Read this Book First

The first book you should read if you are getting ready to setup a commercial website.
Web Style Guide 3rd Edition

If you need to design a commercial website, this is the book you need to read first.

These days the computer shelf at your local book store hosts a cornucopia of books on an alphabet soup of subjects like Drupal, Ruby, PHP, HTML, CSS, OOP, WordPress, PERL, MySQL, JavaScript, and so on. In the last six months, I have purchased dozens of these books. Many of them spend pages and pages showing the reader how to click on the “File” and “New” commands. Others, dive into dense text on exactly where to put the semicolon. None of them provide anything resembling a useful overview about what one might actually want to do and why one might want to do it.

I also tried buying some web design magazines. For some reason, these magazines all seem to come from the United Kingdom. These magazines contain breathless articles about how HTML will allow you to make fire-breathing dragons leap out of the user’s screen. Other articles contain elaborate instructions for setting garish green text on pink backgrounds. None of these magazines actually say anything useful about Design

I have worked in the tech industry for thirty years now. I have spent most of that team either designing software or leading teams that designed software. I have written innumerable technical specifications and spent a lot of time coaching younger engineers in specification writing technique. My main focus in such coaching is usually to get the young engineer to write less about “what” and write more about “why”. The details of “what” of a design tend to be out of date by the time the product is released; the value of “what” specification tends to drop rapidly. On the other hand, “why” documentation tends to maintain its value as new generations of engineers have to add to an existing product and scratch their heads trying to understand why certain tools were chosen or certain design approaches were taken.

Web Style Guide 3rd Edition is a wonderful “why” book. This book walks the reader through the process of identifying design goals for a web site. The book then explains the pros and cons of different technologies and design approaches. The book does not get bogged down in the intricate details of any one technology. The subjects covered are fascinating. Topics include Gestalt psychology, management of contrast, cognitive effects of different typesetting approaches, and many more. This is definitely the book you want to read before you read any of the other detailed books on any one technology.

By the way, the full text of the book is also available for reading on line at:
http://webstyleguide.com/wsg3/index.html

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