12Jun
2008
Bulletproof Web Design

Author: Dan Cederholm
Rating: 4/5

When I first started toying around with computers in the mid-90s one of my favorite things to do was create websites using free services like Geocities and Tripod. Back then I was guilty of all the deadly web design sins: table based layouts, pointless animated GIFs, heinous font and background color choices, and of course using the dreaded “Under Construction” page. Today I’m a little smarter about my design choices and feel that while web design as a whole isn’t quite where it needs to be, it is getting much better and there’s no doubt it’s because of books like Bulletproof Web Design by Dan Cederholm.

The book centers around designing sites to be accessible and flexible. A lot of the focus is on font sizing which on the surface may seem trivial, but because of differences among browsers, font size actually ends up having some important implications on accessibility. One of the most commonly used browsers (Internet Explorer 6) limits a user’s ability to increase or decrease a site’s font size if the designer of that site specifies the font size using strict pixel values. This creates a lot of problems for users with poor vision. Additionally, table based layouts are also targeted by the author for their excessive markup and rigid design constraints. In Bulletproof Web Design, Cederholm explains in detail some of the techniques designers can use to avoid these and other common design pitfalls.

Other topics included in the book that I found particularly useful were designing using floats, degrading pages nicely when CSS is not available, and a discussion on fluid vs elastic layouts.

While the book does not offer any revolutionary information, the concepts it does present on quality web design are organized in an efficient and easy to read manner. The book is filled with code examples and color pictures making it a quick and easy read. I’d definitely recommend the book to anyone starting out on a new web project or anyone looking for a refresher on best practices in web design.

A bit of a disclaimer: I just launched this blog recently and I know that I’m being a bit of a hypocrite by not following some of the basic web design principles found in the book being reviewed. I’m currently using a simple Wordpress theme built by Bob that gets the job done for now, but I’m looking forward to applying a lot of the principles from the book as I create my own custom theme for this site.

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