Review of The Mobile Book by Smashing Magazine

By Adham Dannaway on 18 Dec 2012

I’ve just finished reading The Mobile Book, put together by the very talented guys from Smashing Magazine, and I’m pleased to say that I thought it was an interesting and informative read.

I was kindly sent a copy of the book to review, just a week ago, and during that week I’ve been able to brush up on my responsive design skills and also learn a few new ideas too.

I’ve done a fair bit of reading about responsive design in the past, and I’ve designed and built for mobile before too, so I already knew the basics. This book basically brings all the latest mobile design ideas together into one place. It helped me organise my thoughts on design for mobile and get a good high level view of responsive design best practices.

If you know nothing at all about responsive design, The Mobile Book will give you a strong foundation. For those of you with a bit more experience, you might learn a few things you didn’t know.

So let’s have a look at this book in a bit more detail. It’s 337 pages and broken up into 3 main sections:

  1. The Mobile Landscape
  2. Responsive Web Design
  3. UX Design for Mobile

I’ll give you a brief overview of what to expect in each section below.

The Mobile Landscape

The book begins with a chapter about the current state of mobile web design written by Peter-Paul Koch. He looks at the history of mobile browsers, mobile phones and how the mobile revolution came to be.

Following on from this, Stephanie Reiger gives us some valuable insights into the future of mobile web design. She explores the idea that one day everything will be connected and looks into the emerging technology that will shape the future of the mobile web.

To be honest, this wasn’t my favourite section of the book as I’m much more interested in the practical side of mobile design than hearing about mobile design history or future predictions. That being said, it was good to get some background theory on the mobile design space, now and in the future.

the mobile book art

Responsive Web Design

Now we’re getting into the good stuff! Trent Walton looks into Responsive Design Strategy for the first chapter of this section covering flexible grids and images, media queries and breakpoints, responsive design layouts and fluid typography. There are plenty of real examples and code snippets to help you put the ideas into practice.

Brad Frost follows this with Responsive Design Patterns, concentrating on different responsive layouts, content hierarchy, icons, navigation, forms, tables and more.

To finish up this chapter, Dave Olsen explores optimizing for mobile websites. This was one of my favourite chapters as it’s all about trimming the fat from your website and includes some very clever techniques to: reduce page weight, reduce the number of server requests and to improve JavaScript performance.

Keeping your website light weight is even more important when designing for mobile devices as most of the time there are bandwidth constraints. It’s not as simple as adding a “display:none” style to the parts of your site that you want to hide on mobile devices. Just because you can’t see something doesn’t mean that it’s not getting downloaded. Similarly, adding “width:100%” to your images to make them flexible is a good start, but is it enough? Should mobile and desktop users really be downloading images of the same file size?

UX Design for Mobile

Much of the previous section focusses on the technical aspects of design for mobile websites, in this next section Denis Kardys and Josh Clark explore the challenges that can’t be solved using code. The emergence of the mobile web has rendered much of our current thoughts on web design to be obsolete, we need to re-think the way we go about designing for this new medium. This section is full of interesting new ideas including: changing our work flow to design for mobile, content planning and information architecture, wire-framing, creating prototypes and designing for touch screens.

mobile illustration

It’s great to have all of the latest mobile design ideas and techniques organised into one little book. Of course, much of the teachings in this book will be obsolete in the near future, but this is to be expected with any area as new as this one. I personally found The Mobile Book to be a very useful resource and I’d recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about web design for mobile. You can buy the book in both digital and print versions.

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