“The Modern Web” book review
written by craig, 10 August 2013
Writing web technology books is hard. You’re documenting a continually moving target and competing against free content readily available on the resource you’re discussing. Peter Gasston is a glutton for such punishments but he’s managed to produce another excellent book which is essential reading for any web developer.
The Modern Web covers a vast range of current, new and near-future HTML5-related topics. Peter recognises this is a risk and technologies will change — hgroup was dropped and main was added to the HTML5 specification since it was published — but the information will remain relevant for anyone creating cutting-edge web sites and applications over the next few years. It’s aimed at advanced developers but, no matter what your level of expertise, you’ll discover something you didn’t know before.
The 250-page book starts with a discussion about the increasingly blurred distinction between desktop, tablet, mobile and other devices such as web-enabled TVs and game consoles. Developers can no longer rely on device assumptions and ‘fast’ is the only context which matters.
The second chapter moves into HTML structure and semantics with an overview of ARIA, RDFa, microdata, microformats and data attributes but I suspect many will jump straight to chapter three: device responsive CSS. If you read Peter’s previous book, The Book of CSS3, you won’t be disappointed. While other authors may describe media query syntax, Peter provides engaging content such as adaptive vs responsive, mobile first, box-sizing, the calc function, viewport-relative units and images. This is followed by CSS layout techniques including columns, flexbox and grids.
Chapter seven is titled “Images and Graphics”, but also discusses related topics such as SVG, canvas, filters and WebGL.
Finally, chapter eleven discusses possible future technologies including web components, templates, decorators, scoped styles, custom elements, the shadow DOM, CSS regions and exclusions. This is followed by browser support and further reading appendices.
Peter’s writing style is concise, humorous and easy to read. He’s passionate about the topics without becoming geeky or resorting to indecipherable jargon. None of the examples are too in-depth or convoluted but impart enough information to get you started. There’s one other benefit with No Starch Press books: pages are not glued to the spine so they open flat on your desk. If only other technical publishers had such attention to detail.
My only minor complaint is the title. I’m sure Peter and No Starch Press agonised over the name, but I’m not convinced “The Modern Web” does it justice. It’s a little too vague given the number of topics — but I struggled to think of a better three-word alternative!
Following years of web stagnation, many web developers finding it difficult to keep up with the rate of evolution. If you’re overwhelmed by the volume of recent innovations, The Modern Web is a great start to your HTML5 journey.