12 Books To Improve Your Web Design Game


Every designer seeks inspiration, whether it's in other peoples design work, some nice photography or even just getting out of the studio and walking around. One of the most popular ways of learning more about the design industry is to pick up a book or magazine written by industry experts filled with opinions, reviews and articles on all things design. I'm not going to cover books that just teach a language from start to finish (if I was, I'd be raving about Beginning CSS Web Development by Simon Collison) but rather books that look to help readers build on skills and expand as designers and developers.

Let's take a look at some of the best design books currently available.

1 - Don't make me think!: A common sense approach to web usability

by Steve Krug


I'm going to start with a book that most will have heard of, and a lot will have already read. This book by Steve Krug really changed the way designers thought about designing websites. It uses a great mix of humour and well thought-out examples to illsutrate some really valid points about web usability.

What people say:

"Every Web designer should read this book and take its message to heart. The book’s practical advice, presented in an easy, smart and fun way make it a must-have. Just make sure that after you read the book, you use the information you’ve learned."


2 - Designing Web Usability: The Practice of Simplicity

by Jakob Nielsen


Web usability legend Jakob Nielsen absolutely nails it with this no-fuss look at the experience of designing and viewing websites with the end-user in mind. Although it's almost 10 years old, and some 'future-proof' sections look a little dated, it is still a fantastic starting point for someone looking to get into user-centric design.

What people say:

"There are more modern books on usability (and more modern publications by Jakob) but it’s well worth a read and still relevant and correct. Many of the guidelines and tips throughout Designing Web Usability are nowdays acceptable norms rather than big news but that’s where the strength of this book lays – in its fundamental truths."

Steven Clark

3 - Bulletproof Web Design: Improving Flexibility and Protecting Against Worst-Case Scenarios with XHTML and CSS

by Dan Cederholm


A really good look at making sure the websites you create are lean, functional, standards-compliant and accessible to all users.

What people say:

"The book is excellent, well written, clear and lays out the concepts in a step-by-step manner that makes the concepts easy to grasp. If you have a decent understanding of HTML and CSS and want to take your designs to the next level, get a copy."

Mac the Web

4 - Get to the Top on Google: Tips and Techniques to Get Your Site to the Top of Google and Stay There

by David Viney


Although it's not a design orientated book, I think a decent grasp of SEO is vital for any modern web designer. This book by David Viney gives you the fundamentals to get your site up and running in Googles search listings, which is vital if you are in e-commerce or trying to grow your reader base for example.

What people say:

"This book truly is an invaluable resource for anyone interested in using SEO to build a powerful business, on or off the Internet."

Affiliate Tips

5 - The CSS Anthology: 101 Essential Tips, Tricks & Hacks

by Rachel Andrew


This book is an absolute must for anyone wanting a very easy transition into the world of CSS. The book covers practical implementations of beginner actions like link styling through to more advanced skills like layout.

What people say:

"I fear that without this book I might still be using tables to design websites and that is a scary thought. This book set me on the road to learning and loving CSS and for that reason I will always be very fond of it!"

The Web Design Blog

6 - Sexy Web Design: Creating Interfaces That Work

by Elliot Jay Stocks


Sexy isn't paticularly a word that springs to mind when you think of web design, but author Elliot Jay Stocks really tries to display how anyone can make an aesthetically stunning website.

What people say:

"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."

Monday by Noon

7 - A Project Guide to UX Design: For User Experience Designers in the Field or in the Making

by Russ Unger & Carolyn Chandler


A lot of web designers concentrate purely on aesthetics and in a lot of cases this does the job, but for more complex projects, a lot of thought must go into the experience of that site. This book focuses on inserting usability experience elements into your project.

What people say:

"A Project Guide to UX Design’ is a must have for those starting out in the field of experience design as a brief but comprehensive guide to realising a web design project."

Johnny Holland

8 - Five Simple Steps

by Mark Boulton


This book crosses over into the realms of graphic design and looks to apply the techniques learned in that field, to web design. It has some great grid-based techniques and a fantastic case study towards the end of the book, a real must-read.

What people say:

"A Practical Guide to Designing for the Web provides a solid background in the principles of graphic design for any Web designer, with particular insights into our role as practitioners in the industry, the Web design process and online layout."

Full Cream Milk

9 - Designing with Web Standards

by Jeffrey Zeldman & Ethan Marcotte


When first learning web design, standards aren't exactly top of the list of the main things to learn for a lot of people but ask seasoned web veterans how important web standards are you'll probably be on the end of a 3 hour rant. This book is an industry standard look at web standards and how they can radically improve any website.

What people say:

“A web designer without a copy of Designing with Web Standards is like a carpenter without a level. With this third edition, Zeldman continues to be the voice of clarity; explaining the complex in plain English for the rest of us.”

Dan Cederholm

10 - Transcending CSS: The Fine Art of Web Design

by Andy Clarke, Molly E. Holzschlag, Aaron Gustafson & Mark Boulton


Fantastic design doesn't always go hand in hand with well built, standard-based code but this book goes some way to explaining how you can implement workflows and processes to achieve highly visual designs using CSS.

What people say:

"My final thoughts on this book are very positive. I absolutely loved it, and I would have to rank it as my all time #1 favorite book. I give it a 5 of 5 rating, and suggest it to anyone and everyone, who knows basic xhtml/css."

HTML Center

11 - The Non-Designer's Design Book

by Robin Williams


Although the title suggests the book will be filled with dumbed-down design tips for the novice designer, the book states some brilliant processes and theories behind proximity, contrast, repetition and alignement.

What people say:

"Robin Williams is a top Web design guru, and this is one of her best-selling books. You can see why. It's clearly presented, beautifully designed, and lavishly illustrated with full colour screen shots and examples of successful Web pages."

Roy Johnson

The ZEN of CSS Design: Visual Enlightenment for the Web

by Dave Shea & Molly E. Holzschlag


This book helps readers visualise unique layouts in CSS design and is a perfect showcase of just what is possible with simple changes in CSS.

What people say:

"This book is incredible. It brings a more complete appreciation for implementing CSS, it brings the design portion in, and gives it a prominent spot."

Cole Joplin


  1. Chris Whiteley November 13, 2009
  2. Design Informer November 14, 2009
  3. Todd Wallace November 16, 2009
  4. raj May 7, 2010

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