“Resilient Web Design” by Jeremy Keith

There’s nothing like reading a short book about web design on a plane!

Resilient web design by Jeremy KeithI just finished reading Jeremy Keith’s fantastic web book Resilient Web Design. It is itself a website, and it’s built so that supported-browsers can store it offline once you’ve visited any page on the site! How resilient!

The primary point of the book is that web design is its own medium, unique from both its precursors—books and typewriters—and contemporaries—iPhone apps and desktop software. Therefore, we must treat it as such.

What’s more, the technologies of the web are fantastically fault-tolerant and we must embrace this by building websites so they work on any device and are then enhanced for devices that support new technologies.

Takeaways: Enhance sites on a solid foundation. Write Good HTML.

While I was certainly primed to enjoy this book and familiar with most of its content, it reinforces some of the ideas I put forward in “I’m a Web Conservative” while also pushing me to embrace new technologies so long as they don’t break the core baseline functionality or design.

The other belief it strongly reinforced is that I must continue helping clients make appropriate text-formatting decisions when I train them to enter content. When formatted correctly, HTML content can whiz around the web, looking good when printed, saved to Pocket, or migrated to a new design. Poor HTML is often an invisible problem but it can be the source of headaches over time and, hence, is a foundational part of good web practice.


Choice Quotes

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book.

On using the right technology for the right task and treating the web as its own medium:

The world of architecture has accrued its own set of design values over the years. One of those values is the principle of material honesty. One material should not be used as a substitute for another. Otherwise the end result is deceptive.

Jeremy Keith, Chapter 2, Resilient Web Design

Combining the concepts of “mobile-first”, “content-first”, and “resilient web design:”

If you can prioritise your content and make it work within the confined space of a small screen, then you will have created a robust, resilient design that you can build upon for larger screen sizes.

Jeremy Keith, Chapter 3, Resilient Web Design

On different designs for different devices:

This means that not everyone will experience the same visual design. This is not a bug. This is a feature of the web. New browsers and old browsers; monochrome displays and multi‐coloured displays; fast connections and slow connections; big screens, small screens, and no screens; everyone can access your content. That content should look different in such varied situations. If a website looks the same on a ten‐year old browser as it does in the newest devices, then it probably isn’t taking advantage of the great flexibility that the web offers.

Jeremy Keith – Chapter 5, Resilient Web Design 

Finally, in Chapter 6 (of 7), Keith gets to his formula for building resilient websites. This is something that feels familiar but I know I can personally improve on:

Here’s a three‐step approach I take to web design:

  1. Identify core functionality.
  2. Make that functionality available using the simplest possible technology.
  3. Enhance!

Jeremy Keith – Chapter 6, Resilient Web Design


I am so glad I read this book. It’s one I expect to return to on occasion as I assume its message will age incredibly well. I’d encourage you to join me in reading it and building a more resilient web.

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