After stumbling upon Cameron Moll’s Blog and site, which is pretty much focused on mobile web design and development, I downloaded his eBook, “Mobile Web Design“. Now that I have finished reading the book I thought I would provide a review. Book reviewing is not something that I have done before, but I hope the review shows that Cameron’s work certainly warrants it.
Over the last ten months or so I have been developing and deploying content and applications almost exclusively for use on mobile devices. The work has been familiar, interesting, challenging, frustrating and infuriating in pretty much equal measure. The more frustration I have encountered the more I have tried to investigate, study and learn about the technologies, practices and processes that accompany mobile internet development.
While I was searching for information on delivering my own blog content to mobile devices, I came across Cameron Moll’s website and eBook on Mobile Web Design. I downloaded and read the free preview chapters and they gave a great indication of the quality of the content the full eBook would offer. As a result, a short time later I purchased the full eBook, the first eBook I have purchased in fact. I would say that fact alone goes some way to recommending Mobile Web Design.
Mobile Web Design is a relatively short eBook – the PDF only has 104 A4 pages. Included in this figure are the graphical cover page, content pages, an author biography and quite a few images throughout the book. The eBook is presented in a good sized serif font and there are clear stylistic differences between standard copy, quotes, code, foot notes, image annotations and key content points. The recently updated version includes live links to external sources and also a live contents page as well as updates to the content.
There is a consistent and comfortable tone and pace to Mobile Web Design. In reading I never felt a subject was overly technical. Cameron provides a light hearted approach to his writing that offered a leading and encouraging voice that managed to keep my attention on what is to be honest a fairly dry subject matter.
Cameron has provided huge volumes of information and has done a fantastic job in linking to external sources that provide corroborating and alternative view points to the topics Cameron discusses, Many are also foot noted throughout the book. This approach may result in hours of further research to those of a more studious or inquisitive nature, but certainly shows that the author has done enough cross referencing of information and sources to give an informed and knowledgeable opinion.
Cameron has done a great job of covering a little of everything you would want or expect in a book on Mobile Web Design. The book is split into an early section that provides some history of the mobile web, the devices and user levels and also the technologies that have bought it to where it is now. Next is a “fundamentals” section, this is actually a revisiting of some early articles from Cameron’s site these are updated in context for the modern mobile web. Next are in depth discussions of XHTML, CSS, testing and validation. Finally are sections covering “other” technologies, how to promote your work and then the book closes with an upbeat call to action for the reader to get going already. The content is obviously based on Cameron’s personal research, experience and experimentation or well chosen case studies of relevant applications, services and websites. As I say Cameron is obviously very experience, and does a wonderful job of transferring the knowledge presented to the reader.
Most of the book is focused on XHTML and CSS. FlashLite, JavaMe and SVG all get lumped together in the “Beyond XHTML” chapter with a number of other technologies, services and general mobile telephony applications. This was a disappointment as none of these other technologies really get given the same treatment or time as XHTML and CSS and the chapter ends up feeling a real mishmash of information. Maybe Cameron has avoided these technologies due to lack of experience or perhaps he would benefit working with co-authors to collaborate and extend the depth covered on these other technologies? What ever the reason, the result is Mobile Web Design does come across as rather biased towards XHTML based web browsing on devices, rather than the true mobilisation of applications, services and web presences that Cameron espouses early in the book.
At points Cameron dips his toe into some key development tips and tricks, but very few detailed code examples, one notable exception is dealing with user agent detection. I never felt this lack of depth was a real issue while reading the book on my computer, external resource are so well identified and on a computer easy to follow up there and then online.
Cameron has now announced a print copy of the book, at the same time he has provided a free update to the PDF version. The update includes information on more modern devices, iPhone is given some page space in a number of areas for example ( not so for my beloved Nokia N95 🙁 ). I do fear however that the print version of the book may start being out of date almost as soon it comes off the presses.
I would say Mobile Web Design is a little light on application code, and slightly biased towards mobile XHTML browsing as a mobile web solution. These points aside I would highly recommend Mobile Web Design eBook by Cameron Moll for anyone planning to investigate mobile wed and application development and are not sure where to start, or indeed why they should bother. It offers a wealth of well presented, quality information.