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The Principles of Beautiful Web Design

samzenpus posted more than 7 years ago | from the make-it-pretty dept.

Book Reviews 209

Trent Lucier writes "Fellow programmers, beware! Graphic designers have been invading our territory. A flood of books have been released aimed at artists who want to learn web development skills. Oh, it starts innocently enough, usually with CSS and XHTML. But soon they are learning JavaScript, PHP, and even SQL! What have we techies fought back with? What material is there for us to boost our artistic right-brain power? Sadly, our motley collection of Gimp tutorials alone will not win this battle. We need something stronger. We need to understand the principles of graphic design. But the shelves have been empty of books that make this topic accessible to tech-minded people. Well, empty until now." Read below for the rest of Trent's review.The Principles of Beautiful Web Design by Jason Beaird is aimed at developers who want to learn how to make websites look more attractive. The 5 chapters each cover one of the pillars of graphic design theory: Layout, Color, Texture, Typography, and Imagery. Full-color and packed with lots of great examples, the book contains screenshots from dozens of modern websites to illustrate graphic design principles. A cumulative case-study ends each chapter, where the author shows you how the theories he just explained can be applied to a real site he is developing for a client.

Except for some CSS sprinkled here and there, the book contains no code. Don't look for tips on creating 3-column layouts or other stylesheet wizardry, because you won't find it here. The author assumes that you know how to take an image mock-up and convert it into an HTML/CSS document. This is a strong point of the book, since the focus can remain on graphic design techniques and not unnecessary code listings Additionally, there isn't much discussion of tool usage. A few examples use Photoshop, but the book focuses mostly on theory and case studies, not step-by-step program tutorials.

The book starts with Layout and Composition. If you have ever wondered why some websites just look better organized than others, this chapter will explain why. Beaird discusses the concepts of grid theory, and how using the golden ratio to divide page elements can improve the visual appeal. Plenty of examples are given that illustrate the principles of balance, unity, and emphasis.

The Color chapter contains my favorite example, where Beaird uses different versions of the same drawing to describe monochromatic, analogous, and complementary colors. As with the previous chapter on layout, this part of the book does an excellent job of teaching you how to learn from attractive websites, instead of mindlessly imitating them. Color is a hard topic to understand, but there are some good tips here that teach readers how to create an appealing palette for a website.

Relying solely on solid colors and grid layouts can make a website look flat. The Texture chapter discusses ways to use style and make your designs much more eye catching. This chapter is probably the most "Web 2.0" chapter in the book. Gel buttons, gradients, and backgrounds are all discussed.

To the dismay of typophiles everywhere, font support on the web is very poor. There are very few "web safe" fonts that designers can safely assume are on all computers. The Typography section shows readers how to make the most out of this situation by understanding letter spacing, justification, and font usage. Beaird also discusses the sIFR technique (Scalable Inman Flash Replacement), which uses Flash and Javascript to display fonts that may not be on the user's computer. The sIFR method is accessible and degrades gracefully. While the book does not discuss the specific implementation details of this method, just bringing it to my attention taught me something new.

Imagery is the subject of the final chapter, and the book ends on a disappointing note. Very little of this section is about the graphic design principles behind imagery. Rather, precious pages are dedicated to discussing various license agreements and tips on finding stock photos. This is useful information, but it should have been relegated to a sidebar at the most. The chapter focuses almost entirely on images as content and not as design elements. If you want to know how to make images in a blog post look pretty, there are some ideas here (drop-shadows, borders). But there is no information about how to work images into a page header or navigation menu. How do I determine if an image matches my color scheme? How can images spice up a design without going overboard? These were just some of the questions I had going into this chapter that were left unanswered. The Texture chapter hinted at these ideas with examples, but I wanted to see a deeper explanation of the underlying principles.

The book is a little short at 180 pages, but that's not as bad as it may seem. Those of us accustomed to reading 800-page tomes on programming tend to forget how much content can be packed into a book when the author doesn't have to waste 300 pages listing code, 200 pages on the API, and 150 pages on an index.

The Principles of Beautiful Web Design is a good book to kick start your graphic-design journey. The biggest benefit that I got from this book is the knowledge to learn from great designs as opposed to just admiring them in a state of awe. The book could have been a little longer, and some of the topics could have been discussed in more detail. This book won't teach you everything, but it's a good place to start and it will leave you excited about learning more.

Trent Lucier is a software engineer. He is the creator of ChessUp, a tool for creating chess diagrams online.


You can purchase The Principles of Beautiful Web Design from amazon.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.

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209 comments

Give me Edward Tufte (3, Insightful)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 7 years ago | (#18127414)

Anyday

Re:Give me Edward Tufte (3, Insightful)

Doctor Memory (6336) | more than 7 years ago | (#18127606)

Tufte doesn't say squat about web design. He doesn't really get into page or content design at all. He's all about the presentation of data, and how to try to turn it into information. He'll tell you that you should stick to primary colors or simple textures, but he'd try to dissuade you from adding a drop shadow to your graphic (indeed, from even adding a graphic if it wasn't intimately related to the data set you were trying to present).

He's the man if you're trying to present data, but if you want to present text or other non-numeric information, he's not much help.

Re:Give me Edward Tufte (3, Interesting)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 7 years ago | (#18127740)

That's the whole point. I would prefer a clear and informative website rather than someone elses interpretation of 'beautiful', because we all know beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Re:Give me Edward Tufte (3, Insightful)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 7 years ago | (#18127778)

I would prefer a clear and informative website rather than someone elses interpretation of 'beautiful'...

Amen. If you want art, go to an art gallery. I want websites to be clean, functional, easy-to-navigate, and more importantly, I want to be able to find the information I'm looking for without having to hunt through and around annoying graphics and being subjected to vomit-inducing color schemes.

Re:Give me Edward Tufte (4, Insightful)

fbjon (692006) | more than 7 years ago | (#18128034)

Humans share a lot of common points in their interpretations of beautiful. These can be learned, and exploited. Don't kid yourself, beautiful is always better than ugly.

Re:Give me Edward Tufte (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18128210)

beautiful is always better than ugly.

But never better than useful, useable, clear, available, working - in fact, beauty is WAAAAAAAAY down the list

Tragically, this hasn't sunk in for most web designers.

Re:Give me Edward Tufte (1)

fbjon (692006) | more than 7 years ago | (#18128354)

Of the things you mentioned I would say:
  • useful: can be assumed (otherwise you might as well not make the page)
  • clear: IMHO intrinsic to beautiful
  • available, working: not related to the topic
  • useable: in other words,useful and non-convoluted, i.e. clear

Re: Eye of the Beholder (5, Funny)

andrewd18 (989408) | more than 7 years ago | (#18128464)

Wow! You're saying that I could get a +1 modifier to my Charisma if I carry a Beholder Eye in my knapsack? That's an extra use of Turn Undead per day!

It's not about you... (5, Insightful)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | more than 7 years ago | (#18128618)

...not trying to sound cliche. Unless you are developing a web site for you to look at exclusively.

I do agree with you that a clear, easy to navigate site is important... who wouldn't agree with that? But at the same time, an overwhelming number of the average public are attracted more to graphics containing 'cool' looking web sites than 'Plain Jane' web sites. The web sites that are trying to sell or advertise a product or service to the general public need to appeal to the general public. That is one of the reasons why web sites are redesigned so often, to attract new people. It can't be 'cool' unless it is new and on the 'bleading edge'. As far as 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder': the people creating the site, if they really know what they are doing, know their target audience. They will appeal to what they know the majority of that group finds beautiful. But most people belong in that big general public demographic...

Another reason it needs to be fancy is that it shows the viewers that there is something behind the web site. They will assume that there are people willing to invest time (=money) in the site design, meaning they are looking at something that is likely to be more legitimate (we all make assumptions in life... we have to). When people see a product being advertised on a text only web page and an equivalent product on a 'cool' web site complete with good graphics, they will usually go for the product with a well designed graphics laden site. And I am not talking about some horrible mishmash of graphics put together by someone using their windows front page lite or whatever the hell windows comes with these days. It's basically like the reason you wear a suite or good clothes to a client's site. To make a good impression.

Re:It's not about you... (2, Insightful)

FLEB (312391) | more than 6 years ago | (#18128846)

Visual beauty will only get you so far. The most visually beautiful site that lacks structure and informational layout would simply aggravate anyone who tried to use it. In fact, I would have to say that at least a small amount of interface design and structure is necessary for a site (or any other publication) to achieve beauty. The structured human mind finds beauty in geometry, structure, regularity, and ease. Now, wrap that with only as much graphic flashery as is needed, and you've got something respectable.

Actually, I find myself wary of the sites that are obvious templates, as those tend to be more fly-by-night. Decent layout, but peppered with irrelevant stock photos of power-businessfolk and boilerplate obtuse English phrases that should have been swapped before going live ("We are the company to make your success!"), and pointless Flash with flying dots and squares-- those are the ones to look out for.

Re:It's not about you... (1)

vanyel (28049) | more than 6 years ago | (#18129422)

Visual beauty will only get you so far.

Just as with people, beauty is what gets people's attention. You have to provide something useful, without being too much of a burden, to keep it.

Re:Give me Edward Tufte (3, Interesting)

T3kno (51315) | more than 6 years ago | (#18129152)

I would argue that functionality is also in the eye of the beholder. Our brains work differently, which is why we all have preferences in art, music, etc... including functionality. Certain sites, designed by very well paid people make absolutely no sense to me, I for one hate Amazon's interface, but that's me. Obviously they spent a lot of money and research time to develop a site that works for most people, to my eyes it pretty much sucks.

Re:Give me Edward Tufte (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18128106)

...but if you want to present text or other non-numeric information, he's not much help.
Not true. "The Visual Display Of Quantitative Information" is (generally) about the presentation of numeric data, but the other books are less about data and more about presenting ideas. He's not what you would call a graphic designer, but you can learn quite a bit from him about how to present information

Re:Give me Edward Tufte (2, Interesting)

PhoenixSnow (994523) | more than 6 years ago | (#18129078)

I just went to E. Tufte's one day class yesterday. It was not as useful as it'd been hyped up to be. However, I don't think he was just all about numbers. He did have a great deal of knowledge on how to present the information in general. The main component that's lacking in his books/class was understanding of the users as an average person on the street with no scientific background. He actually said, " yeah it's good to know your audience but it really doesn't matter." and he was all about 'high resolution' data. In my opinion, there's such a thing as reducing the resolution (by resolution, he means data/information) for the sake of clarity. From all the books I've read, Robin William's Non-Designer's Design Book is probably the most effective book to teach myself some visual and graphic design. Another good one is Steve Krug's 'Don't make me think'. But it's more web design than graphic design. The old classic 'Design of Everyday Things' is very dry and it probably was really useful when most people didn't know the usability fundamentals. But now, it just seems like everyone already knows the basic principles and it's not adding much more value anymore.

Amazon's got it cheaper (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18127470)

Slashdot has linked to B & N here, but it seems Amazon has it cheaper [amazon.com] , just look at the New portion of the "Used and new..." listings.

Re:Amazon's got it cheaper (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18128986)

Well, hello there 363636-20, nice to see you back spamming slashdot with your referer codes as you do in every fucking book review. I almost feel like I know you.

PS: Suck my hairy balls.

Re:Amazon's got it cheaper (1)

mr_mischief (456295) | more than 6 years ago | (#18129382)

Hmmm... it looks to me like the review already had a link to Amazon, too. So 363636-20 is not just a spammer but a liar too.

Slashdot is (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18127474)

a great example....

Great example of what? (2, Funny)

spun (1352) | more than 7 years ago | (#18127912)

A way to waste time? Dork herd behavior? What happens when you get a bunch of pontificating windbags all on the same message board?

Slashdot is a great example of something, that's for sure.

I keed, I keed...

Ah...That explains... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18127512)

the beautiful but crapily (yes that's a technical term) coded websites that are out there!

Re:Ah...That explains... (2, Interesting)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 7 years ago | (#18127906)

That's right. Coders will be called in sooner or later to fix up the abortions that web designers create.

Just to be fair (3, Insightful)

spun (1352) | more than 7 years ago | (#18128162)

Web designers will be called in sooner or later to fix the artistic abortions that coders create. And then user-interface designers will be called in to fix the usability mistakes of both.

Re:Ah...That explains... (1, Insightful)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 7 years ago | (#18128188)

I'd say an artist could learn to become a great programmer much easier than a programmer could learn to become a great artist.

Both require a working brain, but only one requires a working soul.

The life I've lived, the things I've done and have not yet done, qualify me to make this statement.

Re:Ah...That explains... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18128384)

Amen! I'm getting tired of seeing all these comments about designers encroaching on the programmer's territory. Yet, what's the biggest complaint about F/OSS? Horribly designed UIs. Designers can become programmers. The converse is very rarely true, though.

Re:Ah...That explains... (2, Insightful)

mr_mischief (456295) | more than 6 years ago | (#18129200)

Bullshit. Some people are great at both. Some people are great at design. Some are great at programming. Some suck at one or both. Some are mediocre at one or both.

Even within the art realm, some are great at design but not drawing or painting. Others can draw a picture really well but can't ever seem to do a print layout or web page. Some can do both.

Some people can act. Others can sing. Others dance. Some can do it all, and are the leads in musicals.

Some people can shoot. Some can blow stuff up. Some can swim really well. Some can skydive. Some are Navy Seals.

Some people act really well. Some people are really funny. Some people write really well. Some people are good improv comedy actors.

See a pattern? In short, any practitioner of one discipline saying that to shift to another discipline is much easier than the opposite is likely either in the wrong field to start or is just pumping up an ego like a balloon.

Maybe we'll finally see... (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 7 years ago | (#18127516)

...some Cubist web pages.

http://www.satirewire.com/charts/cubist.shtml [satirewire.com]

Re:Maybe we'll finally see... (3, Funny)

Phisbut (761268) | more than 7 years ago | (#18127752)

...some Cubist web pages.

We already have this one page [timecube.com] about cube stuff. We don't need a single more, you dog brain student.

sIFR is annoying (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18127526)

The sIFR method is accessible and degrades gracefully.

No, it replaces text with Flash objects. This means it breaks right-clicking and other various annoyances. Sure, it works when JavaScript and Flash are unavailable, but it makes things worse when it actually works. Oh, but it lets arty types use their favourite fonts, so it must be good.

Re:sIFR is annoying (2, Informative)

Paulrothrock (685079) | more than 7 years ago | (#18127820)

Re:sIFR is annoying (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18128206)

Nope. That's bad in different ways. It doesn't scale properly, you can't select the text properly, it doesn't wrap when necessary, etc.

Perhaps if it was done in SVG, it wouldn't be quite so much of a fuckup. But right now, when you want text, please use actual text.

Re:sIFR is annoying (1)

Zaiff Urgulbunger (591514) | more than 7 years ago | (#18128516)

If sIFR is what is used on the 123-Reg [123-reg.co.uk] website, then it's total pants. On Firefox on Ubuntu, it just slows everything down and doesn't always render correctly anyway.

Re:sIFR is annoying (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#18128630)

Actually, sIFR really doesn't work very well. Text typically looks different in different browsers, perhaps appearing in odd locations. And making new faces does NOT work by the directions (they make it sound like you just open the flash file and double click in the box but it usually takes two double-clicks and you have to be sure to get the insertion point out of the box or it shows up on your page.

Don't feel too threatened (2, Interesting)

cstec (521534) | more than 7 years ago | (#18127528)

Foruntately, artists are too busy creating art to consider either the user interface or usability. In fact, head to the nearest art show and it's practically the opposite. I think most art majors think the plan is to make the whackiest thing you can and then laugh at the viewers who don't get it...

Re:Don't feel too threatened (2, Interesting)

Brummund (447393) | more than 7 years ago | (#18128098)

Back in the wild 90's, the company I worked for built the web pages for the national railway company. This company has a deep blue color as its major color, and it is not possible to get this color on a 16 color display (as was the norm then) without dithering. In one of the preliminary meetings, the person in charge of corporate design/branding at this company had decided to show up.

The branding manager was outraged by the fact that this color could not be displayed properly on all computers, due to the primitive nature of graphics cards available at the time. 15 minutes into the meeting, I heard someone yell "YOU STUBBORN FSCKER," and our designer just left the meeting. This art guy had blamed our poor web designer for the fact that this was not possible.

Unfortunately, it took me 6 years to realize that web programming was a dead-end. No amount of money can convince me that spending one's life adjusting buttons 1 pixel at a time is something I'm going to look back to with joy when I'm retired.

(On a side note: It is amazing that this web 2.0 crap is hyped like hell. I got a book explaining techinques similar to "AJAX" from 1997, and a few of you might even remember Lotus Corp's InfoBus project.)

Just work your way down the tiers, preferably at tier 2 and downwards, and find happiness. Just remember: Life's too short to move pixels for people with sideburns and a highpitched voice.

Re:Don't feel too threatened (1)

4iedBandit (133211) | more than 7 years ago | (#18128180)

In my experience, programmers/developers design some of the worst interfaces. Doing something interface wise just because you can, or just because it looks cool very rarely makes the interface intuitive let alone useable.

Granted Designers also fail on this point. The only difference is they're concerned with the "look" and have no concept of usability.

Unfortunately programers/designers who have a good grasp os usability are few and far between.

Non-Designer's Design Book (5, Informative)

johnrpenner (40054) | more than 7 years ago | (#18127536)

'Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add,
    but rather when there is nothing more to take away'. (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)

as a technical writer for ten years, i've found the best book on the subject
for people who aren't designers is: Robin William's Non-Designer's Design Book [amazon.com] .

it covers the four basic principles of Design:

1) Proximity: Make sure than when you Poke button X, status indicator Y is PROXIMATE to X.

2) Alignment: Don't start things out on a new Arbitrary Visual Margin, reuse existing Bounding Rectangles to ALIGN things to each other.

3) Repetition: Don't use a different icon for the same thing; consistently use the same Motif throughout.

4) Contrast: If two elements are not exactly the same, make them distinguishably different.

all the best,
j [earthlink.net]

Argh, the flashbacks (2, Funny)

mihalis (28146) | more than 7 years ago | (#18127842)

consistently use the same Motif throughout

May I suggest a better rule? Mine would be Never use Motif

Chris

- helpful as ever

Re:Argh, the flashbacks (1)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 7 years ago | (#18127940)

Agreed. Straight-up xlib is a much nicer way of seeing the Web.

Re:Argh, the flashbacks (1)

mihalis (28146) | more than 7 years ago | (#18128682)

Agreed. Straight-up xlib is a much nicer way of seeing the Web.

I guess using other peoples Motif apps is tolerable, I appreciated Netscape on my linux box when it was all I could afford, but programming that stuff was a nightmare.

I actually did prefer my direct Xlib programming experience to my Motif-torture phase.

I remember when I tried to change the app-defaults for Netscape so that the key sequence for for Exit was different. Something like : Alt-Q is format paragraph in emacs (which I'm fairly used to) but exit in netscape, so when typing text into a web page instead of formatting my text I often lost it. Anyway, netscape crashed on me when i changed the app-defaults.

I'm not exactly in love with GTK either, but free GTK compared to $200 for the privilege of real Motif (back in 1997 or so) was definitely a no-brainer.

Re:Non-Designer's Design Book (1)

pdabbadabba (720526) | more than 7 years ago | (#18127868)

For some reason, I feel like I just discovered engineering in Civ 4...

Re:Non-Designer's Design Book (4, Funny)

pycnanthemum (175351) | more than 7 years ago | (#18127872)

I found the book by Robin Williams to be a great resource as well.

But I specifically remember her listing the design principles in a different and purposeful order:

Contrast
Repetition
Alignment
Proximity

...and I have never forgotten them! :-)

Re:Non-Designer's Design Book (1)

Dystopian Rebel (714995) | more than 7 years ago | (#18127882)

i've found the best book on the subject
for people who aren't designers is: Robin William's Non-Designer's Design Book.


Yes, this is from the period of his best work, when he was still doing lots of drugs.

Now look at him. His movie "Man Of The Year [rottentomatoes.com] " was a disappointment.

Re:Non-Designer's Design Book (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 7 years ago | (#18128478)

It fully lived up to my expectations.

Re:Non-Designer's Design Book (1)

Stamen (745223) | more than 7 years ago | (#18127960)

A very simple small book, that covers the basics. All developers that do any sort of UI should read it, and live it.

Proper visual design is easy and algorithmic, a programmer has absolutely no excuse creating a crap UI, when the rules of proper design are so few and so simple.

Re:Non-Designer's Design Book (1)

ObligatoryUserName (126027) | more than 7 years ago | (#18127964)

Just a comment about the quote that you started out your post with because it is so often misinterpreted: 'Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but rather when there is nothing more to take away'

Engineers seem be reading this as "use as many of the default values as possible". For example, not specifying a background color for a web page and just letting the browser's default value be used (grey in 1996, white today). Failing to specify visual design is not a minimalist design, it is design by abdication of responsibility. Only by luck would it ever produce the desired result, unless you were intending to convey a lack of consideration.

Re:Non-Designer's Design Book (1)

mblase (200735) | more than 7 years ago | (#18128218)

Heh. I came here just to mention Robin Williams' "Non-Designer's Design Book", and find that someone's beaten me to it. Guess that just goes to show how useful it is.

Seriously, any programmer who has to do ANY work outside of the command line can benefit from this book. It's about general design, not "just" web design, and can improve everything from your paper resume to your personal homepage. You can read it front to back in half an hour. Half the principles are so basic you wonder why you never thought of them yourself, and once you've learned what they are you'll never forget them again.

Re:Non-Designer's Design Book (1)

SnapShot (171582) | more than 7 years ago | (#18128222)

I agreed with you until you suggested using Motif; especially using it repetitively ;-)

hmm...so what? (1)

caffeinemessiah (918089) | more than 7 years ago | (#18127538)

a lot of "techies" don't have artistic ability, but would you really want an artist to design your perl scripts? a plumber can go to his local library and learn about prescription drugs, but you take his medical advice? people are good at different things. no artist is going to replace a techie's job unless they're also geeks, in which case calling them "artist" does not imply "not geek".

Re:hmm...so what? (2, Interesting)

DwarfGoanna (447841) | more than 7 years ago | (#18128230)

As a design student myself, I'm going to let you in on a secret: graphic design attracts a lot of really uncreative people, and this is why we're continually assaulted with bad graphic design. Don't get me wrong, there is really really good design out there, but only at the very top end do they crossover into "artist" territory. Sad but true. Now, what would be really interesting is someone with technical ability working in concert with an actual fine artist to produce the type of stuff designer largely half ass. Unfortunately, designers have wedged themselves in between the two fields.

Re:hmm...so what? (1)

L-Train8 (70991) | more than 6 years ago | (#18128736)

Lots of jobs could benefit from a little artistic knowledge. My father, who remodeled houses for a living, had this problem. He was very handy with drywall and carpet and cabinetry, but he would frequently pick out these garish paint colors that ended up making a room look hideous. I don't need my contractor to be Picasso, but I would like him to be able to pick out some pleasing paint and carpet colors. Likewise, someone with a little design knowledge and solid coding skills can certainly put together a better website than someone with solid coding skills and no design knowledge.

Nurses know everything (1)

Latent Heat (558884) | more than 6 years ago | (#18129178)

Nurses know everything and how to do anything. My mom was in a nursing home, and one RN asked me how I was doing. I replied that I had a brush with death because I grabbed an electric heat thermostat I was installing with both hands and got a shock because I thought I had pulled all of the breakers but the box must have been hot from another panel. I was scolded "One hand! You must never grab those things with two hands, always one hand!"

On another occasion, a different nurse told me what I need to get to fix my parents sump pump, that I needed to replace the check valve in the outflow if I was changing the pump.

My theory is that nurses in our area are all farmers or their husbands are general contractors, and they have to work nursing jobs so one person in the farm family can get health insurance. I wonder if they are also good with graphic design?

yeah (4, Funny)

User 956 (568564) | more than 7 years ago | (#18127624)

Oh, it starts innocently enough, usually with CSS and XHTML. But soon they are learning JavaScript, PHP, and even SQL!

I always knew Java was a gateway drug.

Re:yeah (5, Funny)

Brummund (447393) | more than 7 years ago | (#18127824)

1. Build timemachine
2. Set machine from 1. to 1995
3. Silence the Netscape jerk that coined the JavaScript name
4. Party like its 1999!

Re:yeah (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18128216)

Set machine from 1. to 1995

The Romans had time machines?

A true story about JavaScript. (3, Informative)

Ayanami Rei (621112) | more than 6 years ago | (#18128912)

You know why it was called that? Because Netscape thought Java was going to be the future. JavaScript was a way to glue HTML page elements (forms, mouse clicks, page loads, images, links) to an embedded java applet in the page that would do the "heavy lifting" or allow you to control the java applet using native-looking controls couched in action-less forms. And LiveConnect was the magic glue that made it possible. JavaScript used to be called "LiveScript" for just that reason.

And now we have this crazy confusion about JavaScript Java, when they now have little to do with each other.

Let's just call it ECMAScript so no one gets confused.

Aesthetic sense cannot be taught (1)

clang_jangle (975789) | more than 7 years ago | (#18127656)

Aesthetic sense, "good taste", whatever you want to call it, is something which you either have intrinsically or you do not. Most people do not and will not no matter whose "set of guiding principles" are employed.

Just look at the average geek's wardrobe LOL, if it was like math or language we'd all have it down by HS graduation, wouldn't we?

Re:Aesthetic sense cannot be taught (1)

TheWoozle (984500) | more than 7 years ago | (#18127840)

I don't think so. Where do you think aesthetic sense comes from, exactly? I highly suspect it has to do with your culture and what you learned from your relatives growing up, and not with some innate ability.

I sumbit to you that the reason geeks don't learn to dress trendily in High School has less to do with ability and more to do with motivation. I believe I am a case in point: in high school I was a protoypical geek, but my fiancee has whipped me into shape. I now have the ability to go clothes shopping by myself and assmble outfits which will draw the approval of my SO and all her friends (a skill which will win you BIG points - I recommend it).

Oh, and back to the topic at hand: one thing most web designers need to learn is appropriate use of whitespace.

Re:Aesthetic sense cannot be taught (1)

Osty (16825) | more than 7 years ago | (#18127886)

Aesthetic sense, "good taste", whatever you want to call it, is something which you either have intrinsically or you do not. Most people do not and will not no matter whose "set of guiding principles" are employed.

That's not necessarily true. With the help of a few rules and theories, you can learn to make aesthetically pleasing (though not necessarily groundbreaking) designs. Even something as simple as color theory and using a tool to select a complementary color pallete is enough for most design-challenged people to make something that isn't eye-gougingly bad.

Just look at the average geek's wardrobe LOL, if it was like math or language we'd all have it down by HS graduation, wouldn't we?

That's more indicative of a lack of caring (or even outright hostility towards "fitting in") rather than that design skills are unlearnable. If that were the case, mildly color blind people would be screwed.

Re:Aesthetic sense cannot be taught (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18128022)

I disagree. Every time I learn something new it changes my perception on things. One summer I painted houses and ever since I notice what is or isn't a good paint job and also when someone needs to start thinking about painting. I didn't know a thing about paint and was content doing so until it became something that I was forced to know about. Once it became something I was aware of I became quite proficient at it. I think the majority of geeks are much the same way. Most are very intelligent and can pick things up but usually don't unless it is something that interests them(or in the paint example something they have to know about). So if you think you might want to tidy up your website or if your boss is telling you you have to...

Re:Aesthetic sense cannot be taught (1)

fiannaFailMan (702447) | more than 7 years ago | (#18128182)

Aesthetic sense, "good taste", whatever you want to call it, is something which you either have intrinsically or you do not. Most people do not and will not no matter whose "set of guiding principles" are employed.
I disagree. I used to be clueless about good graphic design until I teamed up with a specialist artist. Now I wince at the sight of pixealated images, badly-kearned text, bad contrasts, cramped layouts, text bumping against the edge of its container, clashing rather than complementary colours, etc. There are reasons why some things look good and others do not. These are principles that CAN be taught. If they couldn't, art schools would not exist since artists would be born with their artistic ability already programmed into them from birth.

Re:Aesthetic sense cannot be taught (1)

BlazeMiskulin (1043328) | more than 7 years ago | (#18128226)

If you take time to look into it, "aesthetics" actually have their basis in solid mathematics & physics. Balance, proportion, direction, wavelength, pattern... these are all part of the mathematic basis on which "design" are built. When it comes to design (which is distinctly separate from "art"), anyone who is mechanically or mathematically inclined (i.e., "geeks") can learn the formulae which will create a pleasing design. It might not be "artsy" or "cutting edge" or "avant garde" but it'll be pleasing to the eye.

Re:Aesthetic sense cannot be taught (1)

Spark00 (803383) | more than 7 years ago | (#18128408)

what a load of bollox. of course aesthetic sense can be taught. just as writing and music and any other artistic endeavor can be taught. Of course there are some people who are born great at artistic things (just as there are born-great atheletes. But just as for every Micheal Jordan or Wayne Gretzky there are dozens of guys who worked hard, practiced for bajillion hours and had good coaches, the same is true for great artists). really to say that you can't teach it is complete rubbish and is, no doubt, a fiction that bad designers want you to believe so they don't have to work hard, and good designers want you to believe so that you'll pay them lots and not ask questions.

(and in case you wonder - or care - I'm a writer and I work with designers constantly).

Re:Aesthetic sense cannot be taught (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18128458)

For the most part, this is total crap. The vast majority of people can identify something they find attractive to within a reasonable margin of the society mean, but have no idea how to take a concept and develop it into something that similarly hits close to that mean. There are a few, rare people who have no real ability to discern good from bad and no way of learning it via exposure and teaching, but in general those motivated to become good at creating aesthetically pleasing art can learn to do so.

You don't even have to be able to hear to write good music, or see to create beautiful art. There are a number of fundamental patterns that we find attractive, applying them in a creative and appropriate fashion can most certainly result in something good.

Geeks have been using their geekiness as an excuse for crap graphic design for too long. Most of them *could* do a decent job, if they could be bothered getting over themselves long enough to do some decent reading on the subject, practice even a fraction as hard as they had to when they learning programming, and actually accept feedback from others.

Take a course, read a book, do some mockups and ask people what they think, bookmark attractive sites whenever you see them, have a looka t their font setups, column layouts, etc. Do some case studies of them in your own time so you've got a comprehensive idea of what worked for that site.

You don't need to learn to draw, composition is one of the things digital tech has made mind-bogglingly easy, just get yourself bitmap and vector graphics programs, learn how to use them, and apply yourself a bit.

To do anything else just makes you a slave to graphic designers. Once you know this stuff, you can do a lot of stuf fon yoru own, and when a graphic designer is needed (after all, you'll probably always be an amature), you can work *with* them rather than aginst them. Your changes to make things work better from a UI or code perspective will be made with an understanding of why things are laid out the way they are, and you can talk their language.

Get rid of your misconceptions. You can make beautiful things, just get out there are try. Make the most of things like the golden ratio or anywhere where math or similar things appeal to your strengths.

Re:Aesthetic sense cannot be taught (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 7 years ago | (#18128526)

Your use of "LOL" puts you in the 'do not' group.

Bullshit (1)

Purity Of Essence (1007601) | more than 7 years ago | (#18128658)

You want to be a better designer?

1. Open your eyes.
2. Engage your brain.
3. Repeat steps 1 and 2.

There's nothing intrinsic about it. If you are relying solely on your instincts, you are not a designer.

Re:Aesthetic sense cannot be taught (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#18128788)

Nope, it is a trained skill.

People who want to improve, do.

"Just look at the average geek's wardrobe LOL, if it was like math or language we'd all have it down by HS graduation, wouldn't we?"
If it was important to them, then there wardrobe would look fine. People who look good do so because they care to. No more. no less.

Think about it: Anybody who cared enough could simply look at the pictures of people in a magazine and copy what someone with there body typa and colors are wearing.

Another thing to think about: There are many people who get paid to use there talent* with colors and cloths that produce awfull outfits.

*Talent is a lie. There is no such thing as Talent, only someones drive to perfection with certian skills.

It annoies me to no end when sonmeone see;s my code and says "You must ahve a lot of natural talent." no No NO! I worked hard and practiced and keep practicing. It wasn't some gift just handed down from the heqavens. If it was I would reject it.
-

Re:Aesthetic sense cannot be taught (1)

SpecBear (769433) | more than 6 years ago | (#18129216)

Think about it: Anybody who cared enough could simply look at the pictures of people in a magazine and copy what someone with there body typa and colors are wearing.

I do. But whenever I see a short fat guy in a magazine, he's dressed like a dork.

Re:Aesthetic sense cannot be taught (1)

whoopideedo (1067854) | more than 6 years ago | (#18129264)

Precisely. Either you are an artist, or you are not. Creativity cannot be taught in schools or books, it can only be developed.

"Engineering cannot be perfect unless it is perfect aesthetically" - Ettiore Bugatti.

Everything in this world must be designed. Nothing just "happens."

Programmers make poor designers. Designers make poor programmers.

The best websites are designed first with the creative vision and talents of a graphic/web/UI designer, and then programmed by an equally talented coder. Neither should try and do each other's job.

But perhaps the single most important aspect a good web developer should posess is an understanding of consumer culture.

The visitors to all these websites we are building are not artists, designers, or programmers themselves. They no not look at your source code nor do they really care how it works.

The only things they are concerned with is, in order of priority:

1. What does it look like.
2. Does it work.
3. Does it tell me what I came for.

You programmers should face it - we live in a visual society. You're kidding yourselves if you think the design is not important. It is in fact the ONLY thing that really matters. Consider the following examples of the value that design has in our lives:

1. Automobiles.
2. Music.
3. Architecture.
4. Technology - Computers, Operating Systems, Cell Phones, etc.

Better yet, tell me one aspect of your life that hasn't been influenced by Design?

"It is no exaggeration to say that designers are engaged in nothing less than the manufacture of contemporary reality. Today, we live and breath design. Few of the experiences we value at home, at leisure, in the city or the mall are free of its alchemical touch. We have absorbed design so deeply into ourselves that we no longer recognize the myriad ways in which it prompts, cajoles, disturbs, and excites us. It's completely natural. It's just the way things are.

We imagine that we engage directly with the "content" of the magazine, the TV commercial, the pasta sauce, or perfume (or website), but the content is always mediated by design and it's design that helps direct how we perceive it and how it makes us feel. The brand-meisters and marketing gurus understand this only too well. The product may be little different in real terms from its rivals. What seduces us is its "image." This image reaches us first as a visual entity - shape, color, picture, type. But if it's to work its effect on us it must become an idea:

NIKE!

This is the tremendous power of design.

Really... (1)

UPZ (947916) | more than 7 years ago | (#18127704)

who needs the right brain anyway..

Re:Really... (1)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | more than 7 years ago | (#18127920)

who needs the right brain anyway..
I'm left-handed, you insensitive clod!

Re:Really... (1)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 7 years ago | (#18128554)

who needs the right brain anyway..

I'm left-handed, you insensitive clod!


So how's it feel when you let the left brain take over? ; )

Can't we just ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18127862)

.... buy a Mac ? Then install Linux of course..

Best Solution (1)

organgtool (966989) | more than 7 years ago | (#18128118)

Of course the best solution would almost completely abstract the presentation from the data. That would allow the programmers and designers to work independently and do what each does best. However, I have yet to find a method of developing web pages with this level of abstraction. Many people say "simply combine a, b, c, d, e, f...", but that always feels like a hack and never produces pleasant results.

Re:Best Solution (2)

fiannaFailMan (702447) | more than 7 years ago | (#18128266)

Of course the best solution would almost completely abstract the presentation from the data. That would allow the programmers and designers to work independently and do what each does best.
Nice in theory, but you need good communication between the two to get the right results. We once had a 'web designer' who came from a print background and when we had to have data generated dynamically on a web page he asked why we couldn't just use PDF format. He didn't get the concept of dynamically-generated web pages.

Far better to have graphic designers with some web knowledge, and web specialists with some graphic design knowledge. The overlap in skills is where the good results come through.

Some related websites... (5, Informative)

Cr4wford (1030418) | more than 7 years ago | (#18128126)

http://www.webdesignfromscratch.com/ [webdesignfromscratch.com] - covers pretty much everything web design related

http://www.sheriftariq.org/design/index.html [sheriftariq.org] - articles on some design elements

http://www.adampolselli.com/getthelook/ [adampolselli.com] - guides that basically hold your hand to achieve various styles

http://webtypography.net/intro/ [webtypography.net] - typography applied to the web

http://www.alvit.de/handbook/ [alvit.de] - list of links related to web design/graphic design/etc.

You can also try enrolling in a class at a community college or something...that way you can learn, practice, and receive feedback from a teacher/peers.

When Graphics Designers attack code... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18128138)

...I respond with my own watercolors. Horrible watercolors. Of clowns. Its the only poetry I have found that can convey the nuances of how horrible their code design is in the language an artist can understand.

One book does not good design make (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18128146)

I'm sorry, but one book is not going to turn you from a web developer to a web designer. Just as those other books
don't turn graphic designers into web developers.

I took 4 years of Graphic Design course for my BS in Graphic Design, with the intention of doing nothing but Web Design.
But I have a good technical background in perl, php, mysql, css, etc... so I bill myself as a Web Designer with development skills of moderate level.

Discount Web Design! (3, Funny)

davido42 (956948) | more than 7 years ago | (#18128186)

When in doubt:
- add more popups
- blinky lights are exciting
- if your page loads in less then 10 seconds, it must not be very interesting

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
http://www.bitworksmusic.com/ [bitworksmusic.com]

What happened to web design? (1, Insightful)

MeanderingMind (884641) | more than 7 years ago | (#18128260)

This is the first time I've heard mention of Web Design since the 90s. Maybe I'm oblivious, but I was beginning to think people forgot it existed.

Back in the days of tiling backgrounds, embedded Midi files, and blue/red hyperlinks there was a term coined. "Web Design" was a buzzword for anyone who knew how to take a few gifs, some HTML, and make a crappy website. I even had a webpage dedicated to Chocobos from Final Fantasy, each page with it's own Chocobo Midi and prominent image, background a tiling of starry gifs.

At first, Web Design was a skill anyone who knew how to move beyond grey background, black text, and web rings could claim to have. Before long, it became pretty evident what constituted a well designed webpage and what didn't. 56k was the name of the game, which severely limited how much crap you could throw on a page before it simply took forever to load.

Whether by skill or by the 56k barrier, web pages were much simpler then than now.

Somewhere towards the end of the 90s we forgot about Web Design. We knew how to make web pages, there wasn't a point in talking about it anymore unless it was your job. There were no more secrets, only skill and good aestetic sense.

Then came broadband and dynamic content.

Something about these things has created the burgeoning hordes of extremely poorly designed web pages. I've seen this all before 15 years ago, people cramming far too much into websites, distilling purpose and functionality in a sea of confusion. Only this time, load times hardly suffer thanks to cable and DSL. Apparently we have goldfish like minds, forgetting the past all too easily.

Or maybe it's just that the internet has grown so quickly that the people persent for the horrors of the 90s are a minority. With a new generation of internet addicts, the lessons of the past are buried.

Perhaps I'm just an old geezer at age 23 ranting and raving about the kids no my lawn, but I'm trying to figure out why web pages like Google are the exception and not the rule. Why Slashdot is better organized than ebay and Amazon. Why keeping your customers lost in a swampy morass of a website is good.

It seems to me the message is there. Every web designer worth their salt knows simplicity is paramount, that extraneous options and features only clutter, that 20 equally flashy and complicated things will only bewilder. Somehow, this message is being ignored.

Perhaps it's that management has finally stopped assuming web designers know what they're doing and are going "hands on". Maybe web designers no longer know what they're doing, coming out of lackluster art or cs majors with only a little skill and a lot of "education". Maybe I'm just picky.

In any case, I think I'd take missarranged Beatles Midis over some of the crappy websites we're force fed these days.

Re:What happened to web design? (2, Insightful)

mblase (200735) | more than 7 years ago | (#18128344)

This is the first time I've heard mention of Web Design since the 90s. Maybe I'm oblivious, but I was beginning to think people forgot it existed.

If you've spent any amount of time on MySpace, nobody's going to blame you.

Re:What happened to web design? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18129186)

Or maybe it's just that the internet has grown so quickly that the people persent for the horrors of the 90s are a minority.

That's it. Those who don't know history repeat it. *cough*myspace*cough*geocities*burp*.

There's a... (1)

jlawson382 (1018528) | more than 7 years ago | (#18128278)

...Myspace joke in here somewhere, I just KNOW it!

Re:There's a... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18128926)

OMG ponies!!!! LOL!!!!

Filler for lameness filter.

Usability vs. Visibility (2, Interesting)

shidoshi (567151) | more than 7 years ago | (#18128282)

I've been somebody who, for many years, has loved web design from both the visual and technical sides of things. How well a website works is obviously important, but just as important is how it looks. There are many people out there who disagree, and say that usefulness is key and how "pretty" a page is isn't important, but they're completely wrong. (In my opinion, of course.)

The reason they're wrong is that web design isn't either/or, no matter what some may say. There are obvious examples of design over use - countless, countless examples - but that doesn't mean that making a website visually attractive kills the chance to also make it work like a charm.

For me personally, one of my favorite projects web design wise has been my personal forums, where I've put just as much important on how they look as well as how they work. Forum design is, to put it bluntly, god-awful across the internet. If message forums don't just stick with the defaul theme, they slightly modify it to make it look average AND ugly.

Message forums are about reading the posts presented there, but they're also about the community, so the design of the forums should reflect that. Here's a screenshot of the new theme I have in progress [photobucket.com] - it's far, far from done, but gives an idea of my kind of sense of forum style. First off, avatars are 600x150; a bit larger than the previous 600x120 avatars we were running. Some see that kind of thing as a waste, but our large avatars were one of the things that made our forums stand out, be remembered, and the way the board was coded, you could turn off avatars and still have the forum work perfectly and look very nice. Users will be able to select their own background color for their posts; it makes things more colorful, and personal, but it also then lets a user quickly scan a thread and find their own posts, due to knowing what color they're looking for. Items such as thread title, page navigation, and search box will be part of a bottom-of-the-window-pinned navigation bar, extending on the previous navigaion bar we had; this helps to reduce the clutter in layouts, and give the forum another unique visual aspect, but it also presents important navigation and UI items in one consistant, always available on-screen location, instead of scrolling up and down the page to hunt them down every time.

Not that I'm trying to toot my own horn here - my point is that with just a bit of thought, web design can be both visually appealing and enhance the user experience, but that idea seems to be lost on people far too often. And, obviously, the same design elements and planning I'm using for my new forum skin wouldn't work for other types of websites, but we need to better understand what each type of website needs and requires, and work from there. Nobody would make sense in saying that every type of website needs to be visually stunning, but those saying that sites don't need to be fancy or appealing are just as wrong. A website being visually unique, pleasing to look at, providing quality design at the same time it presents quality UI, those are all important factors that too often go overlooked.

Re:Usability vs. Visibility (1)

ADRA (37398) | more than 6 years ago | (#18128904)

When I mouse over the '90%' (image size?) I get it flashing between 90% visible and not. Probably something small to fix like making sure the 90% is visible when IT is the focus.

I HATE it when that happens .... (1)

Gorshkov (932507) | more than 7 years ago | (#18128378)

To the dismay of typophiles everywhere, font support on the web is very poor. There are very few "web safe" fonts that designers can safely assume are on all computers. The Typography section shows readers how to make the most out of this situation by understanding letter spacing, justification, and font usage. Beaird also discusses the sIFR technique (Scalable Inman Flash Replacement), which uses Flash and Javascript to display fonts that may not be on the user's computer. The sIFR method is accessible and degrades gracefully. While the book does not discuss the specific implementation details of this method, just bringing it to my attention taught me something new.
And to the dismay of people who want to actually READ these pages, now long is it going to take some of you people to realise that not everybody can read your gorgeous 8 pt font, because we have a) crappy monitors, b) bi-focals, c) big monitors with large type, etc?

I'm sorry, folks. I don't care what graphic design principals you're following. Overriding the users font settings when there is no overriding reason for it (and there seldom is), just because it "looks purdy", makes it a bad design. Period.

And I swear that if I EVER get my hands on the idiot that started this trend to black type on gray/colour backgrounds, or white text on a black background .............

Re:I HATE it when that happens .... (1)

hankwang (413283) | more than 6 years ago | (#18128860)

how long is it going to take some of you people to realise that not everybody can read your gorgeous 8 pt font,

I was getting annoyed myself about small fonts on websites including the Slashdot redesign of a couple of months ago. But then I discovered that somehow all major browsers default to 16px font sizes which is HUGE for the majority of people, which forces webdesigners to either specify an absolute fontsize or a relative font size of 70 to 85 percent. But if you do the sensible thing and set your web browser to a default font size of 12 or 13 px, most websites will end up in extremely small print.

Re:I HATE it when that happens .... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18129076)

But then I discovered that somehow all major browsers default to 16px font sizes which is HUGE for the majority of people

Actually, it's only huge if you are expecting the teeny-tiny font size that's been trendy amongst web designers over the past decade or so. If you aren't expecting to see something tiny, it's actually a perfectly reasonable font size. If you don't believe me, compare it to the font size in your word processor, mail client and other applications.

which forces webdesigners to either specify an absolute fontsize or a relative font size of 70 to 85 percent.

No, it forces web designers to do no such thing.

But if you do the sensible thing and set your web browser to a default font size of 12 or 13 px, most websites will end up in extremely small print.

Only if the incompetent web designers do what you suggest and reduce the user's chosen font size by 30%.

A few things... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18128484)

I'm a former art major, pre-PC (1975-1979). I learned programming afterwards; BASIC, assembly, dBASE, Nomad, and various scripting languages. So I'm a "both sides of the brain" kind of guy.

Most modern web site designs suck eggs! Nowhere in this review is the first principle of design even mentioned; "form follows function". Is it mentioned in the book? If you can keep that principle in mind at all times, your web site will work. "What am I trying to do with this site? What am I trying to convey?" should be on your mind as you design your pages.

It's ironic (and IMO stupid dumb idiotic) that someone would study for four (or six) years get paid a presumably good wage to develop an asthetically pleasing and useful web page, only to have the marketing department dumbasses fuck it up with dancing, flashing, gaudy, puke-making advertisements. This is especially stupid if your site's primary purpose isn't advertising!

They must have better drugs these days than they did back in the seventies.

...the book contains screenshots from dozens of modern websites to illustrate graphic design principles.

If they're showing Wikipedia, they're showing a good example. If they're showing the Chicago Tribune or (worse) the St. Louis Post Dispatch they're showing utter crap. Just vbecause a site is popular or useful doesn't mean it's well designed - and without the proper college courses in design you're not going to know the difference.

You're not going to learn design from one book any more than you're going to learn engineering from one book.

Beaird discusses the concepts of grid theory, and how using the golden ratio to divide page elements can improve the visual appeal.

That's the "golden mean", or at least it was for the last 500 years. The golden mean is an artistic concept, while the golden ratio is a mathematical concept. Math seldom translates into good asthetic design.

Gel buttons, gradients, and backgrounds are all discussed.

I hope they are discussed in a very negative way, because they usually impede function. Form follows function. Don't let pretty override useful; not even an a sculpture!

To the dismay of typophiles everywhere, font support on the web is very poor.

Basically uyou have "Aral, Helvitica" (sans-serif) or "Times-New Roman" (serif). That's basically it. Anything else and you're going to have funkly typefaces on many screens.

...letter spacing, justification, and font usage are basically non-existant on the web. Don't even think about it! What works on a printed hardcopy you can lithograph off before dissiminating does NOT work on the web (and vice-versa).

Beaird also discusses the sIFR technique (Scalable Inman Flash Replacement), which uses Flash and Javascript to make sure that your page won't work on many computers. Mine, for example; I refuse to install Flash, as it's mainly used for those flashy ads I mentioned. Many folks refuse to enabvle javascript as well. If there's any way whatever to avoid client-side scripting, avoid it!

Imagery is the subject of the final chapter, and the book ends on a disappointing note. Very little of this section is about the graphic design principles behind imagery.

That's like me buying a book on electrical engineering and being disappointed that after reading it I still can't design a plasma TV screen. Again, this stuff takes years of training, and one book ain't gonna cut it.

The chapter focuses almost entirely on images as content and not as design elements.

Images are almost always poor design elements! Use them sparingly.

If you want to know how to make images in a blog post look pretty, there are some ideas here (drop-shadows, borders).

Ugh...

But there is no information about how to work images into a page header or navigation menu.

Yes, that would indeed be a minus.

How do I determine if an image matches my color scheme? How can images spice up a design without going overboard?

Spend four to six years studying art and design in a good university, that's how.

The book is a little short at 180 pages, but that's not as bad as it may seem.

Yes, it is. One of my deans (a minimalist), when presented with a busy painting, would say "hmm... there's less here than meets the eye!" He was also fond of saying "I don't know what I like, but I know what art is".

This book won't teach you everything

Amen to that, any more than any single book willl teach you everything about engineering, even one discipline in engineering (e.g. electrical engineering vs structural engineering).

Trent Lucier is a software engineer.

As such, he is not qualified to critique this book. Get someone with a degree in art & design to read it, they'll actually be able to tell you if it's crap or not.

Re:A few things... (1)

ObiWanKenblowme (718510) | more than 7 years ago | (#18128608)

Instead of writing pages of snide remarks, perhaps you could admit that while this won't turn a programmer into a graphic artist, it might help the programmer avoid some glaring (and apparently common) blunders. It's not about making programmers create award-winning design, it's about making programmers think about design as a necessary element to a project and giving them a concise set of guidelines to follow to avoid bad design.

That's one fine article about amateurs (1)

someme2 (670523) | more than 7 years ago | (#18128514)

We need something stronger. We need to understand the principles of graphic design.

No, we don't. At least not if "we" are supposed to be IT professionals.

May be the statement is true for small teams working on internal projects (intranet applications). But seriously, the article has a very hobbyist ring to it.

Everybody working on larger web-based applications is used to cooperating with external designers. There may be different views on who has to produce CSS/HTML (or whatever markup code) from photoshop designs (same issue with who does the "usability"), but in general there is not too much danger that graphic designers somehow take over anything apart from trivial programming tasks (e.g. writing markup code). Unless of course they are looking for a complete carreer change. I've seen that happen. But after being accepted as full-fledged developers, they somehow never got to do any designing any more.
Anyhow, any sufficiently large project will involve a 50-page layout spec, corporate identity definition or a bunch of obnoxious product managers who will see to it, that you - the develevoper - won't get too much say in where anything is located on the screen. And that is okay by me, as division of labor has proven to be a pretty succesful concept over the last, say, ten-thousand years.
I find the whole idea of "graphics designers somehow at war with IT people" a little strange. In the projects I work in/have worked in graphics designers are fellow-suppliers who have to handle the same basic problems of budget & time-constraints that we have. At the end of the proverbial day they usually make good companions for discussing the idiosyncracies of the current project over a few beers.

Programmers? What programmers? (0, Flamebait)

rblum (211213) | more than 7 years ago | (#18128602)

I'm sorry, but a web designer is not a "programmer". Just because you can sling around a bit of PHP and SQL still doesn't make you a programmer. The problem is that many people suffer from the delusion this would be enough. Unless you know quite a bit beyond that (the equivalent of at least 2-3 years of CS), you're not a programmer.

Re:Programmers? What programmers? (1)

ADRA (37398) | more than 6 years ago | (#18128952)

Thank you so much for your authoritative opinion.

I'll think less of those deluded underlings from now on!

Re:Programmers? What programmers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18129170)

Don't forget the hordes who think HTML is a programming language. I once saw a "programming" book called "Extreme HTML", with a really intense looking dude on the cover, no doubt meant to represent the edgy terrain the book would explore.

Meh... (1)

th3space (531154) | more than 6 years ago | (#18128854)

I'll browse this if I happen across it on my journey to Borders or similar, but I don't see myself buying it. I do this junk for a living, and - owing to my environment - I use graphics less and less and have begun to apply a more austere design sensibility to the sites that I work on. Of course, I'm doing it in corporate environment whose primary concerns are less oriented around 'flashy' than they are around 'substantive, intuitive and compliant'.

Admittedly, I do spend a good portion of my free time working on graphics with a variety of programs, and I have a very firm grasp on the concept of an attractive presentation, but to what end? I've seen a number of very pretty, very alluring sites that failed miserably on a variety of compliance checks (that's not even counting something like WAI or sec508), because these artists don't have a full understanding of what it is and what it takes to be a professional web designer (developer, et al).

I'm rambling now, and I can't remember what my original point had been...so I'll just say that you either 'got it' or you don't.

Web design Graphic design (2, Insightful)

Dracos (107777) | more than 6 years ago | (#18128918)

One thing for anyone to remember is that Web design is about much more than layout, fonts, and purty pictures. The web is interactive, and therefore user interface principles come into play also. Sadly, most "web designers" and many "web developers" have little more than tangential knowledge of this subject.

The web is not inherently a graphical medium. All "web designers" out there should put a post-it note in their workspace reminding them that HTTP and HTML both contain text in their definitions: not images, video, or Flash.

In my experience, the worst web designers can be divided into two groups: non-artistic people (called programmers in TFA) and print designers.

Programmers I can excuse because they normally don't claim to be experts at any type of visual design.

Print people on the other hand, insist that their artistic training translates intact to the web: it doesn't. The web is interactive and involves many more unknowns (operating system, hardware platform, screen resolution, font size preferences, window size, to name a few) than designing for a X by Y piece of paper. Web pages cannot be treated as a canvas to be painted on. HTML has technical rules, best practices, conventions and "gotchas" that go far beyond what print people learned in their traditional design school. Without a doubt, the least feasable (but sometimes most visually appealing) web designs I've had to deal with were all produced by print people masquerading as web designers.

Html is a Great Starting Point (1)

Bellum Aeternus (891584) | more than 6 years ago | (#18128992)

As a classics major in collage, I had the need to set up a small but informative website circa 1996. I had no one to help me, so through the use of view source I figured out how to make a very basic website (it even used frames). From there I learned Javascript, CSS, XHTML, XML, Java, C#, C, and SQL. So, the article is right - Html skills can lead to real software skills. I apologize for never learning/using any LAMP except MySQL but I've always been given Win boxes as servers to work with.

AWESOaME FP (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18129124)

BSD fmachines, [goat.cx]

Seperate people (1)

gavinpquinn (1026592) | more than 6 years ago | (#18129262)

I have found on my site http://www.grapheety.com [grapheety.com] that we have had the most success seperating these tasks all together. Even though I come from a usability background, when I am coding I have a hard time doing it 'the hard way'. We have a designer who works on this project full-time who does all designs graphically, then we compromise on how to implement them. It has been a great relationship.
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