Web Design

The 7 books you need to read to learn web design

STUDIO

So, you want to learn web design but have no idea where to start. To become a good web designer, there are many skills you need to master: from general aesthetics, to web concepts, to how to use professional software. It may be overwhelming for someone who just started exploring the idea and many people unfortunately give up at this stage.

The good news is: you don’t necessarily need to go to school to learn web design. Self study is a realistic if not more effective option, and thankfully there are plenty of online and offline resources to help you achieve your goals.

Books about Web Design

In this article I am going to introduce you to 7 books about web design: reading all of them, while taking time to apply the knowledge gained on real life web projects, will give you an in-depth introduction to the subject.

The basic knowledge needed to become a web designer can be divided into 4 main categories: Design Principles, Illustrator & Photoshop, HTML & CSS, Javascript & jQuery. Learning about web development (the latter two categories) rather than just design is not compulsory and depends totally on your personal preferences and career plan.

Design Principles

Design principles are not limited to web design: they concern general guidelines that help make all visual materials such as digital presentations, brochures, printed materials, easy to understand yet visually appealing. Additionally, design principles can apply to everyday situations such as furnishing your house or putting an outfit together, so it is useful knowledge that will definitely come in handy in all kinds of situations.

What’s more, by learning design principles you will realize how interesting design is, which will motivate you even more to study web design!

1 - The Non-Designer’s Design Book, Robin Williams

“Once you can name something, you’re conscious of it. You have power over it. You’re in control. You own it.” ― Robin P. Williams, The Non-Designer's Design Book

Non-designers-design-book

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This book was first publish more than 20 years ago, yet its content stays impressively relevant today and it’s still widely regarded as reference for design principles. Robin Williams introduces four easy to understand concepts that can be applied to web design: contrast, repetition, alignment and proximity.

When making style, color, typography and layout decision these four principles will certainly help you make a sensitive decision based not only on personal taste, but also on well agreed standards.

2 - Universal Principles of Design Revisited, William Widwell

“Simplicity is achieved when everyone can easily understand and use the design, regardless of experience, literacy, or concentration level.” ― William Lidwell, Universal Principles of Design

universal principles of design

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Useful for anyone in the creative industry from architects, to artists including of course designers, this book introduces 100 design concepts applicable to any visual discipline. The best thing about it is that every explanation is accompanied by practical examples and illustrations, making it an easy and enjoyable read even for non-experts.

3 - Don’t Make Me Think, Steve Krug

“Get rid of half the words on each page, then get rid of half of what’s left.” ― Steve Krug, Don't Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability

don't make me think book cover

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Unlike the previous two titles, this book is thought specifically for web designers and it can be considered “the” reference for beginners and professionals alike, having been read by more than 400,000 people since its publication. It focuses mainly on intuitive navigation and information architecture, in other words accessibility and usability, as cornerstones of good web design, rather than on aesthetic principles.
Krug’s funny yet concise and clear writing style make it an entertaining and quick read that should be a must on your bookshelf.

Illustrator & Photoshop

Both Illustrator and Photoshop, as well as a variety of other web design software such as Sketch and Invision, are widely utilized to create a prototype of the website design before it is converted into a real website with code. You don’t need to learn all of them: just take some time looking at the differences and finding the one that you feel most at ease with.

Obviously, just reading a book won’t help you get the practical skills needed to use the software nor to create acceptable design: as with anything else, not only theory but a lot of practice is needed for you to get there, so following Adobe’s free online tutorials and practicing on the actual software is advisable.

However, books can also be a good reference and they make it easier to concentrate for some people as you don’t have the option to constantly open new tabs and check facebook while you’re learning!

4 - Adobe Illustrator CC Classroom in a Book, Brian Wood &

5 - Adobe Photoshop CC Classroom in a Book, Andrew Faulkner

Both official books published by the Adobe creative teams, they are the most comprehensive and practical books on the subject. Other than reading the book itself, you will be able to complete some projects (a sort of ‘homework’) that will give you hands-on experience with the software and ensure that you really absorb the concepts introduced in the books.

adobe Illustrator CC classroom in a book cover

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adobe Photoshop CC classroom in a book cover

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HTML & CSS

HTML & CSS are the standard web languages required to develop any website, from the most basic to the most advanced. Just the same as with web design tools, learning to code using HTML & CSS requires a lot of practical experience but books can be a useful reference.

6 - HTML & CSS: Design and Build websites, Jon Duckett

 HTML & CSS: Design and Build websites, Jon Duckett

Most books about programming and computer languages can seem intimidating, out of date and boring. This particular one has been praised by many beginners as being extremely relevant and easy to understand, without being monotonous.

Rather than lines and lines of plain text, the information is laid out in a visually appealing way and accompanied by rich infographics and pictures.

Javascript & jQuery

While HTML & CSS help you create the aesthetic, static part of a website, when it comes to any user interaction (such as clicks and pop-ups) or data storage function Javascript and jQuery are required.

It’s good to keep in mind that Javascript is a very powerful language that is not used only for web development but also to build complex web apps: you won’t need to learn everything about it, it will be ok to stick to its website development application.

7 - JavaScript and jQuery: Interactive Front-End Web Development, Jon Duckett

 JavaScript and jQuery: Interactive Front-End Web Development

By the same author as the previous HTML & CSS books, Duckett does a great job making front end web development concepts accessible even though the difficulty definitely takes a step up.

Conclusion

Not everyone has the time or money to go to web design school: you might be thinking of a career change or you might be thinking of taking on web design project in your activity as freelancer. Luckily there are plenty of resources both online and offline to learn cheaply and at your own pace, as long as you have the motivation to do so. With the books we introduced in this article, you will surely have a solid foundation for your web design skills!