Hardboiled changes everything
Read our first impressions of the new Hardboiled web design book from Andy Clarke.
If you're a web designer in any capacity, there's a pretty fair
chance you've at least seen some detail about "Hardboiled on Twitter" so I'm
writing up these thoughts assuming you at least know what I'm
referring to. (More info
here just in case).
I managed to grab
a copy from Fivesimplesteps and here's some initial thoughts on
the first read.
I'm sure I'll dip back into the book over time and will make any
relevant updates then so this is very much a first impression of
There's been a lot said about the design of the site and the
layout of the book as well but to be honest, it's produced by a top
notch designer so I don't think there's much need to say anything
other than it's beautifully designed.
Hardboiled as an ethos
As an agency, we really want to fully embrace progressive web
design and make great things for those who use the best browsing
tools but do also have to balance that work with building websites
for our clients and their customers so it's a delicate balancing
act particularly with existing, older websites.
It's something I'm sure many other agencies stuggle with and
have the constant "discussion" with clients about why it's not
necessarily a bad thing that sites look and behave differently
according to viewing medium/browsers.
Hardboiled makes a serious attempt to address this part of our
job and give designers some of the tools needed to help "sell"
progressive development to new and existing clients.
Selling Hardboiled to your clients may still be a bit
Hardboiled is roughly split into three parts, firstly an
introduction and an overview of what it is covering the progressive
side of web design. Second, the actual nuts and bolts of how to
discuss with clients the benefits of this approach over the "
old fashioned it's got to look the same in every browser"
mindset and then a very comprehensive and detailled look at some
HTML5 markup and some great CSS3 examples and how to add modern
CSS3 effects while keeping degraded fallbacks in place for older
I'm also comparing Hardboiled with another book we recently
bought for the office which is also about changing how we work and
how we interact and manage our client jobs. That book (and the
process) is called
Kanban by David J Anderson. We found it extremely useful in the
depth it went to dealing with common objections and how to answer
It's all about changing how you work, embracing progressive and
dynamic working practice and as such, while not covering the same
material, is I believe, the same sort of approach that sits well
with the Hardboiled ethos and dealing with client objection is a
very big and well written part of the book that works very well for
us in providing crib material to counter a huge range of questions
Share discussion and ideas?
Hardboiled does perhaps suffer a little on this front in
comparison because it's a newer subject but it's something to
consider and it would be great to see theHardboiled website
consider opening up a discussion forum to help bring
designers together on this topic and share advice and answer the
more specific questions and client examples we might all have.
Written from a lofty perch
In some respects Andy is a lucky man who can probably pick and
choose clients(p41) who hire him based on reputation and past
(excellent) work and possibly practically beg to use the latest
cutting edge technology to be used as part and parcel of hiring him
and that the whole Hardboiled discussion is possibly a short one
with those type of clients :)
Sadly I don't think everyone is so lucky in that respect
although I do understand why we should all do our bit.
I'm sure most people can also relate to the classic Oatmeal
a web design goes straight to hell and relate to the pain of
trying to use the best tools for the job, do the most progressive
work possible only to be told "I'm the client - do it my way
anyway" and know there's not much you can do in some
Sterotypes like this unfortunately exist because they're very
real and happen a lot. I'd love for just a bit of expansion on what
the best way to deal with this sort of client is and if there are
some that simply can't be convinced in the authors opinion.
Common objections - more, more, more!
While the code samples are well written and considered for their
practicality instead of being just pointless eye candy, as an
agency, we bought the book very much for the "business" side of
things and for best advice and I was almost hoping for a more
extensive guide to common objections and how to counter them as the
Kanban book above does which we used to great effect at a recent
client meeting which resulted in us overhauling our internal
process and that of the client in how we manage work.
There are several points well raised about how we should be
progressive and push the web forward but we're very much stuck at a
junction in the web world with the push to wider use of browsers
like Firefox and Chrome but with the stubborn refusal of Internet
Explorer to actually come up to date.
In many cases, clients themselves are still on outdated
technology, (IE7 being a common culprit) and while the arguements
for creating better experiences for better browsers is sound, it's
also difficult to show and sell it to a client when they themselves
can't see what you're talking about. I don't think I missed the
part where this is covered and how to get around what I'd imagine
is a common objection. (If I did, let me know!).
Killer pages and updating existing clients
I'm sure like most agencies,
we're not alone in having to support IE6 to a certain degree
and wishing we didn't and Hardboiled does address this.
There are some real killer pages from 39 through to
56 covering the whole thorny issue of older browsers and while
it's pretty extensive, I'd have loved to have seen some examples of
how clients have been "converted" to the Hardboiled way of life
from the "must look the same" school of thought.
We're in need of a little help here
Ideally, I'd have liked more real case studies and while I know
it's impossible to cover every scenario for every agencies client
list - seeing an example of a client who's been working in the old
way being taken through an extensive "upgrade" of their site would
have been a great addition a real objection killer.
Apart from that, I'd say when dealing with new clients in
particular, selling the "Hardboiled" approach is pretty well
covered and logical. It's something we're going to be embracing
here with new clients whenever possible.
You'll be able to read lots of other reviews and discussion
about the quality of the code examples in Hardboiled. I'm not going
to bother covering these even though they actually account for
nearly 2/3 of the book because basically they're written by someone
who is, quite literally, world famous for writing progressive and
practical code. You can safely expect more of that standard in this
I'm keen as an agency to make every effort to embrace the newest
technology and I'm confident Hardboiled web design will help us as
an ongoing guide in our efforts to produce great work for our
Right now, I'm still struggling to figure out how best to update
our main client to help them make the jump from old to new because
we're talking about a site with hundreds of template elements, tens
of thousands of pages and other ongoing business priorities in one
of the most competitive markets around but we'll figure that one
I guess that's probably something I can't reasonably expect to
be covered in a book aimed at a wider community of designers and
agencies but I'm sure I wouldn't be the only person who needs some
pointers on that particular scenario.
We are however going to do our best to balance Hardboiled
progressive development with the day to day requirements of the
clients we work for.
I've only recently started looking at developing in HTML5,
partly because our main workload is still very much based on
existing XHTML templating and a historically entrenched "must look
the same" client approach. I'd have to admit some of the things
about HTML5 and IE still bother me a bit because of the lack of
support for some of the new elements like <aside> or
I guess that's another blog post altogether though!
Despite that, we're pushing on! A lot of folks seem to be
building up some sort of "boilerplate" they can deploy on projects
which brings together some common functionality, css and setup
rules and either building that themselves or using one of several
good systems out there in much the same way as people use a CSS
framework to speed up workflow.
Some link goodness
So, in no real order, here are some links I've collected from
reading the book and generally reading up on HTML5 and CSS3
Your thoughts and suggestions
Much of this review has been written looking at how we can
implement all the great things outlined in the book into our
workflow for our existing clients as well as new ones and as such,
some of my requests for more detail I appreciate are pretty
specific to us but I hope not things nobody else in the world has
As such, I do appreciate it's impossible to cover everything in
the book but it does give some top quality jumping off points and
leaves scope for expanding in the future.
I hope this has been a helpful overview of the book that most
people feel will define the next big step in web design. Time will
tell on that one but if you've got any thoughts or suggestions for
things I've missed or links I should bookmark, feel free to pop
them in the comments or get in touch via @offroacode on
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