Vincent Flanders' new "Son of Web Pages That Suck" is the sequel to his best-selling book "Web Pages That Suck." WPTS arose from the site he founded by the same name in 1996, WebPagesThatSuck.com. It seems that WYSIWYG editors have just made it easier for designers to create bad web sites faster, so Flanders felt a second book was needed.
Flanders takes a different approach to teaching usability than the likes of Nielsen and Norman. Through over the top humor and outrageous examples of bad web design he manages to teach good design while keeping us entertained. Flanders uses humor as a teaching aid because he's found that that people tend to learn better when they are entertained.
You'll find yourself laughing as you read this book. The book is peppered with full-color pictures of Flanders and friends in various getups: a devil, an angel, a mechanic, a flasher, and even in the tub ("Splish Splash Pages" chapter). It's all in good fun, as Flanders doesn't take himself too seriously. He makes his points without condescension. He even uses Johnny Cochran-like sayings to illustrate his points:
"If the Bits Don't Flow, People Will Go."
"The Top's Gotta Pop or They're Not Gonna Stop."
The author is a marketing showman, using carnival-like PR:
TREMBLE at the horror that is Mystery Meat Navigation
RUN SCREAMING from splishy splashy Flashy pages...
The book is a hybrid design and usability book aimed at beginning to intermediate designers. The book teaches good design practices through bad mistakes with scathing commentary on numerous really bad web sites. Through his web site's "Daily Sucker" and thousands of email suggestions Flanders has plenty of material to choose from.
The actual advice is common sense stuff that advanced users will already know like keeping text contrast high and file sizes low. However, even after years of preaching the gospel, usability experts are finding web designers repeating the same mistakes over and over again. Flanders shows what not to do, and offers suggestions on how to do it right.
Web design is about working within limitations. Unless you have what Flanders calls "heroin content," make your pages fast loading, easy to navigate, easy to read, and minimize extraneous features. He gives useful pointers throughout the book for graphics optimizers, validators, browser simulators, and includes a CD chock full of useful utilities to shrink and shape up your pages.
Flanders likes to say, somewhat tongue in cheek, that this book is for everybody. It is not quite in that category, but it will have a broader appeal than most web design books with its splashy graphics, non-technical approach, and Flanders' trademark humor. Some college professors have even adopted his book for their Web design courses because it doesn't put their students to sleep. Highly recommended.