Sexy Web Design Book Review and Giveaway

Posted: March 30, 2009 Comments(101)

Sexy Web Design Book Cover

I’ve just finished reading Sexy Web Design, a very recently published book by Elliot Jay Stocks. I first saw Elliot speak at The Future Of Web Design 2007 during which I became an instant fan. His keynote was titled “Destroying the Web 2.0 Look” and not only did he engage the entire audience with thoughtful opinions, but also injected just the right amount of humor as well. I’ve been a subscriber ever since, and I was thrilled to see that he has put out a book.

Content summary

Chapter 1: Interfaces are Sexy provides a detailed explanation of what subsequent chapters in the book will cover. Interfaces are the first topic of conversation, and Elliot gives some insight as to why he’s a designer. The gap between real life and Web design is bridged by the topic of interface; what you see is what you get, and if it’s hard to use, there’s a problem. We’re also given a brief overview of Elliot’s suggested design process, which I took great interest in, with my fascination of process at the forefront. Unsurprisingly, Elliot’s design process is spot on in line with what I have found to bring the greatest success. Through his writing, it’s apparent that he’s faced resistance (read: cut due to budget) in the same areas as well, specifically the research phase. Throughout his explanation, Elliot provides some visual examples to support exactly the topic at hand.

The remaining chapters carry you through the design of a client website from beginning to end, outlining in detail the steps explained in chapter one. Chapter 2 focuses on the research phase of Web design. Elliot discusses the importance of receiving an informational design brief, which is imperative if you’d like to start off on the right foot. The design brief needs to answer (at least) a few standard questions that will give you enough insight to explore the proper angles in your design. Brand consistency is also touched on, something that takes true talent to effectively retain. Elliot also shines some light on his inspiration process, which ties heavily into the research phase, taking into account the details provided in the design brief.

Chapter 3: Structure is all about figuring out the underlying foundation for your design. Part design, part information architecture, part page hierarchy, the structure phase of a design process can bring anything to an entirely new level by adding a completely new level of organization to the table. As you read, you’re walked through the process of mapping out the site at hand, sketching some ideas, and finally carrying those sketches to the computer and digitizing them as wireframes. These resources will be heavily depended on throughout the rest of the design process.

The navigation of a website is arguably the most important feature throughout. Without an effectively implemented navigation, calls to action will be ignored, readers will become frustrated, and the website will be considered ineffective. Chapter 4: Navigation and Interaction discusses the various methods of including site navigation as a way to support website browsing, all while meeting the goals of the site itself. The chapter touches on many various navigation implementations, from global navigation, to breadcrumb trails, to supporting navigation. Additionally, the chapter discusses lists, drop-down menus, tabs, accordions, tag clouds, and tool tips as methods of effectively navigating appropriate information sources. Form interaction is touched upon in this chapter as well, providing some items to keep in mind as you’re putting together information entry sections of your website.

Chapter 5 focuses on another very popular phase of design; Aesthetics. Elliot regards this phase as ‘the fun part of design’ and that definitely comes through while reading this chapter. He takes the time to discuss some basics as far as design principles and color theory go, and ties that in with a few more technical details integrated with Web design. A few pages are devoted to the grid, which is, in my opinion, an essential ingredient of successful Web design. Elliot touches on a number of important aspect of aesthetics in Web design including contrast, consistency, volume, depth, pattern and texture. Imagery, illustration, and iconography are also discussed in applicable detail and Elliot saved the best for last, one of my favorite topics; type. The remaining pages of this chapter apply everything just covered to the existing pseudo project we’ve been “working on” throughout the book. Many images are provided as reference, visualizing exactly the changes made to comps with each iteration.

Chapter 6: Deliverables focuses entirely on comp preparation concerning longevity and maintenance. Elliot shares how he organizes his Photoshop files, and walks through the front end development of the project website, giving a few of his personal tips along the way. Some details are discussed which apply only to Web design, and there’s something for everyone to learn.


I’m a fan of SitePoint. As a company, they put out a quality product, paying attention to publishing authors with a known credibility and for good reason. As with all SitePoint books, I am a big fan of Sexy Web Design by Elliot Jay Stocks, and I would absolutely recommend it to any Web designer, no matter what his or her skill level. Just reading the book is inspiration to sit down and create something. There is definitely quite a bit of information to be learned from this book, and I’m sure even the veterans can pick up at least a pointer or two.

On top of that, SitePoint books are put together extremely well. They’re printed in full color, and the visualizations used in this book are exceptionally supportive. I’m not sure if it was intentional, but more times than not, the images referenced by Elliot fell on the next page. While that may prove to be irritating to some people, by the end of the book I had embraced it because it allowed me to retain focus on the words I was reading instead of glancing back and forth at the imagery. I would absolutely recommend this book to just about anyone with an interest in Web design.

If you’re interested, SitePoint is offering some sample content straight from the book.

Book Giveaway

I’m going to try something a bit different with this book review. At random, I’m going to choose one person from the comment thread below at random, and mail them my copy of Sexy Web Design. If you’d like to enter your name in the drawing, simply leave a comment below and one week from today, April 6, 2009, I will pick a winner and contact you for your shipping information. You can comment more than once, but I’ll remove any duplicates prior to getting a random name from the thread.

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  1. I read the example chapters, and I have to agree that it’s very interesting so far.
    Definitely will consider in getting the full book.
    On a side note I agree that Sitepoint publish very good books.
    I especially enjoy the way they allow you to sample the books before you make the decision to purchase the book.

  2. Never one to turn down a freebie.

    Sitepoint’s pretty cool, although their site could do with a bit of a makeover.

    Liking the fact I have a 1 in 3 chance of winning at this moment in time…

  3. I’ve had one other sitepoint book (the Principles of Beautiful Web Design by Jason Beaird), and I loved it.

    As a coder trying desperately to understand design, I rely heavily on reviews and recommendations from blogs like this – so don’t be afraid to throw an affiliate link up there, I’d be happy to use it.

  4. Great and thorough review. I would love the book. And you wouldn’t have to mail it to me. I could pick it up.

  5. Excellent review! Chapter three in particular sounds interesting, though all of them do.

    This book sounds interesting. It would certainly help me decide whether or not I truly want to major in Graphics.

    Thanks for hosting this giveaway.

  6. This is an amazing book, already have it so I don’t need to be in the giveaway. But I’d like to second your recommendation- it’s truly an excellent book for beginning and even advanced web designers.

  7. I am still debating if I should purchase a copy of this book. I want it, and I like the look of it, but for me the main issue is the fall of the AUD so it makes it pretty expensive to ship to Australia.

    Can anyone honestly say it is worth it?

  8. Having read the example chapters and been saving up to buy the book (eventually) myself, I’d have to second this recommendation. Lots of books tell you HTML, CSS, etc, but they might not cover the whole process of designing a real good web page step by step, as far as I’ve seen, this book has.

  9. Nice review, Jonathan. It’s hard to decide if a book is worth buying, sometimes they are either too technical or too basic, or all the topics are well covered in other books already.

    Please consider me for the giveaway.

  10. I saw this book on SitePoint’s twitter feed last week and was thinking about looking into it. Would be great to be able to do so for free!

  11. I read the sample chapter and found the Stocks to give such a great overview. I’d love to know how the ‘story is finished’.

  12. The book sounds awesome. Whether or not I win it I would buy it. Most of the useful bits of knowledge I have I learned from someone I have worked with who knew more than me. I like that he discusses photoshop file maintenance and longevity.

    I wonder if he touches on the life-span of certain designs. It would seem Facebook and MySpace re-do their UI almost every week (I jest of course). But I would be curious on how a professional thinks designers can create a site that uses visuals that last longer than current fads.

    My curiosity is also piqued on the section on structure. I fall into the rut of having my visual design dictate my information structure. I may have to try doing structure before aesthetics.

    Thanks for the review. I am actually interested in buying this book now. I’ve dismissed it several times before.

  13. Awesome review. I didn’t know if I was going to get the book, but now I think I have to check this out. Count me in for the drawing too!

  14. Very good review. I have read the sample and it looks good indeed.

    The more I read your review the more I wanted it.

  15. Looks like a great book, I love Elliot’s design style and look forward to reading this.

  16. I’m also a fan of SitePoint, especially the amazing deal they did to help bushfire victims. Glad to hear this one is up to the same high standard.

  17. Looks great. Hope to win so I don’t have to buy. Hope to win the pdf version since I carry SitePoint and other books from contract to contract the easy way.

  18. I loved reading through the sample chapters of this book. Here in South Africa though, books like this are few and far between. I did see web design book in a bookstore here once. I went back to get it the next week but it was gone… but I had it confirmed by the store staff, it did exist! Books like this will come here though… they just lag many months behind. So many thanks for the sample chapters, we may even buy the hard copy for the work shelf. 🙂

  19. Sitepoint may want to read a copy of the book. I love the information I can find on their site but would never describe it as sexy. Think I’m going to have to pick up a copy of the book and check it out. Sounds interesting and I always enjoy seeing other peoples take on work flows.

  20. Yes, love this guys work, and SitePoint is a great resource – so would LOVE to get hold of a copy of this…

  21. Thanks for the review. It looks like a good book – I’ve already read the sample chapters. Another web design book I found useful a few years ago was ‘Web Redesign: Workflow that Works’ by Goto and Cotler. The trouble is that things change so fast it’s maybe better to get your info online rather from printed media.

    (If I win the draw, I’ll be happy to send you the postage cost via PayPal.)

  22. Thank you for reviewing this book. You gave exactly the kind of information I was looking for and it was very helpful.

    I really wanted to get an idea of what this book was really about. As a digital media student, I’m on a very limited budget and can’t afford to spend on a book that isn’t going to be useful to me.

    If I don’t win it, it’s on my list to buy. I want to start my web design career with very good practices so I can increase my chances of being successful in what sometimes seems like an already saturated field.

    Your review was very well written & I appreciate the time you spent writing it. Have a great week!

  23. Thanks for the review. I’ve been eyeing this book but haven’t gotten it yet.

    And yes, I’m in for the free book too. 🙂 Would it be possible to make that a free “eBook” instead of a physical one? Easier to send and would also work better across geographical/political borders.

  24. I’ve been thinking about getting this book since I received notification from SitePoint that it was available. After reading this review, and a good, well written, informative review it is too, I think I may have to just take the plunge and purchase (that is if I don’t win the giveaway copy).

    Great work Jonathan.

  25. I would love to read this book, but eBooks are such a pain to read (even on notebook in bed)

    Not to mention I might be able to win this giveaway (ha,ha), does someone nove about sitepoint sending books to central europe? (okay, they seem to send even to europe… anyone has experience with it?)

  26. I’ve been working sort of semi casually as a freelance web designer for a while and am currently studying a degree in Graphics & Digital Design to improve my design skills as I came into this line of work as a bit of a code monkey… I have been looking to approach web design from a more design oriented approach (hence my choice of degree) and after a recent case study I wrote based on an interview with a local design firm and reading the write ups for this book I’m really looking forward to picking up a copy of this book when the next student loan comes in 🙂 I’m a big fan of sitepoint books, I own quite a few and they’re always really useful, hope this one lives up to the usual sitepoint standards…

  27. A very thorough review, definitely liking your site and will come back more often. The content is just what I’m after.

    Also, a free book wouldn’t go a miss either!

  28. well i was planning on purchasing this book anyway, so why not leave a comment and see if i can get it for free

    great review, thanks for taking the time to share!

  29. i know i wont be that lucky – but just count me in 🙂

    And seriously i did not complete your review but i will soon (i hope) but like everyone else said “Great Review” so i hoping it must be good review…


  30. I keep seeing this book pop up as a great resource for designers, another stellar review and is now on my to-buy list even if I don’t win it. I’ve got a couple projects coming up that could benefit from this, as I’m sure we all do.

  31. Thank you for the summary – now I *know* I want this book! I need to make the most of what Dreamhost has for their users, and I feel that this book will be the starting point to doing just that!

    *…and this is why I’m listing my twitter instead of my website. The website is not much to look at right now, but I hope this book will change that!

  32. Sounds like a very interesting book based on your review. There are so many of these types out there. Your review was helpful and made sense.

  33. I went to site point and saw the book available for sale…Then started to browse the web for what others have said about this and honestly, it looks to be a great book and by sharing a review on part of the book I am debating about whether I should get this- I am currently in college at westwood college online in my second year for the Bachelors Degree Web Design Program. It’s been rough, But I am always on the look out for new ways to keep up with trends and making myself into a more creative person. Thanks for sharing!

  34. i won’t win your free giveaway, but I’m not too bothered as I will be getting the book next month anyway. Nice review though. 🙂

  35. Do you think the book is suitable for beginning (wannabe ;-)) designers? I’ve read the sample chapters, and they’re pretty readable, but I wonder if the rest of the book is suitable for beginners as well.

  36. whoa such a cool book!!!! would definitely like to have this one!!!! good work by you man

  37. Great to see all the interest in the book! Just to create a visual flag, this comment is going to mark the closing of the entries for the contest, and I’ll follow up with the winner as soon as he or she is chosen!

  38. Just wanted to give everyone a bit of a follow up… I’ve just picked the winner at random and the random comment that came up was #76 – Ross Johnson. I’ve just been in touch with him and although he said he might be picking up the book by now, he didn’t, so Ross is the official winner! Keep your eyes out for more book giveaways in the near future. Thanks everyone for tossing your name in the hat!

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