Book Review: Principles of Beautiful Web Design

Book cover of Principles of Beautiful Web Design by Jason BeairdI remember first seeing a copy of this book while bowling in Austin Texas (it was the now annual Avalonstar Bowling Extravaganza) and Team SitePoint were there in force, offering some gifts on the night; one of those gifts was a copy of this book – hot off the press and speedily couriered to the US for the event. I flicked through the hallowed copy and made appropriately approving noises. This was a marked departure from SitePoint's previous books (mine included), featuring as it did colour pages, a new cover design and a different shape/format.

Finally I have a copy for myself and I have to say that I am impressed with the book. Sometimes I sit on books (and I mean that metaphorically, not literally) for a long time before getting around to reading them, but once I had this book I kept flicking through over a few days. Not once did it feel like a hard slog, it was just a nice, gentle introduction to web design at a fairly high level.

This book does not teach you CSS or HTML, nor does it teach you JavaScript, AJAX or anything of that sort – it's about principles of design, how to use colour effectively, layout ideas, textures, typography. All the way through, the principles are backed up with examples – and very good example sites at that – as well as a case study of a site build.
Despite having been in this game for a while, I know that my markup and coding skills are stronger than my design skills and so I found this to be a great refresher course. However, I think that this would be a good book for anyone who's just starting out in web design, especially for people with a more creative slant than a technical one. My only grumble about the book is the author's advice regarding blockquote:

For isolation of content consider the blockquote element. This element indents the left and right hand side of any text placed within it, purposely breaking the continuation lines of the page content and drawing attention to itself.

10,000 copies sold in first monthNo, no, no. Naughty Mr Beaird. You use CSS to draw attention and format in this way – the blockquote element is for quotation purposes only. (I suspect that the author has heard this comment a few times – so difficult to correct once it's in print!)

Overall, then, a great book to get the basic principles, and one that can be referred back to once you've read it for some general design direction, but don’t buy the book if you’re looking to learn coding. That's not what it's for.

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Title The Principles of Beautiful Web Design
Where to buy Buy from Amazon US, Amazon UK
Publisher SitePoint
Written by     Jason Beaird
ISBN 978-0-9758419-6-9