Responsive Design: Patterns and Principles
As it happens, I’ve written a book. But this time, it’s not a second edition of a little yellow book—it’s a brand new book. It’s called Responsive Design: Patterns and Principles. I really hope you like it.
…okay, so with that introduction out of the way, I’m so very, very proud of this little orange book. As you might guess from the title, the book’s focused on responsive design patterns: the reusable, flexible bits of a design we stitch together, using them to compose a larger responsive design system.
Why spend my time (and yours) talking about tiny layout problems? Well, in the years since I wrote the first book, the industry has moved further from this idea of a “page” as a model for working responsively. Trent Walton often talks about designing “networks of content”, while Anna Debenham talks about patterns as “a solid foundation”. And it’s not just us designers: larger companies like Capital One and Starbucks have said that investing in a modular, pattern-focused design system has helped them go responsive more quickly. And since we’re designing for more devices, screen sizes, and contexts than ever before—far more than when I wrote the original article—it’s more critical than before to see our designs not as big, monolithic entities, but as a system of small but responsive layout systems, easily rearranged at a moment’s notice.
And honestly, I’ve found that pattern-informed design has a ton of interesting, tough challenges. That’s why the three central chapters look at challenges that arise from specific kinds of content: from responsive navigation systems, to strategies for managing images, as well as techniques for managing responsive advertising. But while there are tons of examples throughout, it’s not just a cookbook for design patterns: the first and last chapters are focused on broader principles that will, I hope, prepare you for the new responsive challenges before us.
I should note, of course, that writing a book takes a village. Katel LeDû is, as A Book Apart’s executive director, responsible for bringing this book into being—working with her is a joy. And as they always seem to do, Jason Santa Maria made the cover beautiful, while Rob Weychert designed a beautiful interior for the book. I’m honored to be part of the A Book Apart lineup again—especially since they managed to have Anna Debenham provide an absolutely stellar technical edit. Thank you, all.
Mandy Brown isn’t just a colleague, a one-time cofounder, and a dear friend: she’s also the person who invited me to write both the first article and book about this “responsive design” thing. As a result, I couldn’t be happier that Mandy agreed to write the foreword.
A most special thank-you to Erin Kissane, who’s one of the best editors (and people) I’ve ever worked with. She is a deft, fearless reader, and offered so much insight, feedback, and support on various drafts. I’m not going to lie: I was excited about my book idea, but once I heard Erin was available to edit it, I was thrilled to write it.
And I have to mention that today’s doubly exciting: it’s not just that my book is out, but I’m sharing a launch day with my good friend Karen McGrane. She wrote a book titled Going Responsive, which covers the process-related and organizational challenges that go into launching a responsive site. I’ve read it, and it is, as everything she writes, a wonder: buy ten copies, and give them to your teammates and clients. They’ll thank you, promise.
…phew. That was quite a lot, wasn’t it? I guess if you’re looking for the TLDR, it goes something like this: my first book helped readers understand how to build a responsive page; Responsive Design: Patterns and Principles focuses on the area within the page. And to me, that is an infinitely more challenging, interesting, and important area to work in.
Finally, if you get a moment to read my book, please do drop me a line—here, or on Twitter—if you’ve written a review on your blog/wall/Goodreads/whatever. I’d love to read it, and hear your thoughts.
As always, thanks for reading. I’m thrilled, humbled, and, yes, a little scared that the book’s out in the world. But above all else, I’m excited to see what you make with it.