Design Suggestions

Can anyone recommend some good books or other resources for design? I have the technical part down pretty well, but need to hone my artistic sensibilities.

First and foremost, get “Designing Web Usability” by Jakob Nielsen.

It’s not about artistic design so much as making usable interfaces for people to get things done in, navigate, etc. IMHO this is the #1 thing all designers should learn and focus on before they charge for their talents.

You can pick it up at your local bookstore, Amazon, and so on.

  • Jeff @ DreamHost
  • DH Discussion Forum Admin


Web Style Guide: Basic Design Principles for Creating Web Sites ISBN 0-300-07675-4 (also availble online:, although basic, has some good page design and site organization information.


jim losby | |

First and foremost ignore everything Jakob says. Web design is not black and white no matter how much Jakob says it is. Plus, he is a consultant. He wants to push ideas and then have people pay his company to implement them. No one person has the answer, and folks should be wary of anyone who claims they do. Besides, the guy can’t even dress himself in an eye-pleasing fashion. :wink:

Go to a book store and look at what is offered. Pick them up and skim them to see which one makes you feel most comfortable. Also look at the tutorial sites of places list Webmonkey, A List Apart, and community design groups such as Webdesign-l

You’re right in that design is not black and white, but I think good design incorporates good usability. Remember, Jakob isn’t even claiming to be a good designer in the sense of making good looking web sites, he’s claiming to be a good designer in making usable sites.

As a web user, I’d much rather have an easy to use web site than a pretty but largely useless web site. Just my opinion though. :>

But you’re right, a good balanced approach is best. Just don’t forget good usability principles in the process.

  • Jeff @ DreamHost
  • DH Discussion Forum Admin

I think Jakob Nielsen makes some good points, but he’s a bit of a fanatic, and it doesn’t help that his own site is about the ugliest thing on the entire web.

It was his article on “The End of Web Design” that seemed to make him public enemy number one to web designers (see USEIT or LOSEIT for some examples – my personal favourite is the Dancing Jakob Nielsen). Basically, he argued that web design was a completely invalid idea and that all sites should do is provide information, and leave it totally up to the end user how they would view that information. Not the sort of thing anyone wants to hear when they’ve dedicated their life/career to excellence in that particular art… (There’s a spoof of that specific column at, BTW.)

The thing is, Nielsen’s vision of a purely utilitarian, information-based web devoid of artistry would only work in a world populated by isolated left-brain-hemispheres. As long as people have emotions as well as logic, and are capable of perceiving beauty and being awed or excited by things, we are not going to see “the end of web design” any time soon.

Now, getting back to the original question, the number one book I’d recommend on web design principles is Robin Williams’ The Non-Designer’s Web Book. Witty, down-to-earth, and a lot of very good advice on how to make your site something people will actually want to look at.


“First and foremost, get “Designing Web Usability” by Jakob Nielsen.”

I think anyone new to webdesign can benifit from glancing at his book, but I wouldn’t buy it. 40 bucks is a little much. Plus, much of what he says is geared towards business sites. Personal sites generally have a little more space to work in as far as design principles.

I whole heartedly disagree… whil Nielsen’s book should be on your list to read, it most definitely should not be first.

Read a real design book by a (semi-)contemporary print designer first. Learn composition. (David Carson, Kyle Cooper, Neville Brody, etc)

Then… Read Edward Tufte’s three excellent books on visual displays of quantitative information such a charts, graphs and interface. You will gain insight as to how to place a substantial bit of information into a usable package.

Afterwards pick up a book on motion and and animation (Hillman Curtis, Joshua Davis, film books are also good) As the web most certainly needs motion to remove monotony and also give motor clues as to how your site(s) work.

Then, maybe you could look back on Nielsen again and give him a good read. Take it in. But do not fall prey to his beliefs in purely functional non-design.

You will be lost then. Good luck.

The key to always remember is:

THINK OUT OF THE BOX when it comes to web design!

Stay current on WCW’s HTML concerns. The world wide waste is forever changing!!!

If you don’t know HTML code by hand, I recommend using WYSIWYG’s programs like Dreamweaver 4.0, Adobe Phtoshop 6.0, Adobe Illustrator 8.0.
I don’t recommend any of Microsoft’s FrontPage versions. They have security holes in there coding and most browsers don’t recognize their extensions.

  • jakob nielson is not a designer and will not teach you how to design a website. he may help you to consider usability, however, usability truly depends on the audience of your site.

-books on webdesign are fairly useless. this medium is in such rapid flux, investing in books is not a wise choice. rather, why not just surf online for information. online resouces are endless.

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