The Art and Science of Web Design Paperback – 28 Dec 2000
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When it comes to Web design, style guides are often too boring and predictable to capture the attention of caffeine-riddled Web developers. But not The Art & Science of Web Design; this book strategically equips readers to design sites effectively.
Jeffrey Veen, an established design guru and the creator of HotWired.com, has authored a carefully structured look into the undercurrents of Web design. Organised around the key development topics, the book is laden with a historical background of standards, features and trends. Yet the topics are timeless and central to good Web engineering, so it's space well spent. The mix of expert opinion and historical explanation combine for a well-rounded reader experience.
Issues such as interface consistency are explored within the unique paradigm of the Web, with the assistance of a sidebar to explain what "above the fold" means. Performance is discussed with an unusual twist: ie., how the current constraint on Web-browsing performance is actually good since it fosters creativity and more elegant design and development. This, beyond the usual design tips, is what makes this book special. Art & Science stays at a reasonably high altitude, dwelling not on the fine details of browser compatibility but rather on the key areas designers need to be concerned about. With his years of experience and knowledge of the legacy of traditional publishing, Veen has provided great perspective on the dicey work of Web designers. --Stephen W. Plain
From the Back Cover
The Art & Science of Web Design will help you understand the Web from the inside. It is structured around core Web concepts that often get only a passing mention in books on Web design. This book is not a reference book or a style guide. It is your mentor, whispering in your ear all the answers to those ubiquitous questions, and reminding us that there are now new rules and new ways to break them.See all Product description
Top customer reviews
Veen's book falls between two stools - those just starting out may find his passion for standards a little disconcerting. While veterans like myself will find that he barely scratches the surface of the processes involved in producing a standards compliant design.
I wouldn't have minded a chapter on dealing with clients and the logistics of playing the chess-like games that ensue when a client thinks they know better than the professional designer they're employing. Just like the manufactured pop stars of today who are trained to deal with the media, a fresh young developer needs to know how to handle themselves in a client facing situation. Failing to cover this important subject is a bit of a missed opportunity and although dry, it's a just as important in delivering a design as CSS.
I'll probably pass this book on to someone just starting out, as it does carry a shed load of common sense that many of todays bright-eyed wannabe designers seem to lack. Like why you shouldn't copy the fame-whore design sites and stick a 200K image laboriously crafted with Photoshop filters on the front end of your site.
When it comes to site design, Veen seems to deal more with the logical workings than the aesthetics, something I found disappointing as I'd been expecting the "Art" of the title to compliment the "Science".
And yes, there are a few typos and missing words in there, but I wouldn't say it detracts from what is a very readable book.
As with every purchase my main query was: will it be value for money? Will this book tell me something I don't already know?
And I'm happy to say that yes, indeed, it does. After countless discussions about pixel width I found the discussion of liquid page designs excellent. Also useful advice on how to use your server information to the max which is great if you are not a techie yourself but need to know these things.
It also gives a useful intro to dynamic page design - so if ASP means very little to you, this book can help to get you started. Little technical info, but great for the principle behind it all and why you might need it..
Veen's book is eminently readable and he clearly knows his stuff. In eight chapters he covers a great deal of ground, from the origins of presentational markup languages in the early twentieth century letterpress printing industry, where editors would use universally understood codes to communicate type face and layout information to typesetters, to the workings of today's database-driven dynamic publishing systems that are the backbone of much of the content on the web today.
A good chapter address information architecture, with an excellent discussion of how to present "horizontal" connections in a "vertical" hierarchy - something that the brain does quite naturally in the process of learning and recalling knowledge in human memory, but is difficult to communicate effectively on the web. The use of tags as metadata, or information about information, to add meaning and structure to data on the web moves the discussion into the realm of XML.
The two chapters on "Behavior" and "Browsers" address one of web design's biggest headaches, namely how to cope with the vast assortment of devices that people use to read web pages. Veen discusses how, instead of trying to make pages render visually the same in every type of browser and at every screen resolution, we should make pages that are "liquid" and reformat according to the browser device being used and degrade gracefully in earlier versions of browsers and text only devices. As a means of achieving this there is a discussion of serving web pages conditionally depending on the device being used to access them - a technique referred to somewhat inelegantly as "browser sniffing". I was disappointed that the discussion made no mention of accessibility for visually impaired readers using devices such as speech synthesisers and Braille readers to access web content - an issue that will surely receive greater attention as the web continues its inexorable penetration into all of our lives.
The book is presented very well - it is stylish, visually appealing and printed in full colour on high quality paper stock. What a great shame, then, that the book is let down by rather too many grammatical errors, typos and textual inconsistencies - even to the point of there being multiple spellings of Veen's first name (Jeffrey / Jeffery) on the cover of the book!... Also, my copy had quite a few pages that were blurred due to registration errors in the printing process...
Another disappointment is the absence of a bibliography; Veen has clearly done a lot of research for the writing of this book and makes many good references in the text, so why not go the distance and give a proper set of references? Whilst I can understand the pressure to cut down on the lead time for the publication of a book that documents such as fast moving subject as the web, where the majority of books lose their value in a few years due to technology moving on, this kind of sloppy production is not welcome.
Overall then, a good book - great content marred by sloppy production. Four out of five.
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jeffrey veen does great presentations and lectures, do a googlevideo search and sit back for 50 minutes of entertainment.Read more
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