Tips for Choosing the Right Web Design Book

Filter through the available titles to find the right one for your needs.

Book and coffee cup
Choosing the right web design book is important. Jeremy Girard

Sustaining a successful career as a web designer means committing to ongoing education. One of the ways that web professionals can stay on top of an industry that is always changing is by reading some of the excellent books that are available on the subject – but with so many titles to choose from, how do you know which ones deserve your attention? Here are some tips to help you determine which titles you should add to your library and which ones should remain on the bookstore shelf.

Decide What You Want to Learn

The first step in choosing the right web design is deciding what it is that you want to learn. Web design is a very large subject and no single book will cover every aspect of the profession, so titles typically focus on specific aspects of website design. One book may focus on responsive web design, while another may be dedicated to web typography. Others may cover the various search engine optimization techniques that should be included on a site. Each book wil have a different focus and subject matter, and the right one for you will depend on the specific areas of the industry that you are interested in learn more about.

Research the Author

For many web design books, the author of the title is as much of a draw as the subject matter. Many web professionals who decide to write a book also publish regularly online (I do this on my own website). They may also speak at industry events and conferences.

An author’s other writing and speaking allow you to easily research them to see what their style is and how they present content. If you enjoy reading their blog or the articles they contribute to other online magazines, or if you saw one of their presentations and greatly enjoyed it, then there is a pretty good chance that you will also find value in the books that they author.

Look at the Publication Date

The web design industry is constantly changing. As such, many books that were published even a short time ago may be outdated quickly as new techniques rise to the forefront of our profession. A book that was released 5 years ago may not be relevant to the current state of web design. Of course, there are many exceptions to this rule and there are a number of titles that, despite some content that may be in need of an update, have ultimately stood the test of time. Books like Steve Krug’s “Don’t Make Me Think” or Jeffrey Zeldman’s “Designing With Web Standards” were both originally released many years ago, but are still very relevant today. Both of those books have released updated editions, but even the originals are still highly relevant, which shows that the publication date of a book can be used as a guide, but it should not be taken as concrete evidence of whether or not a book is valuable for your current needs.

Check Online Reviews

One of the ways that you can assess whether a book, new or old, is a good one is to see what other people are saying about it. Online reviews can give you some insight into what to expect from a title, but not all reviews will be relevant to you.

Someone who wanted something different than you did from a book may review the title negatively, but since your needs are different than theirs, their problems with the book may not matter to you. Ultimately, you want to use reviews as one way to assess the quality of a title, but like the publication date of the book, reviews should be a guide that help you make a decision, not the ultimate deciding factor.

Try a Sample

Once you have filtered book titles down based on subject matter, author, reviews, and any other factors that help you narrow down your search, you may want to give the book a try before you make a purchase. If you are buying a digital copy of the book, you may be able to download a few sample chapters. In some cases, like with the A Book Apart titles, sample chapters are often published online so you can read a little of the book and get a sense of the style and content before you purchase the title.

If you are buying a physical copy of a book, you can sample the title by visiting a local bookstore and reading a chapter or two. Obviously, for this to work, the store must have the title in stock, but may stores will order a title for you if you really want to try it before you buy it.

Edited by Jeremy Girard on 1/24/17