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The Mobile Book

Guess what? I got my hands on an early copy of The Mobile Book, by Smashing Magazine, this week. I’ll cut to the chase and just say this: It’s fantastic. You should own it. Really.

I’m not saying this because I’ve written for Smashing Magazine, or because I’m trying to do them a favor. I’m saying this because this book is a compilation of exceptionally smart and detailed advice on designing and implementing websites with mobile users in mind. By the way, it took me a while to settle on that last sentence because this whole mobile thing is a transition — just like any other where the technology temporarily leads the design conversation. Eventually, the contents of a book like this one will just be thought of as “web design” again. In fact…

Jeremy Keithintroduces the book with this very point:

“There will come a time when this book will no longer be necessary…”

That may be true — at least as far as the container is concerned — but for the time being, this book is a solid guide and perhaps the best Smashing book yet!

The first chapter on “What’s Going on in Mobile,” by Peter-Paul Koch, is a must-read for everyone — well, I was going to qualify that in some way, but I’m just going to stick with “everyone.” Why? Because Koch not only clarifies the mobile challenge for people like us — designers and developers — but explains why these conditions exist as a result of how the mobile industry works. From operators to device vendors to mobile OS vendors, and of course, to us. It’s really stuffed with current data covering mobile device sales and OS market share, as well as smart analysis of how the fragmentation of the device and OS market is driven by competition and the drive to differentiate. Oh, and then he explains why there are so many dang mobile browsers. Oh, and also, how on Earth to test what you build. Spoiler alert: Koch recommends actually buying devices, and if you don’t have the cash, actually sharing devices with other developers.

One of the conclusions Koch leaves us with is “Never assume anything on mobile.” Absolutely right. And that goes for what you think you know about “mobile” in the abstract. This is a rapidly shifting terrain — think of it like standing on a sand dune in an earthquake. While that will almost certainly outdate Koch’s chapter in little time, your best bet for right now is to read it and learn from him.

On that note, I’m hoping Smashing will release this chapter as a sample on their site, because while I certainly think the book is worth buying, *everyone* should know this stuff and I doubt Smashing has printed enough copies for *everyone* 😉 *Hint* *Hint*

Let’s see… what else…

Trent Walton’s chapter on responsive design does a great job of simplifying and reintroducing the concepts as well as preempting the bolt-on strategy. Don’t do it. Can’t, really. After that, he goes through a whole slew of techniques you can start using right now. Really good stuff. Brad Frost follows that up with a chapter on responsive design patterns, which will point you in the right direction as far as contextualizing Trent’s techniques is concerned and thinking about user experience. Good stuff again.

For the more technically-oriented — I mean, like command line and everything — Dave Olsen has contributed a chapter on optimizing for mobile. This is where you’re going to get in to performance techniques to keep bandwidth and latency issues in check. Compression, caching, minification and concatenation (trust me, these are not typos — you’ll just have to read the chapter), inlining, image optimization, and load deference. It’s all there, and more.

I could continue to go through this, chapter by chapter, but then I’d be wasting your time when you should really be reading the book, not my review.

But one more thing: I LOVED the last half of Denis Kardys’s chapter on Hands-On Design, which focused in on how to prototype mobile development. He reviews everything from wireframes to paper prototypes and lands on a case for HTML prototyping. We’ve been all about that as a necessary step in the web development process for years, and it seems the natural approach as far as mobile development is concerned, too.

In conclusion: Great job, Smashing! The Mobile Book is excellent. Also, Christmas is coming, so buy it for someone?

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