Website development reading list

The following volumes do indeed sit on my shelves and, yes, I have read them all - bar the odd chapter here or there. They have helped me to stay out of the classroom and have nourished me immeasurably. I’ve not used a star system to set one above another, but my comments alongside each may help perform that function. Some of these books I find - and still find - to be quite simply invaluable. (Most recently published first, probably!)

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Pricing Design

Dan Mall; A Book Apart, 2016
Pricing Design by Dan Mall book cover screenshot

A snappy introduction to pricing web projects, especially valuable for beginner freelancers. Replete with insight and specific about different industry pricing models. Take-away nugget: the price you charge for a website is based on the value you are providing to a client. The book's central case study examines this. From their inexpensive download-only Briefs series by my favourite web design publishers A Book Apart.

Design for Real Life

Eric Meyer & Sara Wachter-Boettcher; A Book Apart, 2016
Design for Real Life by Eric Meyer & Sara Wachter-Boettcher

A fascinating insight into real-life design projects where inadvertent design blunders created stress-points. An unusual book about kindness and compassion in design and one that deserves a place on every designer's shelf.

Beginning Backdrop CMS

Todd Tomlinson; Apress, 2016
Beginning Backdrop CMS by Todd Tomlinson

A detailed book that will be of value to those who are not familiar with Drupal. This caters for site-builders who want to install Backdrop and go and for those who want to roll their own code on top of a vanilla Backdrop installation. Just note that some of the authoring links are not from the current version of Backdrop, but these minor differences are navigable. This will help anyone get a Backdrop CMS website up and running.

Migrating from Drupal to Backdrop

Todd Tomlinson; Apress, 2015
Migrating from Drupal to Backdrop by Todd Tomlinson

This slim volume explains the basics of taking a Drupal 7 site and converting it into a Backdrop CMS site. It covers the fundamental architectural changes required to make D7 themes and modules function within the newer, lighter-weight Backdrop CMS. This is a clean introduction, but it would benefit from screenshots which are readable. (The author, a namesake, is no relation!)

Designing for Touch

Josh Clark; A Book Apart, 2015
Designing for Touch by Josh Clark

A detailed examination of the way that our sausage-fat fingers interact with pixels. This is an excellent discussion of the world of rectangular touch screens and the way in which we stretch, crumple, drag, flick aside, point, prod and swipe the pixels that they display. The best read for opening up this particular domain of design challenges - from my favourite publisher.

Web Standards: Mastering HTML5, CSS3 and XML, 2nd edition

Leslie F. Sikos; Apress, 2014
Web Standards: Mastering HTML5, CSS3 and XML, 2nd edition

Web standards is a topic that recently seems to have been eclipsed in importance by more fashionable - or pressing - aspects of web design such as UX and responsiveness, so I was interested in seeing what take an Apress book published in 2014 had. Thankfully, the idea that you can - even should - start a project with the aim of the finished code conforming to web standards has not gone away. This volume reiterates this at every turn.

If I were running a course on web technologies, I'd probably include this as a student text. It's exhaustive, detailed and authoritative. The index, however, could have had more substantial input.

You're My Favorite Client

Mike Monteiro; A Book Apart, 2014
You're My Favorite Client by Mike Monteiro

I had to persevere with this volume because it is more applicable to big agencies with big budget web projects, rather than the one-man-band work that I do. That said, there are valuable insights into client-designer relationships here that are applicable across the board. The author takes a novel approach in setting out to guide clients through the site-build process, which can reasonably be described as 'managing expectations'.

Responsible Responsive Design

Scott Jehl; A Book Apart, 2014
Responsible Responsive Design by Scott Jehl

This builds on Ethan Marcotte's seminal Responsive Web Design by looking at the latest options available for delivering lightweight web pages to mobile, plan-constrained, users. It charts a nuanced path between serving pages to latest-generation browsers that support evolving standards and managing this in older ones where graceful fall-backs are required. This is a nice, clear read.

On Web Typography

Jason Santa Maria; A Book Apart, 2014
On Web Typography by Jason Santa Maria

This is the latest volume from my favourite web industry publisher of "brief books for people who build websites", A Book Apart, and I can't resist picking it up and re-reading parts of it. It starts with the reading process itself, moves through to the role played by typography, then covers evaluating typefaces and choosing and pairing them. This is authoritative stuff which is also a good read. Very, very informative.

Content Strategy for Mobile

Karen McGrane; A Book Apart, 2012
Content Strategy for Mobile book cover

When the client view of your website shrinks, what happens to your content - and what needs to happen? This book addresses these two questions by examining the information architecture issues that have arisen from technological change in website viewing. Essential reading around a complex subject.

Mapping with Drupal - Navigating Complexities to Create Beautiful and Engaging Maps

Alan Palazzolo and Thomas Turnbull; O'Reilly, 2012
Mapping with Drupal - Navigating Complexities to Create Beautiful and Engaging Maps

A clear and authoritative account of the options available for displaying sophisticated and elegant maps that integrate Drupal website content which has a geographical basis. Essential reading for getting Drupal data on the map!

Drupal Search Engine Optimization

Ric Shreves; Packt Publishing, 2012
Drupal Search Engine Optimization

An appropriately slim account of how to capitalise on Drupal 7's already excellent abilities to deliver SEO-maxed websites. A quick summary of a complex subject.

The Elements of Content Strategy

Erin Kissane; A Book Apart, 2011
The Elements of Content Strategy front cover

An exceptionally clear examination of the principles of web content publishing and the rational and emotional craft, tools and techniques that can be employed to make a website's content resonate with users.

Responsive Web Design

Ethan Marcotte; A Book Apart, 2011
Responsive Web Design

Fluid grids, flexible images and media queries. This is a clearly laid-out approach to the options available for creating sites that are viewable on a range of different devices, from desktop to smart phone to tablet.

This volume has been mentioned in despatches almost more than any other in recent years and is generally acknowledged as being the book that paved the way for 'responsive web design'. An updated 2nd edition was issued in 2014.

Designing for Emotion

Aarron Walter; A Book Apart, 2011
Designing for Emotion

A dream of a book by a well-respected web designer about what makes users 'fall in love' with particular websites. Beautifully laid out, the book addresses the role of psychology in website design as a method of connecting to people.

Professional Mobile Web Development with WordPress, Joomla! and Drupal

James Pearce; Wrox, 2011
Professional Mobile Web Development with WordPress, Joomla! and Drupal

A reasonably clear discussion of using media queries and alternate style sheets (and testing and deployment) so that a website can respond to different devices, specifically in the context of managing this in CMS environments. Worth a spin.

Stunning CSS3 - a project-based guide to the latest in CSS

Zoe Mickley Gillenwater; New Riders, 2011
Stunning CSS3 - a project-based guide to the latest in CSS

A clear account of proposed changes to CSS (the style sheet language for websites), which browser supports which proposed property and selector. A well-produced book with clear examples. A good primer on what's just over the horizon and usable today.

Introducing HTML5

Bruce Lawson and Remy Sharp; New Riders, 2011
Introducing HTML5

A primer by two well-respected developers on some of the new features of HTML and what sort of web-design problems HTML5 can solve right now.

Cognitive Surplus: creativity and generosity in a connected age

Clay Shirky; The Penguin Press, New York, 2010
Cognitive Surplus: creativity and generosity in a connected age

Aside from the commercial dimension of the internet, how much of what we surf is there because of talent and goodwill? Wikipedia, for example, represents perhaps a 100 million hours of human thought (compared to the 200 billion hours of TV watched each year in America). This thought-provoking book sheds light on the brighter side of the internet.

Drupal 6 Performance Tips

Trevor James and T.J. Holowaychuk; Packt Publishing, 2010
Drupal 6 Performance Tips

All you need to know about Boosting, Throttling, Caching and MemCaching a Drupal website. Great stuff!

Drupal e-commerce with Ubercart 2.x

George Papadongonas and Yiannis Doxaras; Packt Publishing, 2010
Drupal e-commerce with Ubercart 2.x

Ubercart is one of Drupal's most popular e-commerce modules, in use on over 30,000 websites. This volumes details some of the more complex issues relating to setting up a Drupal e-commerce website.

Drupal 6 Panels Cookbook

Bhavin (Vin) Patel, Packt Publishing, 2010
Drupal 6 Panels Cookbook

Panels is one of the most complex modules avialable for Drupal and this volume steps through various configuration options for unleashing the module's power and integrating it with other modules.

Drupal 6 Attachment Views

J. Ayen Green; Packt Publishing, 2010
Drupal 6 Attachment Views

Bags of detail about the dark heart of Drupal which makes most people fall silent and shake. This is a romp of a manual for doing what I call "intelligent web publishing" with Drupal 6. Splendid!

Drupal 6 Search Engine Optimization

Ben Finklea; Packt Publishing, 2009
Drupal 6 Search Engine Optimization

Fine detail for getting the very best in SEO from a Drupal-based website.

Leveraging Drupal: getting your site done right

Victor Kane; Wrox, 2009
Leveraging Drupal: getting your site done right

A walk-through of the programming aspects of building a Drupal-driven website.

Building Findable Websites - web standards, SEO and beyond

Aarron Walter; New Riders, 2008
Building Findable Websites - web standards, SEO and beyond

A primer on what needs to be done to ensure that websites can be found by search engines and - crucially - by making them conform to web standards. This volume yet again confirms that for sites to be successful they need to conform to web standards - as well as being good on the eye.

Pro Drupal Development - 2nd edition

John K. VanDyk; Apress, 2008
Pro Drupal Development - 2nd edition

All you need to know about the Drupal content management framework - and then some more.

Wikinomics: how mass collaboration changes everything

Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Wiliams; Apress, 2008
Wikinomics: how mass collaboration changes everything

A fascinating analysis of the impact upon society and business of Web 2.0 technologies.

Building powerful and robust websites with Drupal 6

David Mercer; Packt Publishing, 2008
Building powerful and robust websites with Drupal 6

An excellent introduction to the power and elegance of the Drupal content management framework.

Drupal 6 Themes - create new themes for your Drupal 6 site with clean layout and powerful CSS styling

Ric Shreves; Packt Publishing, 2008
Drupal 6 Themes - create new themes for your Drupal 6 site with clean layout and powerful CSS styling

A theming primer for Drupal-based content management websites.

Designing with Web Standards - 2nd edition

Jeffrey Zeldman; New Riders, 2007
Designing with Web Standards - 2nd edition

Don’t judge this book by the shot of the beanie-hatted author on the cover! Zeldman is amongst the web’s most respected designers and writers and is an evangelist for the development of websites that comply with web standards. This volume makes the convincing case for web standards, including the bottom line of ROI, accessibility and findability/SE-friendliness.

About Face 3 - the essentials of interaction design

Alan Cooper, Robert Reimann and David Cronin; Wiley Publishing, 2007
About Face 3 - the essentials of interaction design

A ‘bible’ for the design of desktop application, Web 2.0 sites and mobile devices.

CSS Mastery: Advanced Web Standards Solutions

Andy Budd with Cameron Moll and Simon Collison; Apress, 2006
CSS Mastery: Advanced Web Standards Solutions

A primer on the importance of mastering CSS in pursuit of developing standards-compliant websites.

CSS: The Definitive Guide, 3rd edition

Eric A. Meyer; O'Reilly, 2006
CSS: The Definitive Guide, 3rd edition

A systematic elaboration on CSS properties and values.

Don't Make me Think! - a common sense approach to web usability

Steve Krug; New Riders, 2006
Don't Make me Think! - a common sense approach to web usability

Web page design under the microscope.

Web Copy That Sells: The Revolutionary Formula for Creating Killer Copy Every Time

Maria Veloso; Amacom, a division of American Management Association, 2005
Web Copy That Sells: The Revolutionary Formula for Creating Killer Copy Every Time

A wordsmith’s handbook detailing how to write persuasive copy (text) for selling any product or service on the web.

The Zen of CSS Design - visual enlightenment for the web

Dave Shea and Molly E. Holzschlag; Peachpit Press, 2005
The Zen of CSS Design - visual enlightenment for the web

An outstanding primer on web design and the way in which lean mark-up can deliver stunning visual design. At the time, this was just about the most absorbing book one could hold. A collection of designers had skinned the same HTML code with their own CSS and images, making a dazzling array of web standards compliant site designs. This was a brilliantly simple demonstration of the power and potential of CSS. Anybody unconvinced before opening the book was guaranteed to be a CSS convert at the end. A professional epiphany!

The Inmates are Running the Asylum - why high-tech products drive us crazy and how to restore the sanity

Alan Cooper; Sams Publishing, 2004
The Inmates are Running the Asylum - why high-tech products drive us crazy and how to restore the sanity

A superb account of what’s missing in the software design process and how to correct it.

The Elements of User Experience - user-centered design for the web

Jesse James Garrett; New Riders Publishing, 2003
The Elements of User Experience - user-centered design for the web

A concise explanation of the obligations placed upon web designers in order to improve user experience on the web.

The Elements of Typographic Style, second edition

Robert Bringhurst; Hartlet & Marks, 1996
The Elements of Typographic Style

The first principle of typographic style, according to Robert Bringhurst, is that "typography exists to honor content". As the opening shot in this hugely influential book, this sets the tone perfectly. For those of us for whom typography - now (also) on the internet - plays a vital role in shaping web page design, this book lays the foundations in context. Not only is it dense with detail, it is also beautifully-designed.

The Media Equation

Byron Reeves and Clifford Nass; Cambridge University Press, 1996
The Media Equation

Implications for software designers resulting from insights into human-computer interaction.

Visual Interface Design for Windows

Virginia Howlett; John Wiley Sons, 1996
Visual Interface Design for Windows

Insights into Windows software from Microsoft’s director of visual interface design.

The Design of Everyday Things

Donald A. Norman; Currency Doubleday, 1990
The Design of Everyday Things

This has nothing to do with software, yet is all about software(!) since it discusses the fundamentals of design and what happens to users when these are missing - this is an enormously important work.