Book #51, I was a bit hesitant. Not because I don’t like what Smashing does, I truly love it, but I kind of lost my appetite for design and development books a long time ago.

When the web was still young design books were awesome. You actually felt as though you were learning something new. Now when you come across a web design/development book it’s probably teaching you stuff that is 2-3 years old and you could’ve easily found on a blog somewhere else.

Let me say this right now, Smashing Book #5 has completely changed the potential for books around the web. This thing is ridiculous in how it dives deep into a topic and continues to dive deeper until you feel as though your brain might explode from the knowledge.

The bar has been raised significantly.

We Need Better Educational Resources

The web has done a great job of leveling the playing field with regards to education. The problem is everything is spread out which is a big problem that I talked about recently. The focus of Smashing Book #5 is Responsive Web Design (RWD). If you work on the web then RWD is simply part of your workflow. There is no way around it.

The thing about RWD though is that if you want to learn about it and all of the different caveats surrounding it you will have to do a lot of searching. Then when you start to work with RWD on your own you will find that you hit a roadblock with some things, maybe responsive images, so then you go back to do a lot more searching.

Smashing Book #5 is now your RWD bible. Stop searching, buy this book, and spend a weekend filling your brain with the most useful, technical information on RWD you can find anywhere.

I know that’s some mighty high praise, but I stand by it. Working on the web for over 13 years there are moments where I catch myself forgetting to continue my education. This field moves so fast you really can’t afford not to continue to learn, but you don’t want to waste your time learning stuff that is irrelevant.

Smashing Book #5 brings together the smartest minds in the web industry and asks them how they tackle specific problems in responsive web design. For instance, the first chapter by Dan Mall on The Modern Responsive Designer’s Workflow has made me take a look at my own designer workflow and consider making a huge overhaul.

And that’s what is most impressive to me about this book. It’s no different than sitting in a work environment with these authors and seeing how they get the job done. When you are trying to get into this field you are often left on your own to figure things out. It’s one of the reasons why I created the Full Stack Web Course2 because we don’t have enough educational resources out there that go into depth of getting things done.

I’m talking about resources that introduce you not only to new concepts, but also the tools and workflows to use them. To find this type of stuff in a book is pretty unheard of.

Depth

There is a chapter on SVG for RWD by Sara Soueidan3 that kind of made me feel stupid, not because of how it was written, that was great, but because it introduced me to so many new things about SVG. What the heck have I been learning all of these years?

Each chapter feels like the next author is trying to outshine the previous author and that is a good thing. What you get are individual chapters that feel as though they could be books on their own. These aren’t blog posts disguised as chapters in a book. These are chapters in a book that could easily be broken up into more chapters themselves.

It’s almost as if each author made a promise that you would not leave their “class” with any questions being left unanswered. That’s how in-depth the chapters are to me.

Drawbacks

The book is not without its flaws. As this is dealing with some heavy technical stuff, some chapters can experience periods of dryness. This is to be expected due to the topics being discussed, but I always like to see a bit more personality put into writing.

However, like I said I can completely understand why this was left out as you want to get to the meat and potatoes.

People might also be intimidated by the length. The PDF version that I read was over 600 pages! You’ll definitely get your money’s worth, but that is one hefty book that might turn people away. You’ll have to come back to it multiple times to ensure you are picking up everything that it has to offer.

I Wish I Wrote It

Coming up with educational resources for people means I do a lot of research and a lot of the stuff I see out there I think I could do better. I think as a creative this is just how we think when we see certain things. We think we can do better and we try to do better to see what the results will be.

After reading Smashing Book #5 I didn’t leave with the feeling of me being able to produce a better book. I left knowing I could probably not produce a book of this caliber without spending more than a couple of years on it. I wish I wrote it, but also would never try to do something like this because it’s insane the amount of stuff it covers.

This review has been first published on Makerscabin.com4.

Footnotes

  1. 1 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2015/03/31/real-life-responsive-web-design-smashing-book-5/
  2. 2 /web/20150720123558/https://www.makerscabin.com/web
  3. 3 http://sarasoueidan.com/
  4. 4 https://web.archive.org/web/20150720123558/https://www.makerscabin.com/mag/smashing-book-5-a-review/

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Paul Scrivens is a passionate designer who runs Drawar and innovation consulting at Emersian. He loves design. He loves learning. He loves being wrong. That last one was a lie. Be sure to follow him on Twitter.

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