From my perspective on the web design world, there is generally a disconnect between web development and web design. One is a logical, objective progression; the other is an artistic, subjective progression. Where one person can create a solid, nicely functional website, they may feel more hesitant about what looks right from the design side.
The governing idea behind Principles of Beautiful Web Design is that good design is about the relationship between the elements involved, and creating a balance between them. That point is made that you should avoid fads and that it is the finishing touches that make the best impression. The goal of Principles of Beautiful Web Design is to provide you with some knowledge about good design that is easy to understand and apply, basically taking an artistic, subjective endeavor and making it logical and objective.
Principles of Beautiful Web Design is divided into five chapters and is geared toward those who "feel squeamish about choosing colors, feel uninspired by a blank browser window or get lost trying to choose the right font." The content is directed toward the programmer or developer, but anyone who deals in web-based products – project leaders, sales personnel, managers, etc – will also learn a great deal.
Chapter one, "Layout and Composition," will show you how to gain an awareness of design and how it relies on understanding spatial relationships that exist between components within a design. It begins by examining the possible page components and ends with the beginning of a layout for examination throughout the book. The author also discusses tools and examples that will help you with your own designs. This is all about the nuts and bolts of web design.
Chapter two, "Color," explores what to many is one of the more mysterious aspects of web design — color selection. Here Beaird examines both the aesthetic and scientific aspects of color theory. Adding some tips for creating harmonies of color combinations, he shows you how anyone can choose a set of colors that will work well in any website. What I like here is how he describes the psychology of color and how it affects the perception that your site will convey to the visitor.
Chapter three, "Texture," describes what the author calls the most overlooked part of web design. Textures are the key to making your website stand out. By understanding how the individual elements function, you will learn how to use lines and shapes to communicate your message more effectively on a number of levels. Texture is all about giving a distinctive appearance to the surface design of your site
Chapter four, "Typography," focuses on what could be the most important part of your web design. Type is everywhere and understanding the mechanics of the written language is essential for any visual designer. You will explore the various typeface distinctions as well as understanding the basics of the letterform. The main purpose of your site is to communicate. Good typography is what lures your visitor in to reading your content.
Chapter five, "Imagery," will show you how to integrate images and illustrations into your web design. You will learn what to look for in the visual elements that are used on your pages — what is needed to find the right image, how to mask, crop, and create borders the will help not only convey the site's message, but even help in its branding.
I have got to be honest with you — I knew that this book was going to be good before I ever saw it. It came out in January 2007 and by the time I tried to get a copy, it was sold out and on its second printing! The copy I have is from the late March run. It is that good!
Jason Beaird covers web design in a way that non-designers can understand. He walks you through all of the aspects of design development from initial meeting to finished product. If you are just getting into web development, this is a must read. Heck, it is a must read if you have been doing development for twenty years — especially if you are still putting the marquee and blink tags in your design!
I highly recommend this book.