I've been a fan of Smashing Magazine since I've discovered them back in 2007. From that day until now I've kept a close eye on their progress and enjoyed every resource they made available. I even tried little by little to contribute to their mission: designed calendar wallpapers, contributed to the Smashing Community poster, expressed my opinions for the Smashing Usability Panel and many more. But the one thing I appreciate the most is the fact that the SM team knows how to give back to the community that supports them. Entering the stage is the Smashing Book - a collection of ideas, opinions and practices tailored to make us embrace design and remind us why we do the things we do. Smashing Book #4 was launched, I bought it and now... I'm going to review it.
Getting the book
I bought the book online directly from the Smashing Book Shop, mainly because I successfully got from there other products such as their dear old Cody. I chose to include also the eBook versions for free (I have a Kindle that I use, especially when traveling). Overall, including taxes, shipping and handling, it cost me a total 42.49 Euros. It was supposed to arrive between 4 and 7 days, but eventually I got my hands on it after 11 working days (15 including weekends). I was expecting a more solid packaging - the book came with a bunch of little scratches on the surface - I blame the Romanian Postal Service for that - they have a real "beautiful" reputation treating the packages with respect.
The book itself
The book is pretty big, so you might need a bag-pack or a tote bag if you want to travel often with it. It's pretty obvious, how else can you package 500 pages of awesomeness? And I respect that decision - I didn't quite agree with SMB3's two-books format. The book feels great at the palm of your hands, but due to the textures and materials, you better watch out for smudgy fingers (especially because the book is now mostly white). Here I preferred something more like SMB3 in terms of cover choice, but I understand: with great number of pages, comes great compromise. Also, because of its size you better be careful turning those first and last pages. Don't be too much in a hurry or you might tear them apart.
Regarding the layout, the book is easy to read - the whitespace around the copy does a great job clearing the room to breathe and it gives you a nice feeling every time you pick up and open it. To optimize my reading, despite the size, I made a quick strategy: I keep the book at home and on the go I use my Kindle version or the .pdf format. This way I'm sure I can slice a "piece" wherever I am (home, office etc).
The book is organized into 13 chapters, each of them tackling modern web design topics such as performance, responsive design, adaptive interface, web typography or content strategy. The chapters are well structured so that beginners and professionals don't feel left out or bored. Each section presented is packed with examples and sample code to get closer to the authors and to truly understand what they are trying to transmit to us, the readers. And if you can think you can't get enough of what the author is saying, you can always check the book's footer links for future references - and there are plenty. Yes, this book is a true nest for discovering other reading materials.
All is fine and dandy, but from what I've experienced so far, the book has small slip-ups. Nobody is perfect. For instance, I feel like some authors tend to repeat more than once some ideas through the same chapter, which left me a bit annoyed, but I presume is a technique used for the Long Term Memory to kick in. Also, when examples are highlighted, some of them are presented from a general point of view. I would have preferred more specific examples illustrating certain scenarios. It can get a bit ambiguous from time to time and I need to read the section again to fully understand. But don't worry, this is just me and my way of "dissecting" everything I encounter and enjoy.
I'm already passed halfway through the book. I don't want to rush finishing it too soon as it requires more attention if you want to fully absorb all the information, techniques, practices, technologies - all the goodies it has to offer.
This book came right on time because I want to focus more on the front-end side of UI/web design, besides my passion for User Experience. I'm experimenting a lot with HTML5/CSS3/JS lately and Batman is just the beginning of what I want to showcase.
Smashing Book #4 represents a great addition to any library. It's an artifact proving that things move forward and is our duty as designers/developers/what-ever-you-are-in-the-field to keep up with trends, change and innovation. As times evolve, so do we and I admit: I needed this book.