5 Auxiliary Books for Web Designers

Web Designing is a critical profession as it requires the understanding of art and technology. It requires marketing skills to keep the visitors attracted to the website and great user experience and content can sell the product or service. In this article, we’ll share some good old books from the past which are still relevant and worth to read for a Web Designer.

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Designing CSS Web Pages

Cascading Styles Sheets (CSS) are the way to style your web documents. Want to take advantage of this great technology? This book is a good place to start.

They are used in other types of media, but they are most famous for their widespread use on the Internet, so let’s focus on that.

CSS allows you to easily change the style of 100s of documents at the same time or just one document if you so choose. It is most commonly used for hyperlinks (such as the colour of your links, whether they are underlined, what they do when you move your mouse over them, etc.), so you may already have been introduced to CSS in that form.

However, it is becoming increasingly popular among developers these days to build a CSS Web page. More than just links, CSS is running the entire style of your pages, including the way your content looks and the layout of your pages. Obviously, if you can learn how to do this, you will have yourself a more efficient way of updating the look and style of your Website whenever you get the urge.

If you are looking to get going in this area of Web design and development, this book is an excellent place to start. I found it to be very easy to understand and easy to follow. It is written in a very clean and clear way in plain English, almost devoid of excessive dribble that you won’t want to read anyway. In short, the book should be able to keep your attention. Throughout its pages, you are given code snippets with an explanation of their function and, in most cases, a screenshot showing you what it will accomplish when viewed in a browser. This includes some real, fully functioning Websites and the code behind them. After reading this book, you will be able to make a confident attempt at building a CSS web page.

This is a solid offering. It contains what you need to know and gives you examples that you can use. For the most part, it features easy to understand explanations and is a very good value at US$17.99. If you want to learn CSS or if you are using basic CSS effects now, but want to step it up a level this is a great book for you.

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HTML Utopia: Designing Without Tables Using CSS

Utilizing CSS (cascading style sheet) design can make you a more effective designer. Once you become accommodated to it, you will find that it will save you time and allow you to create leaner, cleaner and quicker loading websites.

HTML Utopia: Designing Without Tables Using CSS is the second book published under the SitePoint imprint and it checks in at just under 500 pages. As you may have expected, there is a downloadable code archive available for the book from the book website. This .zip file contains the complete code for all of the examples cited throughout the book.

It was written by Dan Shafer, who was the first Webmaster and Director of Technology at Salon.com. He then went on to spend almost five years as the Master Builder in CNET’s Builder.com division. Later, he would gain widespread recognition as the host of the annual Builder.com Live! conference in New Orleans.

The book is chock full of helpful and applicable lessons and information in regard to CSS design. For all of the code examples that it gives, it almost always displays what they actually look like on screen (in black and white). It will show you how certain CSS elements work, how you can use them in your documents, what level of browser compatibility you can expect from them and how to get around the limitations of older, outdated browsers and much, much more.

It is not only a book that will help you to successfully create your first CSS design but one that can serve as a handy quick reference to new and experienced users alike.

This is a fantastic book for those that have been designing with tables in HTML (or some other, similar, convention) and want to start designing in a more efficient and effective way. It is also a good book for more experienced designers looking for a solid reference or a refresher. Furthermore, at US$39.95, it is a solid value and definitely worthy of your consideration.

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The Real Business of Web Design

Are you looking for a book that gives you a unique perspective on the approach that you should take in designing your sites?

Take note. This book is not really about the actual graphics and visual design in and of itself (i.e. writing HTML, using Photoshop to design graphics, CSS coding, etc.). This is mainly about the approach that you should take in doing these things.

When you are designing your site, you should always have the user experience in mind. As such, the focal point of the book is your users. This includes how to identify (including the creation of user profiles) and satisfy your users, while also accomplishing your business objectives. This means that your users can have a pleasurable experience with your site, while you/your company is also pleased with the returns from the project as you won’t be sacrificing revenue in making it happen happy customers generally bring more business and more people to you/your company. In other words, this book helps you to make everyone happy and to get everyone on your team working on the same page.

Making your sites user-friendly, respecting your users from avoiding confusing buzzwords and focusing more on words that make sense to your users to not bombarding them with blatant upsell devices the emphasis is on your users.

The book includes real life, in use strategies that bring the vision to life. To illustrate this point, they present you with actual websites (case studies) that feature the principles discussed within.

Some of the other subjects that the book talks about include the history of the web and business on the web the mistakes made and the lessons learned from them, new tools, trends and products, information architecture, branding, site planning, programming habits, changing the metaphors that you use (with both old words and the new words that should replace them), freedom of speech, marketing and much more.

After reading the book from cover to cover, I would say that his description is definitely accurate. If what you seek is a unique and valuable perspective on the approach and process to web design for your sites or for your company, I recommend that you give this book a read. With its low price of US$13.57, you are risking nothing. Pick it up.

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How to Do Everything with Photoshop CS

I’ve been using Adobe Photoshop on a professional/commercial level for a few years now and have taken a few classes as well as read countless books. Photoshop is a big program with a lot to learn but don’t be intimidated. There are a plethora of fantastic learning resources available. One of which is How to Do Everything with Photoshop CS by Colin Smith.

How to Do Everything with Photoshop CS is another book in the How to Do Everything with series put out by Osborne McGraw Hill. The goal of the book is to do just that: Teach you how to do everything with Photoshop CS.

I personally am, for the most part, not a big fan of this series of books. I usually find them to skim over the important aspects of subjects they cover and leave the book feeling like I know a few things about everything as opposed to actually getting a grasp on it. This book is different.

Photoshop 1.0 first shipped well over a decade ago. 8 versions and almost 15 years later, the product has obviously gone through some drastic changes and transformations. It seems every couple of years Adobe comes out with a new version with new features. For a lot of people, this is very intimidating because they feel like they can’t keep up. How to Do Everything with Photoshop CS curbs the intimidation factor and helps you conquer the beast known as Photoshop.

Photoshop has a plethora of features, tools and abilities. It’s the industry standard for graphics and it’s absolutely necessary to learn how to use the program if you want to make your mark in the visual world. This book is not only a fantastic way to get started with Photoshop, but also is a great reference tool to go back to. I recommend this book to anyone just starting out or trying to get a better understanding of the program as a whole.

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Defensive Design for the Web

This book isn’t technical, nor is it boring quantitative data. This book covers 40 rules for developing better forms online and anyone involved in the process would do well to grab a copy of this book. There is plenty of advice for programmers, developers, graphic designers and copywriters alike. I find myself in all of these roles from time to time so I was especially glad to see they didn’t leave any of my jobs out. The bottom line is, if you want better forms on your site then this is the book for you, regardless of what you do.

Defensive Design for the Web is broken down by chapters dealing with the major flaws that commonly plague web forms. Each chapter is then divided into rules with plenty of examples of both good and bad form design. The author’s don’t waste our time, they jump right into the issues and offer up suggestions to solve the problems. They also sprinkle in comments from clients and real-world comparisons to drive the issues home.

I’ve been looking for relevant books on usability and interface design since I got into web design. While there are several books on the general subjects, there just doesn’t seem to be enough that target the web. Defensive Design for the Web takes common web problems and relates them to real-world usability problems and in doing so showed me the flaws in my own designs and how to fix them. I’m big on examples and the authors gave me want I wanted. The book is based on examples, highlighting websites that most people are familiar with and showing us what they did wrong and what they did right. I was able to use the examples in the book and compare them to my own site. I could see the improvement immediately.

While this book speaks to usability at its very core, the authors seemed to rely entirely on visual cues to enhance their web forms. Obviously, the subject of usability and accessibility don’t always go hand in hand. I just wish they had dropped a few more hints about usability as it relates to accessibility. Another thing, they make several references to using colour for visual queues in your forms and the book lacks colour. The examples were still very useful and I appreciate the money they saved me by not printing in colour. Still, I think the examples would have been even better in colour.

Defensive Design for the Web was one of my favourite reads this year. I’m only sorry there wasn’t more of it. I’m hoping 37signals publishes the second volume and I’ll be sure to add them to my must read list. I highly recommend this book.

Bonus: Building Accessible Websites

Do you want to learn more about making your sites accessible to the blind, deaf or otherwise disabled?

Building Accessible Websites sets out to teach you “how and why to use Web accessibility techniques, with an emphasis on phased accessibility that scales the needs of small, medium and large budgets.”

It was written by Joe Clark, a Toronto journalist who has been called “the king of closed captions” by The Atlantic Monthly, “the Ralph Nader of the captioning industry” by Silent News and “the eccentric self-appointed guru of closed captioning” by Saturday Night, among other things I’m sure. Closed captions? That’s TV, you say. Well, right, but Mr Clark has been programming websites since 1994 and is an expert on media access, which includes making movies, television… and yes, websites accessible – hence Building Accessible Websites.

As you read through the book, you will see that he has a certain attitude that shows through his writing. Suffice to say, he takes a straightforward, no-nonsense approach. You may disagree with him, but you will learn some things.

Beyond just the techniques and how to incorporate them, there are also in-depth talks about theory, the law and many other things related to Web accessibility. Although it can get a bit complicated, he does a pretty good job.

Each chapter ends with a summary of action points broken up into three categories. These are basic (easiest, less costly, less time consuming), intermediate and advanced (hardest, most costly, most time consuming) accessibility. This is a good way for it to be presented as it allows people on the lower end to focus on the most important things and also allows people to take it in smaller bites if they so choose.

As a basic newbie to “building accessible websites”, I started this book as a virtually clean slate. It was an interesting read that I learned a fair bit from. I’d recommend it to anyone of a similar disposition as well as more advanced folks interested in reading more on the subject.

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