Review: New Web Design Books

by Joe Gillespie — Apr 1, 2003

I find it difficult to pass a book store without going in and once in, I find it even more difficult to leave without an armload of new books. Whether you are looking for intellectual, technical or visual stimulation, you just can't have too many.

Web design books come thick and fast these days and cover the whole gamut of subject matter. This month I'm going to look at four new books that will be of particular interest. They are all pitched at slightly different audiences but there is some degree of overlap.

Web Graphics for Non-Designers

Nick Boyce, Isaac Forman, Dave Gibbons, Adrian Roselli

web design for non-designers

This one caught my eye because I was more than a little sceptical about the claims made in the title and was curious to see what it actually delivered. Well, yes, it does have a good grounding on the basics of Web graphics – colour theory, typography, layout, file formats and if you need a good primer in what these things are all about, you'll find it here. In fact, it is hard to fault it on content and there's not too little, not too much.

The book is aimed at people who are familiar with HTML and maybe some CSS, in other words 'coders' and it has been cleverly disguised as a car-maintenance manual so as not to embarrass them in front of their friends.

Explaining 'design' to left-brainers is okay as long as you do it from a Mr Spock perspective – "it is logical to do it this way". "It is logical to put this colour beside this colour because it is adjacent on the colour wheel." In this respect, it is indeed a book about Web graphics for 'non-designers' and even the sub-heading on the front cover, "Professional Design Techniques – No experience required" is not far off the mark.

Unfortunately, programming programmers to use Web design techniques does not make them graphic designers. Those vital factors of 'creativity' and 'aesthetics' are just not there. The term, "A little knowledge is dangerous" comes painfully to mind but hopefully this book will prevent them from making some of the worst mistakes. I'm really looking forward to the companion title, "Web Programming for Graphic Designers – No experience required".

Note: Unfortunately, since writing this review, the publisher has gone out of business. The book should still be available from the usual sources.

Web Graphics for Non-Designers

Authors: Boyce, Forman, Gibbons, Roselli
Publisher: Glasshaus
ISBN: 1-1904151-15-9
Price: $49.99 (Amazon $34.99)

Designing Web Graphics 4

Lynda Weinman

designing web graphics 4

Lynda's books are mainstays in Web design publishing, setting the standard for all others. This fourth in the Designing Web Graphics series is no exception.
        The Web moves at a fast pace and no book can hope to stay up-to-date for very long. This book follows-on naturally from the previous ones, updating some information and introducing more recent concepts. It's quite a large book, over 500 pages printed in full colour and covers a lot of ground.

Updated are the sections on HTML and XHTM, file formats, JavaScript rollovers and Cascading Style Sheets. Reference to software programs like browsers, Web page editors and Flash keep it in step with the latest releases.

New subjects include chapters on project planning, accessibility, usability, setting-up hosting and getting your sites listed.

With such a wide subject to cover, even this weighty tome can't tell you everything but it does provide useful links and references where you can find out more.

If you are new to Web design, I can't think of a better place to start.

Designing Web Graphics 4

Author: Lynda Weinman
Publisher: New Riders
ISBN: 0-7357-1079-1
Price: $55 (Amazon $38.50)

MTIV: Process, Inspiration and Practice for the New Media Designer

Hillman Curtis

designing web graphics 4

I like this book a lot; it is exactly on my wavelength. What is it? That's not so easy to explain. It is neither a graphic design tutorial nor a series of tips on how to make Web pages look better. In fact, it is about all those things that 'Web Graphics for Non-Designers' is not about – philosophy, creativity and graphic design in the true sense.

Many of the examples have nothing to do with the Web. 'New Media Design' is a wider field that covers anything designed for viewing with modern technology. The basic premise that design is about 'problem solving', identifying and meeting goals is prevalent throughout and is just as appropriate to the design of a Web site, a poster or a film tile sequence.

The Web is now the main aspect of New Media Design and gets its fair share of coverage. Even though the book doesn't get over-involved in 'techniques', practicality is not ignored and it uses code snippets here and there to make important points.

When it talks about colour, it's about the emotive effects of colour, not the mechanics of colour wheels. Discussing typography, it's not about typefaces or sizes but about leading the reader into the information – aiding communication.

Unlike some of the other books reviewed, the examples used to illustrate this one show, and provide, a high degree of inspiration. They are fresh and exciting and sadly, all too rare in the normal course of Web surfing.

Anyone will benefit from reading this book but it will be appreciated most by students of graphic design.

MTIV: Process, Inspiration and Practice for the New Media Designer

Author: Hillman Curtis
Publisher: New Riders
ISBN: 0-7357-1165-8
Price: $45 (Amazon $31.50)

Self-Promotion OnLine

Ilise Benun

self-promotion onlone

Okay, you've produced a wonderful Web site – clean, fast code and stunning graphics and you put it up on the server for the World to see. You tell your friends and they say "WOW!" Getting the rest of the World to look and say "WOW!" is another story entirely.

This book is about what you do after you've put the site up – how to promote it, how to market it. It is aimed at graphic designers and is presented with a high degree of pizzazz to be bang on target – well, that's what marketing is all about so it shouldn't be a big surprise.

The author demonstrates great insight into all those 'common sense' things so often overlooked. "Design your site for your visitors, not for yourself", may seem very obvious but the difference between 'visually communicative design' and 'self expressive art or illustration' is crucial and not always understood.

Going further, the book explains about how to present yourself, how to set up links and get listed in directories and search engines. It tells how to do email marketing without being labelled 'spammer'. It talks about fishing for new clients and keeping on good terms with them once the business has been 'landed'.

There is so much more to this book than I can mention in a short review. It is packed with excellent information and beautifully presented. Very highly recommended.

Self-Promotion Online

Author: Ilise Benun
Publisher: North Light Books
ISBN: 1-58180-069-X
Price: $29.99 (Amazon $20.99)

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