I decided to ask some of my favorite nerds to send me a list of classic articles that every web professional should know. Here’s the list of links to articles that Robert Jan Verkade — one of the smartest Dutch web design thinkers — sent me. — Vasilis
Robert Jan Verkade:
A while back, Vasilis asked me to make a list of web classics. A lovely question to get, but what exactly are classics? I’ve decided to do a list of books and articles by those people who have influenced me most, from the beginning of my career on the web up until the present.
As with any list, there will always be unfortunate omissions. Some people whose work has been very important for me (like Eric Meyer, Molly Holzschlag, Joe Clark and Kristina Halvorson) haven’t made it into this list, even though they definitely deserve a mention.
Anyway: the list!
Jeffrey Veen - The Art & Science of WebDesign
The first book ever that made me sit still and read. It’s dated by now, of course, but in 2001 it was really, really modern. And I’m willing to bet that a large number of the things Veen wrote are still true today.
The performance of your web site is the most critical factor of its success.
Jeffrey Zeldman - To Hell with Bad Browsers
Any list of web design classics should include Jeffrey Zeldman. Zeldman has been an enormous influence in the world when it comes to working according to web standards. The article’s title suggests the article is a call to arms to exclude visitors who use outdated browsers. But that’s not its point:
It’s about the separation of presentation from structure, which will allow us to do amazing things.
Steve Krug - Don't make me think
The classic among classics. Fourteen years after publication, ‘Don't make me think’ is still relevant. So relevant that a new edition has just been published. Steve Krug doesn’t just give you instructions on what to do or not to do, he teaches you how to think like a usability expert.
Design is a complicated process and the real answer to most of the questions people ask me is 'It depends.'
Christina Wodtke - Information Architecture
The web grew and grew, and by 2003 you could also see this in individual web sites: sites became larger and larger. Large sites need a lot of care and thought put into their structure, which is why the field of information architecture became important.
Too many site creators think that ... visitors have two hours and not five minutes.
Erin Kissane - Typography Matters
There are lots of great articles and books about typography, but this is an article about the small details, which really spoke to me. Small details that make a difference – like curly quotes and em dashes.
Nor should web developers who aspire to professionalism leave the typographical details of their sites incomplete and unconsidered.
Stephen Hay - The Design Funnel
My good friend, design thinker Stephen Hay, should of course be included in a list of classics. ‘The Design Funnel’ helps you to not think in solutions too early on in the design process, but to first concentrate on getting a really clear picture of the actual problem you are trying to solve.
The problem is defining the problem.
Marrije Schaake - Mobieltjes in het wild
Much of our time – perhaps too much – is spent within the confines of our offices. While using the internet has long moved beyond surfing at the office or in living rooms and dens. To really know how people use their mobile devices, what they do and how they hold the device (important for knowing how to design screens) research in the field is indispensable.
… een mevrouw die op een bankje op station Utrecht op haar redelijk eenvoudige Android-telefoon een lang en gecompliceerd formulier aan het invullen was.
Andy Budd - My response to the question of speculative pitches
Pitches, and more specifically speculative pitches, exist and are probably here to stay. Anyone is of course free to give away his or her best work, in hopes of getting paid work in return. But Andy Budd is clearly (and I think rightly) quite negative about the practice. As his earlier article Creative pitches are toxic says:
When you hire a creative agency, they will spend time learning about you, your industry and your business. This allows them to understand the problems at hand and come up with creative solutions.
Blair Enns - The Win Without Pitching Manifesto
This book isn’t strictly about the web profession, but it’s a great manifesto for any professional in our field. In 12 steps Blair Enns shows you that you’re hired by your client to do something they themselves are unable to do – and that you bring unique and valuable expertise to the table.
When the client comes to us self-diagnosed, our mindset must be the same as the doctor hearing his patient tell him what type of surgery he wants performed before any discussion of symptoms or diagnoses.
Jared Spool - Beans and NosesA large part of our job is giving advice. And no matter how wonderful that advice is, in some cases, for whatever reason, the person receiving the advice will not act according to it. Your sensible recommendations will be ignored! And you will have to deal with that. Which may be very frustrating, but Jared Spool recommends you pick your battles.
Every so often, you’ll run into someone with beans who has, for no good reason, decided to put them up their own nose. Way up there. In a place where beans should not go.
Mark Hurst - The Google Glass feature no one is talking about
Is this a classic or a look towards the future? In any case, it’s an article that encourages you to think about how the thing you are designing will be used out there, in the real world. Your designs will have an impact on people and their lives.
The experience of being a citizen, in public, is about to change.
I decided to ask some of my favorite nerds to send me a list of classic articles that every web professional should know. Here’s the list of links to articles that Paul Robert Lloyd — one of the brightest web design thinkers, and one of the best web designers of our day — sent me. — Vasilis
Paul Robert Lloyd:
Vasilis asked me to curate a list of classic articles, but what constitutes a classic? In an industry as fast moving as ours, to choose articles of a certain vintage would mean excluding thought provoking articles published in more recent—and possibly more enlightened—years.
My selection mixes articles whose timelessness has been proven with those whose status has yet to be determined. In time they may not be thought of as classics, but they will inform the classics that have yet to be written.
Landmark Web Sites, Where Art Thou? (2007)
Armin Vit also wondered what constitutes a classic when he asked where the landmark works of our profession could be found. He feared the ephemeral nature of the web would prevent any website from achieving such status.
A Dao of Web Design (2000)
Perhaps landmark sites could only be created once we acknowledged the true nature of the web. This nature has come into sharp focus in recent years, largely thanks to John Allsopp’s earlier description of it. I consider his words to be a manifesto for modern web development, and this the classic article about web design.
Responsive Web Design (2010)
John’s words were later reprised by Ethan Marcotte, who looked to the permanence of architecture to find a path across an unpredictable landscape faced by web designers. By combining fluid grids, flexible images and media queries, we could build websites that adapted to whatever device they appeared on.
Designing with context (2013)
There used to be a clear understanding about how users experienced the web—where, when, how—but the proliferation of web-enabled devices revealed these assumptions to be false. Here, Cennydd Bowles considers the real complexities of context.
Universal Design IRL (2012)
Much has been written about the universality of the web, yet this isn’t always reflected in own communities and organisations. If you think inclusivity has little to do with design, Sara Wachter-Boettcher will set you straight.
Web Design is 95% Typography (2006)
With designers making their work ever more adaptive, its become clearer that the most fluid format is text, further elevating the importance of typography. When this was highlighted by Oliver Reichenstein, his words were met with controversy; if published today I doubt anyone would disagree.
Upping Your Type Game (2013)
Jessica Hische’s thorough and highly practical overview is a good place to start if you need to improve your understanding of typography. Unsure how to choose a typeface, what to look for or where to find good fonts? Jessica has it covered.
Five simple steps to better typography (2005)
Written prior to Oliver’s article (as if to further stress the importance of typography), Mark Boulton wrote a series of posts covering the basics, from measure to typographic hierarchy—providing a scale I’ve referenced many times since. This post was also a precursor to the independent publishing company later set up by Mark.
Baseline Grids on the Web (2012)
Having learnt the underpinnings of typography, the next step is to recognise which aspects are relevant to the web. Having long tried to align type to a baseline, Jason Santa Maria’s post made me realise that this was not only a thankless task, but one that fails to acknowledge the underlying technology; CSS does not require us to manipulate pieces of lead, after all.
A Real Web Design Application (2010)
Beyond reappraising our practice, we also need to look at our tools. Jason Santa Maria’s wish list described what an application for web design might look like. While nothing matches these requirements yet, we’re getting close.
Our Best Practices are Killing Us (2011)
Front-end development is undergoing a revolution, perhaps the biggest since the move from table-based layout. Terms such as DRY, modular and agile have become part of our vernacular. Nicole Sullivan was the first to realise that we needed to change our practices to meet the demands inherent in building large, complex systems.
About HTML semantics and front-end architecture (2012)
The need for more componentised markup has introduced class names that were previously seen as unsemantic. I found these changes unsettling, but Nicolas Gallagher put my mind at rest by describing what we actually mean by the word semantics.
Performance As Design (2013)
Web designers need to think about how an interface feels as much as how it looks. The speed of a website can adversely effect the overall experience if not considered from the start, a case brilliantly made by Brad Frost.
Responsive Design on a Budget (2013)
Mark Perkins provides some practical advice on how to involve a whole design team in thinking about performance; setting a page size budget makes designing speedy websites a shared goal.
Front-end performance for web designers and front-end developers (2013)
If you’re looking for an introduction to front-end performance, Harry Roberts provides a detailed guide; not so much an article, but a manual!
So, that’s my selection. I’ve undoubtedly missed many other seminal works—articles covering content strategy and accessibility are notable by their absence. Hopefully other’s will be able to fill in these gaps.
Programs and Pragmatism · ART=WORK
Nathan Ford explains that things like flat design could very well be more than just a hype: they are caused by pragmatic limitations. Designing for a more and more complex web might simply require such an aesthetic.
Easing Functions Cheat Sheet
Unicode character table
Here's an overview of all unicode characters. When you scroll the page the map on the right shows you where the characters you looking at are used. Nice little detail!
Jan V. White
Eight books by Jan V. White about grids, page layout, typography, statistical storytelling, colour and more are available for free, right here.
TITLE attributes - WAC blog - RNIB
Thinking about using the title-attribute on links or images? You probably shouldn't.
What Ant Colony Networks Can Tell Us About What’s Next for Digital Networks « NextNature.net
Ants are cool. And they are far more nerdy than humans. For instance, it turns out that
the algorithm desert ants use to regulate foraging is like the Traffic Control Protocol (TCP) used to regulate data traffic on the internet. So if they've been using TCP for millions of years now,
What have the ants worked out that we humans haven’t thought of yet?
CORS 101 — Anne’s Blog
About a year ago Anne van Kesteren explained that it's
completely safe to augment any resource with . This makes it much easier to share your data with others. And yes, that's something you want.
Access-Control-Allow-Origin: * as long as the resource is not part of an intranet
I decided to ask some of my favorite nerds to send me a list of classic articles and books that every web professional should know. Here’s the list of links to books, articles and a specification document that Heydon Pickering — writer of brilliant blog posts and brilliant articles — sent me. — Vasilis
Responsive Web Design (article) Ethan Marcotte
A manifesto on designing web pages not in a radically new way, but a radically old one. In an industry of neophiles, the popularity of this seminal article was slightly ironic. I think its contribution to accessibility (device independence and unbreaking page zoom) is underestimated.
Introducing HTML5 (book) Bruce Lawson and Remy Sharp
When industry pundits and programmers start waving the HTML5 flag, it's usually for its application-like features. What I love about this book is that it starts out tackling HTML5 as an improved metalanguage: Chapters one and two are all about the semantics of the new elements and the meaningful structures you can build with them. It's telling that Mr Lawson has studied English at a high level, not just Computer Science.
Introducing Semiotics: A Graphic Guide (book) Paul Cobley & Litza Jansz
Albeit older than the subject of web design, the study of "semiology" or "semiotics" is still surprisingly new. For not more than a century have we tried to formally grasp our species' power to create, share and access systems of meaning. To understand and contribute to the language and iconography of the web, I believe a basic familiarity with semiotics is essential. HTML doesn't run programs; it codifies meaning.
A Dao of Web Design (article) John Allsopp
Something of a precursor to "Responsive Web Design", and quoted in the introduction to Marcotte's article. I was already familiar with Taoism when I encountered this so it felt oddly tailored to me. Whenever I consider the flexibility of the web or the "flow" of its content, I recall this article. It's teeming with memorable quotations.
16 Pixels For Body Copy. Anything Less Is A Costly Mistake (article) Bnonn Tennant
With a review team that includes folks like Christian Heilmann and an exacting editorial process, I could pretty much pick an article from Smashing Magazine at random. I choose this one because I find myself citing it frequently. It's not just a lesson in how to typeset readable content, but a reminder that the technologies of the Web are often accessible until we designers meddle with them: All major desktop browsers render text at 16px by default.
Using WAI-ARIA in HTML (specification document) Steve Faulkner, Hans Hillen, Gez Lemon and David MacDonald
The Dao Of Web Design put pressure on the notion that web documents should be visually fixed, like printed documents. Using ARIA accustoms you to thinking of web documents as not visible at all. Screen reader accessibility is an exciting new challenge and advanced "application" accessibility is the new frontier. The ARIA suite, an API for providing complex information to non-visual user agents, is powerful but daunting. This doc' is an accessible (excuse the pun) introduction.
I decided to ask some of my favorite nerds to send me a list of classic articles and books that every web professional should know. Here's the list of links to books that Jenifer Hanen of the wonderful Black Phoebe Blog sent me. This is the first part. A second post with her favorite articles will follow — Vasilis
Since Vasilis asked to compile a list of Classical Web Design / Development links and books that influenced me, I give you a chronological version here. Books first, as books should always be first, and then the web links. ;o)
Books, brought to you by the internet miracle known as "Amazon: Your Orders (history)":
Jeff Veen's The Art & Science of Web Design
Snap to Grid: A User's Guide to Digital Arts, Media, and Cultures
Art Center's design theorist Peter Lunenfeld's foray into essays on digital, design, and the web. Excellent. May have had a case of the suck fairy since 2001, but the principles are still applicable.
Peter has also kindly proved some pdf downloads
Derek Powazek's Design for Community
Before the words "social media" and "web 2.0" and "rich web" were uttered, Derek Powazek wrote a great book on how to Design for Community. It is the type of book that re-reminds you what you know deep in your core about what you should be doing for your site / app, but need to actually think out and design explicitly for.
Lawerence Lessig's Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace
A cogent defense of the open web, open ideas, and open law made by Stanford law professor and EEF activist Lawerence Lessig. We need the open web now more than ever. 2005 is calling and we need to stand up now.
Dave Shea's The Zen of CSS Design : Visual Enlightenment for the Web
Need I say any more here? Dave ripped open the infinite possibilities of what we ALL could do with CSS and then with the encouragement of Molly Holzschlag wrote a book about it.
Matt Jones and Gary Marsden's Mobile Interaction Design
Back before you started bowing down to Steve Jobs' iPhone, Matt and Gary were writing on how we should be designing and developing interactions for mobile. Still a thoughtful book.
David Power's PHP Solutions: Dynamic Web Design Made Easy
The book that helped me unlock, safely with out major disaster, PHP and MYSQL and create a dynamic website. Sounds like old news, but this was a very practical book.
Erik Spiekermann's Stop Stealing Sheep & Find Out How Type Works
Much like Derek Powazek, Spiekermann re-reminds you of the stuff you learned in design school (or teaches you the first time) of the core of typography - the theory, practice, asthetics, and design thereof in a away that is both lighthearted and deep down. If you only pay attention to one book on my list, get this one and then download the pdfs of Veen and Lunenfeld for the first few chapters.
Jürgen Scheible's Mobile Python: Rapid prototyping of applications on the mobile platform
O.M.G. I LOVED THIS BOOK. Jürgen, aka Mobile Lenin, blew open the doors of mobile app prototyping for me with this book. Python + Mobile + my beloved Nokia N95 = The best possible thing to happen to me in 2008. (Other than the photo tour in India and participating in an excellent UX / Social / Mobile workshop in Helsinki). What I wouldn't give for ALL contemporary mobile devices to have Python as one of the main stack programming languages on their OSes.
2009 - 2013
I won't go into my forays between 2006 and 2011 into Django, Google App Engine, Ruby on Rails, Android, PHP's OOP / Pear, Qt / QML, and other fabulous Open Source worlds. Since other folks have already covered 2010 - 2013 in these lists, I will leave those years be. Except…
I will give a shout out to Maximilliano Firtman's Programming the Mobile Web from 2010, before the Responsive Web upswing, Maximilliano was encouraging us all to the right thing.