Reviews of the Second Edition

The second edition of Adaptive Web Design is quickly gathering accolades. Below are some reviews that have been sent to me or posted online.

From the Cover

  • Adaptive Web Design should be one of the first books on the shelf of anyone building for the web. Showing a deep understanding of the web, Aaron manages to cram nearly 20 years of insight into a book that is an absolute pleasure to read. I dare you to try and read this book without a highlighter handy.

    Tim Kadlec, Author, Implementing Responsive Design

  • The web is the first truly flexible design medium. But its flexibility affects more than our layouts: we’re designing for networks both fast and slow, for devices both modern and not, for users who may not see a screen at all. In this second edition of Adaptive Web Design, Aaron shows us how progressive enhancement is the solution to all these challenges, and more.

    Ethan Marcotte, Designer; Author, Responsive Web Design

On the Web

  • Sometimes second editions are relatively minor updates to a prior version of a book. In the case of Adaptive Web Design, I wouldn’t have been upset if that was the case. After all, the first edition was exceptionally well written and provided as clear an explanation of progressive enhancement as you could possibly hope for.

    But the second edition of Adaptive Web Design isn’t just a minor update—it’s a completely new take on the topic. While I would have been hard pressed to imagine it happening, Aaron somehow managed to write an even better guide to progressive enhancement.

    You see, being told a specific way to code—a specific technique or snippet—that can have some short term value. But what’s more important is thinking about the underlying philosophy and the values that guide those decisions. While techniques come and go, those guiding principles persist. Understanding them at a deep level will help guide you as things change, helping you to make appropriate decisions about how to wield new technology as it emerges.

    That’s what Aaron provides here. While there are some specific examples of how you could layer enhancements onto your site, most of the book is focused on helping you understand the underlying principles of progressive enhancement—principles that will help guide your decisions long after you’ve read about them.

    I contributed an early quote about the book after I read it through which sums up my thoughts much more concisely than these last few paragraphs:

    Adaptive Web Design should be one of the first books on the shelf of anyone building for the web. Showing a deep understanding of the web, Aaron manages to cram nearly 20 years of insight into a book that is an absolute pleasure to read. I dare you to try and read this book without a highlighter handy.

    The book isn’t out until early December, and you should absolute pick up a copy when it’s available. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

    Tim Kadlec, Author, Implementing Responsive Design

  • Once you start thinking and practicing accessibility deeply, you realize something. You can't classify neatly it into a category. It doesn't fit anywhere. It's as much research and content strategy as it is design and development. That's the beauty of Aaron Gustafson's Adaptive Web Design, Second Edition. He weaves accessibility into the conversation throughout.

    Adaptive Web Design presents some of the most foundational lessons and principles to woking on the Web. Gustafson starts framing the advantages of progressive enhancement from the beginning, starting at content and markup, and working his way up from there. This isn't a book of code examples or a technical deep dive. It's a book about how to build web experiences when stripped down to their core. Minus any technical restrictions or user-based assumptions. Using the knowledge here means that you can build something today that will work for everyone now and well into the future.

    My favorite chapter in the book centers on markup. Why? Because not everyone thinks twice about markup. It's just this thing you not have to do before you get to the good stuff, like CSS or JavaScript. But Gustafson goes over some of the details of markup that matter most, like which HTML elements are focusable and how HTML is able to work in today's browsers and yesterday's too. You'll learn how to make your markup truly meaningful.

    You may think that learning accessibility and how assistive technology works sounds like voodoo. It's really not. It starts with some of the foundational principles of web, which Gustafson lays out in Adaptive Web Design. Give it a read and you'll be on your way to building better web experiences for today and tomorrow, no matter what changes.

    David A. Kennedy, Accessibility Weekly

  • At the outset of Adaptive Web Design, Aaron makes it clear that this will not be a technical book so much as a philosophical one. This is a bold move given the industry’s neophilia for skills and technologies, but sets the book apart from the mere manuals that are the majority of its counterparts. What follows is paean to creating for the Web in a way that works with it, not despite it; a holistic approach that takes in performance, accessibility, usability and standards. It’s rich with anecdotes, humour and insight from an author with impressive experience in the field and is not short on applicable techniques. But while so many web design books speak to me as an engineer, a coder or someone just looking to understand the latest trend, this book speaks to me as a designer and as a grown-up. That is most welcome.

    Heydon Pickering

  • There’s been a lot of talk over the years and especially recently about progressive enhancement: building things for the Web that work, that are available to all, whether that’s people in a bad cellphone area or people on dodgy hotel wifi or people with a Windows phone or cognitive issues or Safari on some retina screen in a coffee shop. And one of the lead voices in that discussion has been Aaron Gustafson who has just written a book. It’s called Adaptive Web Design: Crafting Rich Experiences with Progressive Enhancement, Second Edition. Bit of a mouthful as a title, but it’s worth it. I won’t give a tldr because it’s not too long and I did read it, but the short version is: this book is worth your time. And I was sent a free copy to review, I should note.

    Stuart Langridge

  • Throughout my 18 years as a Web professional, only a handful of topics have made me as impassioned as the philosophy of progressive enhancement. As Web designers and developers, we have an obligation to think globally; and I don’t just mean geographically.

    We must always put the user first. Someone on the newest devices or browsers, with the fastest bandwidth, and a perfectly functioning body, has the exact same value as someone using a web enabled “feature” phone, with slow bandwidth or an intermittent connection, a disability that requires assistive technology or devices, or even someone who just chooses to disable certain functions in their browser. Whatever the scenario, progressive enhancement allows everyone, on any web enabled device, to get the same content. This does not mean that they get the same experience, and that’s okay. What this does mean, is that the content is always available to everyone. This is the beauty of the Web. It’s what makes the Web unique as well as ubiquitous.

    Web designer, developer, author, and speaker, Aaron Gustafson, recently released the second edition of his must read book, Adaptive Web Design, and I can’t recommend it enough. To get a taste of what you’re in for, A List Apart has posted an excerpt from Chapter 5 of the book, which, as luck would have it, address what I think is one of the biggest challenges our profession faces today; when JavaScript fails.

    I hope you are inspired to not just read the book, but more importantly, to implement the principles that Gustafson advocates. Together we can make the Web a better place for everyone.

    Adam Spelbring, Web Designer/Front-End Developer

  • Aaron doesn't just care a lot about the web. He cares a lot about you. So much so that he invested a vast amount of time writing this important book for anyone building on the web yesterday, today and in the future. I had the immense privilege of interviewing Aaron on my podcast (User Defenders) and got to know him and his heart that overflows with empathy for humans who want to (and by all rights should be able to) access any content on the open web.

    In this amazing book, he goes to great lengths to teach you how to not only build accessible web experiences, but to build accessible web experiences that matter. He doesn't just give you great techniques from his decades of experiences going all the way back to his work as a manager of the Web Standards Project, but he spends time explaining how UI's are like conversations, and content should always precede design.

    I can't forget to mention that this book is also the most robust history lesson on the web I've ever read. I felt very nostalgic, but those working on the web in recent years will find it incredibly fascinating to see just how far we've come.

    Do yourself and your career a favor and get this book. You, your career as a web worker, and those humans looking to access your important content will be better for it!

    Jason A. Ogle

  • One of the best books I’ve ever read. I learned about the core of Progressive Enhancement for the web and how we can apply that concept in our design process. I will definitely read it again.

    Ahmad Shadeed

  • This is one of the most important books I’ve read as a developer. The 2nd edition is modern and up-to-date! Topics covered in this book consist of key ingredients to crafting robust/durable experiences for everyone and every device. A must purchase :)

    Joe W.

  • JavaScript is not your web interface… it's just one powerful layer that can do some incredible things on an already solid HTML foundation.

    Adaptive Web Design is an excellent guide to creating rich digital experiences for the web. The author, Aaron Gustafson, is a seasoned web professional who really knows his stuff. More than a framework or methodology, Gustafson introduces Progressive Enhancement as a guiding “philosophy” to approaching websites and apps, treating each part of the design process as a series of layers upon a universally accessible, baseline experience.

    Progressive enhancement, when done right, will provide a base level support for ancient technology, while supporting new devices that have not been invented yet, as well as assistive technology for customers/audiences with disabilities. I've found that going back to retrofit existing sites I designed to fix accessibility issues is a time and labor-consuming, but worthwhile process. Knowing what I know now, I will be employing a progressive enhancement approach on every new project I take on.

    The book is organized into short chapters (layers) on content strategy, HTML, WAI-ARIA, CSS, and JavaScript (in that order). Gustafson includes many clever code snippets in the text itself for examples of progressive enhancement and performance strategies. The Second Edition is up-to-date with web standards, modern browser behavior, and offline storage information. I read the print edition, which includes shortlinks (archived with the Internet Archive) of well-documented hypertext examples. There are seven video examples included as figures in the digital edition that can be viewed on the book's website.

    This book sits alongside my various Rosenfeld Media and A Book Apart titles - books with similar dimensions I find helpful to go back and refer to every few months. A web designer with a few years of experience will get a lot of ideas and inspiration from the text and examples, but I would recommend it for beginners as well, alongside Jennifer Robbins’ 'Learning Web Design'.


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