Review: The Modern Web: Multi-Device Web Development with HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript

[Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for this review. Opinions are my own. Links to Amazon are affiliate links. Here is my review policy.]

The Modern Web cover

The Modern Web: Multi-Device Web Development with HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript by Peter Gasston is from no starch press (2013).

Recently I’ve been reevaluating that pyramid (or three-legged stool) image we have of what skills are used to create a web site. The traditional pyramid metaphor has been a broad foundational layer of semantic HTML, followed by a second presentational layer of CSS, with the complete pyramid being topped by a small peak of interaction created with JavaScript.

Now we have a modern web. We deal more and more often with responsive (or adaptive) thinking, with apps, with APIs, with new CSS layout techniques using programming concepts, and with images built from SVG or canvas. All these changes lead me to think that the foundational layer in the pyramid of web design skills should be recognized as JavaScript. Books like this one reinforce that idea. (I first began thinking about this when I reviewed Introducing HTML5, but I didn’t mention it at the time.)

There is concern over the idea of HTML5 as “pure” HTML vs. the idea of HTML5 and related technologies that often get labeled as HTML5. It’s a dilemma facing many authors today who tackle the topic of modern web technologies, because you can no longer talk “just” about HTML.

The web is moving toward scripting as a way of dealing with every part of a website. In this book by Peter Gasston, it’s very clear that what he calls “the demands and requirements of working on the multi-device Web” are interlaced inextricably with JavaScript. He’s writing about that broader range of technologies I mentioned.

This is a well-written book. In a clear and accessible manner, Gasston leads you through several chapters detailing the latest technologies and thinking in modern web design. The book isn’t for newbies, it’s for people who already have skills and want to keep informed on the latest thinking, trends, techniques, and possible future directions. Here’s a summary of the chapters. Every chapter has an extensive section called Further Reading with excellent resources for the reader.

  1. The Web Platform talks about HTML5 and new best practices, CSS3 and beyond, and CSS preprocessors.
  2. Structure and Semantics deals with new elements in HTML5, WAI-ARIA, semantic markup, microformats, RDFa, microdata, data attributes and web components.
  3. Device-Responsive CSS provides information about media queries, adaptive and responsive design, viewport relative length units, and responsive images.
  4. New Approaches to CSS Layouts talks about multi-columns, flexbox, and grid layout.
  5. Modern JavaScript looks at new features in JavaScript, JavaScript libraries, and polyfills and shims.
  6. Device APIs covers a whole bunch of APIs from geolocation to drag and drop as well as information about PhoneGap and Native Wrappers.
  7. Images and Graphics includes SVG and canvas.
  8. New Forms takes you through new input types, new attributes, datalists, on-screen controls, form validation, constraint validation and css for forms.
  9. Multimedia deals with media elements, media API, and media events.
  10. Web Apps talks about various kinds of apps and tools for creating them as well as application cache.
  11. The Future goes through some really interesting ideas that may become reality in the future such as decorators, the shadow DOM, regions and exclusions in CSS and more.

There’s an appendix for browser support and one with further reading suggestions.

The style of presenting each concept is consistent throughout the book. He introduces a single idea, provides a spare code example, and shows the results. (He talks as if there are code samples available for download somewhere, but although I searched for a mention of the location of those code samples, I couldn’t find it.) Then he builds on the previous example with an new idea, a new code example, and a new result. It’s a very effective way of walking the reader through the new information and building an understanding of it step by step.

Summary: Trying to keep up? This book is an informative and up-to-the-minute look at modern web technologies.

A review by Virginia DeBolt of The Modern Web: Multi-Device Web Development with HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript (rating: 5 stars)

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