Book Review of “Implementing Responsive Design” by Tim Kadlec


Implementing Responsive Design by Tim Kadlec brings together project planning, creative design, and detailed coding techniques into a single book. It is written for a mixed audience. About half the content is code related, and half covers workflow.  It’s a compilation of different ideas and techniques from industry leaders assembled in a logical and easy-to-digest format.

Responsive Design is Growing Up

Responsive Design is evolving. What started as a specific coding technique outlined by Ethan Marcotte in 2010, has expanded beyond its “front-end” roots. RWD encompasses content strategy, project & design processes, and has many implications on server side; such as content management systems & media. Implementing Responsive Design helps bind these components together.

It’s not easy “Implementing Responsive Design”

As we introduced more responsive design into our web projects, problems in our  “traditional” (Desktop-focused) production process started to creep to the surface. The hardest challenge has been changing our workflow and helping our clients understand why a new process, and new deliverables are needed. It was a relief to find a book that explores these topics.

The art of building responsive websites is about asking lots questions.

How should we approach... Grids, Responsive Images, Creative Comps, CSS structure, etc...?

If answering any of the proceeding questions was easy, then I suggest you take a second look at your assumptions. There aren’t any “one-size fits all” solutions in RWD and what works for one project may not for another. I can say from experience there are lots of “wrong” choices that will cost you time and money.

This is what I really liked about Implementing Responsive Design. Most books I’ve read tend to side on suggesting a specific implementation strategy. This book outlines common techniques for Responsive Design and gives you the pros and cons of each approach.

What’s in the Book

Chapter 1: The Anywhere, Everywhere Web

A good primer covering all the important terminology.  It’s loaded with useful stats to include in proposals to justify those higher budgets needed for RWD projects.

Chapter 2: Fluid Layouts

Explores your options with grids including fixed pixel grids that “jump” between breakpoints to fluid & semi-fluid layouts.

Chapter 3: Media Queries

Covers media queries basics, and makes a case for “mobile first” CSS structure. It also covers how to select “content driven” breakpoints.

Chapter 4: Responsive Media

Responsive images, videos, and advertising. Available as a free download (PDF)

Chapter 5: Planning

Content strategies, planning performance considerations, and preparing your testing suite.

Chapter 6: Design Workflow

Iterative design workflows, why static comps often fail, Style Guides (Tiles), and designing in the browser. 

Chapter 7: Responsive Content

Why not to hide content on mobile, progressively enhancing content, challenges with content management systems & WYSIWYG editors.

Chapter 8: RESS

Responsive Design + Server Side Components. Doing device detection on the server side, moderizer, WURFL.

Chapter 9: Responsive Experiences

Accessing mobile device API’s, HTML5 input types, Geolocation.

What coders get from this book

Implementing Responsive Design will help you avoid many of the “gotchas” we’ve come across in our projects like CSS structure, responsive images, media queries, and responsive javascript. It also has detailed chapters on RESS, and device API’s which introduced me to some new ideas for future projects.

This book won’t make you a master of any technique, but it will give you a good foundation to continue your own skill development. If you’re already started with responsive design this is a great book to enhance your skill set, and help you manage your projects more smoothly.

If you haven’t yet started working with responsive design, this should be your second book after either Responsive Design by Ethan Marcotte or Adaptive Design by Aaron Gustafson. These two books go into full detail of the HTML & CSS techniques which are the foundation of RWD. After them you’ll be ready for Implementing Responsive Design.

What designers, and project managers get from this book.

This is the first RWD book that actually addresses you as an audience. Yes there’s code in about half the chapters, but for the most part you can afford to skip the “how” and focus on the “why” expressed by the the author.

I really valued reading about the design and creative processes used by the author in his projects. Chapters 5, 6 are my favourites as they outline specific deliverables for clients, and how to optimize your process by organizing your team and adopting new workflows.

Is it worth you time and money? The short answer is Yes.

While I won’t bring every part of the book into my team’s workflow & coding practices, it is refreshing to have what previously was a series of disjointed components all covered in single book. Some suggestions work for us, and some we discarded, but without hesitation I recommend this to anyone exploring responsive design.


Thanks for the review :)
Thanks so much for the kind review, Aidan!
Nice review, I'd like to check this book out. Thanks!
Thanks for the post, i was wondering for such book that can help me in knowing more about responsive web design. I will surely go through this book.
Thanks for the recommendation. That is so rare i see a book review on a web design blog. :)



Aidan Foster

Responsive design expert & owner of Foster Interactive, a Drupal focused studio based in Toronto, Canada.

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Additional Info

Full disclosure - I’m not in any way associated with this book. I just really like it and wish I could have all my clients and collaborators read it.


Photo credit:
Anna Lisa Sang Photography