Recommended Reading: Resilient Web Design, a Free e-Book from Jeremy Keith

photo credit: Sergey Zolkin

UK-based web developer Jeremy Keith published Resilient Web Design as a free e-book in December 2016. Over the past few months, industry leaders have been raving about the book, so I decided to take an evening to find out what all the fuss is about. Keith has been blogging for more than 15 years at adactio.com. He is an active contributor to the web standards movement, a popular conference speaker, and the author of DOM Scripting, Bulletproof Ajax, and HTML5 For Web Designers.

After just a few pages in, I could see why so many have read Resilient Web Design all in one go. It lives up to all the excellent reviews. The book is divided into seven chapters and can be read in a couple hours. It is not a book on best practices, as one might expect, but rather a historical perspective on web standards and the evolution of responsive design. It provides a foundation for understanding technological progress and is essentially a primer on how breakthrough ideas happen and how resilient ideas endure.

“The World Wide Web has been around for long enough now that we can begin to evaluate the twists and turns of its evolution,” Keith said. “I wrote this book to highlight some of the approaches to web design that have proven to be resilient. I didn’t do this purely out of historical interest (although I am fascinated by the already rich history of our young industry). In learning from the past, I believe we can better prepare for the future.”

Keith’s brief history of web design recaptures some of the magic we felt at the dawn of the web. He said much of the subject matter has been included in his conference talks over the past couple of years but the book ended up taking some twists and turns that surprised him.

“You won’t find any code in here to help you build better websites,” Keith said. “But you will find ideas and approaches. Ideas are more resilient than code. I’ve tried to combine the most resilient ideas from the history of web design into an approach for building the websites of the future.”

Keith shares some thought-provoking ideas on design in chapter 3 that are particularly applicable to WordPress’ new structure for releases where design and user testing will lead the way in building a new editing and customization experience. The closest thing you can have to predicting the future is an understanding of what has endured in the past and an idea for building on it. Keith’s book examines principles that have proven to be resilient over time.

“Design adds clarity,” Keith said. “Using colour, typography, hierarchy, contrast, and all the other tools at their disposal, designers can take an unordered jumble of information and turn it into something that’s easy to use and pleasurable to behold. Like life itself, design can win a small victory against the entropy of the universe, creating pockets of order from the raw materials of chaos.”

Keith said he wrote Resilient Web Design for people who create websites in any capacity. He released it under a Creative Commons attribution share-alike license and there are many ways to access the content:

Despite his experience of nearly two decades in the industry, Keith is still acutely aware of all the unknowns that cannot be predicted. We don’t know what the web will become, but Keith’s perspective on its history brings a few resilient ideas to light. If you have some spare time over the weekend and want to be inspired about the future of the web, I highly recommend reading Resilient Web Design.

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