Recommended books for Front End Web Developers

So you’ve decided to persue a career as a Front End Web Developer (or you already are one and are looking for something new to read); smashing! The life of a Front End Developer is never dull… (cough) okay sometimes it is but there are certainly some exciting technologies out there to play with, especially at the moment with HTML5 and CSS3 gaining popularity.

Like with anything, you need to have a solid foundation of knowledge to build upon when it comes to new technologies, sometimes it’s a little dull but it will pay dividends in the future. Once you have the basic knowledge the world is you web browser. So here are a list of five books I’ve read in the past that I’ve found particularity helpful.

Looking for new Front End books to read, you could try one of these.

DOM Scripting

The reason I’ve put this book first is simply because it’s one of the best technical books I’ve ever read. The way it’s written is simple to understand and concise. All the way through the book it explains not only what you are doing but also why you’re doing it, and why you should also follow the same methodology.

If you are a complete beginner to JavaScript and the DOM this book will get you up and running and understanding in just a couple of chapters. Now some may say “oh I don’t need to know this anymore, that’s what JavaScript librarys are for”, but in my opinion that’s a dangerous road to go down. If ever your chosen library doesn’t do what you need, or if you can’t use a library for whatever reason; then you’re in trouble.

If you know the basics of the DOM and how to manipulate it using JavaScript, you’re much more likely to solve any issues you encounter and you’ll have a much better understanding of what the libraries are actually doing.

Author: Jeremy Keith (Amazon).

Eric Meyer on CSS

There simply couldn’t be a review of front end development books without a book from the wizard of CSS, Eric Meyer. Eric has been a major part of the CSS community for many years; helping to educate developers in the proper usage of CSS and how it can make development so (so!) much easier. I had the pleasure of attending a 2 day workshop of his in London a few years back, and still use what I learnt there on a day to day basis.

‘Eric Meyer on CSS’ will teach you some of the advanced techniques involved in using CSS in a practical manner. You take a plain website built using tables, clean up the mark-up and layer on features and functionality using CSS over the various chapters; so rather than just getting a list of properties and selectors to read about, you actually get to see a live project changing over time.

Be warned, the book isn’t for absolute beginners, you do really need to know the basics of HTML and CSS to get the most out of it. Not to worry though, all the information you need to learn the basics of many different languages including HTML and CSS is available online at w3schools. You don’t have to stick to HTML and CSS, they also have JavaScript and the DOM if you’re feeling adventurous.

Author: Eric Meyer (Amazon)

JavaScript – The Definitive Guide

The very large book you can see in the image above is ‘JavaScript – The Definitive Guide’, and it really is a definitive guide. It has of 900+ pages of wonderful JavaScript! Now I wouldn’t expect anyone to read it page by page (although that’s what I did), but it’s defiantly a book you should have in your tool kit for reference. It goes over pretty much all aspects of JavaScript you will ever use and even though it is quite technical it isn’t hard to follow; with plenty of examples and explanation of the code.

Again there’s an argument for do you need to know JavaScript if you just intend on using a library. Well I guess that up to you, but I personally don’t feel comfortable using any sort of framework / abstraction without having at least some understanding of the language it is built on.

Author: David Flanagon (Amazon)

Learning jQuery

So assuming you know about HTML, CSS and JavaScript it’s time to learn one of the many JavaScript libraries available. Now I agree with Christian Heilmann on a point he made at Full Frontal 2009 (I think it was Christian who made it), it doesn’t matter what library you use, as long as you use one!

‘Learning jQuery’ is a fantastic book that will take you through all aspects of jQuery, from setting up and writing basic code to Ajax and writing your own jQuery plug-ins. If you know how to use CSS to select parts of the DOM then jQuery will be simple for you to pick up and use. The book is filled with practical examples and applications, all using best practice methods.

I only had one slight gripe with the book while reading it; I found the font for the code blocks was slightly too big, so you tended to get a lot of wrapping on large code blocks. In terms of the content though, it really is one book that is a must read if you use jQuery or want to use jQuery in your projects.

Author: Jonathan Chaffer & Karl Swedberg (Amazon)

PHP Solutions

Now I know what you may be thinking, PHP isn’t a front end language, it’s a server side language. That is very true, but one thing I can guarantee is one day you will have to integrate the front end templates you’ve built into a server side language; be that PHP, .Net, JSP, Java etc. As I’ve mainly worked with open source technologies, PHP is primarily what I integrate into.

‘PHP Solutions’ is another excellent Friends of Ed book that takes you through lots of practical uses of PHP that you can use straight out of the book. It covers subjects such as setting up your server and includes, to online galleries and security. You may not use any of the functionality it covers since most frameworks and CMS’s have the functionality built in; but it will give you an understanding of how PHP works as a language which in turn will help you when it comes to integration.

Author: David Powers (Amazon)

So there you have 5 books I’d recommend to any Front End Web Developer looking to expand their client-side knowledge. Leave a comment if there are any books you’d recommend and I’ll take a look and add it to my Amazon wishlist.