Bulletproof Web Design

Dan Cederholm knows exactly what Web designers need, and he writes for them. I praised his previous book, Web Standard Solutions, as not only a markup and style handbook, but also an accessibility guide. With his latest publication, Bulletproof Web Design: Improving flexibility and protecting against worst-case scenarios with XHTML and CSS, he takes accessibility a step further by designing with flexibility or in his own words, “being prepared for whatever is thrown at your design.”

Forward-thinking design is the approach the book takes on. As Web designers, we need to share the control of our sites with the users. For example, allow users to resize their text if they desired. By using percentages, ems or keywords instead of pixels enable Internet Explorer users to increase or decrease the default text sizes. In the first chapter, Cederholm suggests setting keywords for the body text, and then use percentages for the headings when styling the type size in CSS to accommodate IE browsers. Although the method is bulletproofed, a bit of hacking is required. To set the text sizes to display consistently across browsers with hack free, I suggest using percentage for the body and ems for the headings.

Other than the “Flexible Text” approach, I find his tips and tricks throughout the book to be useful and adaptable. The “Scalable Navigation” technique is not only accessible and easy to modify, but also saves bandwidths because of the lightweight markups. The “Expandable Rows” and “Indestructible Boxes” methods give the site invisible, extra spaces to prevent unpredictable scenarios. The strategies for “No Images? No CSS? No Problem” is seemed to be simple, but no less valuable. I am sure many designers wouldn’t be thinking of styling background colors to ensure readability incase users turn off images to speed up the loading process. How could we when we have like million other things to worry about? So this chapter serves as a great reminder for that sort-of-minor-but-important stuff, and be sure to check out the bulletproof tools (Favlets, Web Developer Extension, Web Accessibility Toolbar, and Validator) listed as well.

Once again, Cederholm’s solid writing combined with his easy-to-follow instructions complemented by clear visual presentations make Bulletproof Web Design an essential guide for designers who wish to create Web sites that would always look good under any circumstances. Even though he delves into the “Fluid Layouts” approach, I still feel the book needed a chapter on zoomable layout, which is one of the most flexible and accessible methods I have come to appreciate, to be completed.