Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Five Web Design Books Every Creative Marketer Should Own

Part three of five.

As content and creative markers, we need to be polymaths. A part of that is embracing, at least, a common knowledge of the disciplines surrounding us and our output. I worked directly on the web for a long time, creating eCommerce sites and SEO copy for an eclectic array of products and services, both in-house and in agency. Many of these books I’ve picked up on my travels and had recommended by folks I respect, from UX experts to web developers, and their words of wisdom have stood me in good stead.


Even if you’re just speaking with external web agencies, creating approachable content for search engines, want to create compelling web copy, or may be diligently posting thought-leadership to WordPress, we need to (at bare minmum) understand the basics of good web design theory. While you’re here, and to further broaden horizons, please also consider my thoughts on my favorite Graphic Design Books, Marketing Theory Books, Copywriting Books, and Film Production Books. Some of the books below will invariably cross into the realms of design and psychology, but that’s the nature of the web design beast.


Design is Storytelling by Ellen Lupton

Design goes beyond showing off our brand's traits, creating navigation, or displaying what we think our audience likes. It plays a huge role in people's feelings, guides their choices, and molds their view of what we offer. Is this strictly web design? I don’t care. A smart design can make a packet of biscuits seem tastier and healthier than it actually is, boost someone's focus, or even stir up anxiety—which applies to the web as much as it applies anywhere else. It's all about the impact our design has on the viewer. Lupton effortlessly breaks down complex theory into engaging, bite-sized lessons. She explores the psychology behind design through storytelling, offering insights for everyone, from filmmakers to web professionals. With principles given context, she illustrates these models in action, making it a must-read for anyone interested in the hidden power of design.


A web designer bookshelf indispensable for under £12, it includes the essentials of visual storytelling, the impact of color on emotions, and the intriguing principles of behavioral economics. It’s worth it for a clear definition of the "rule of threes," to which I thoroughly subscribe, a powerful storytelling and design principle she puts in cultural and historical context, from ancient myths to modern advertising. 


Laws of UX by Jon Yablonski

In 12 insightful chapters, Yablonski demystifies design laws and theories with clear examples from familiar digital interfaces like Facebook and Twitter [X]. This is a great read for designers who want to get a grasp on how users psychologically engage with digital platforms. 


Effective design should simplify user goals and enhance positive interactions, and it acknowledges that while complexity can't always be eliminated, it can be managed to make the user's journey smoother. With a light, approachable style, it’s a fantastic intro to UX principles and a convenient refresher on design theories. It's a quick, enriching read and a perfect guide for anyone looking to further their understanding of the user experience. 


I picked this up off a colleague's desk and inadvertently never returned it (sorry, Jon). It's not a cheap one, but if you take your time, you can find it for under £30 on eBay, and it should be a staple of any web agency library.


Web Designers Idea Book by Patrick McNeil

"Web Designer's Idea Book," available (used) on Amazon for under a fiver, is a visual feast and creative companion, packed with over 700 website designs sorted by themes like layout, color, and style. Cherry-picked from Mr. McNeil’s vast online catalog of examples, it’s the perfect tool for sparking ideas and being able to say, “No, I mean like this.” The designs are categorized for easy browsing and brainstorming sessions, and it’s a treasure trove when consulting with colleagues or clients. Grab this one when kicking off new projects; it’ll keep the inspiration flowing.


Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug

I’ve bought at least four copies of this book, in its various iterations and revisions, and given all of them away or lent them to the needy, never to be seen again. When I briefly lectured on web usability, it was on my required reading list (and still is). Not being able to find a copy on my shelves, at the time of writing, actually makes me a little anxious. 


Easily one of the best work-related books I've read, it's aimed at those looking for the core fundamentals of user experience design and content strategy. A clarion call for the path of least resistance in navigation and messaging, it’s chock full of indispensable wisdom. It’s a breezy read that practices what it preaches, and I find myself mulling on its principles with regularity, especially as the face of our web design best practices when talking to designers and our external web agency. 


Get the latest version; it’ll be worth it. And pick me up another copy while y’there.


Web Design Playground by Paul McFedries

The full title of this book is “Web Design Playground: HTML & CSS The Interactive Way,” but I didn’t want to put you off. Trust me, this is the perfect starting point if you're new to web design. It’s a surprisingly entertaining, interactive guide that takes us from the basics of HTML and CSS to the more advanced tricks of the trade. Through these pages, we get to play around with actual code, building our own web pages as we go, and there are questions after each chapter to check our progress and drive things home. Yours for under a fiver on World of Books. Do it.

If you have opinions, and I hope the suggestions above stimulate the creative juices, feel free to grab me for a chat and connect on Threads or LinkedIn. If you know of other web-related books I should have in my TBR pile, I’d love to hear about them. I can always put up more shelves.

Also in this series:

5 Writing Books

5 Film Production Books

5 Marketing and Psychology Books

5 Art and Design Books