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.
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.
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.