Month: January 2007

Book Review: The Design of Sites: Patterns for Creating Winning Web Sites (2nd Edition)

If you do anything on a website besides sitting in you chair only coding all day long, you owe it to yourself to check out a copy of this book from Prentice Hall – The Design of Sites. Now, I can almost feel the eyes rolling from here even at the mention of this kind of book, but trust me – pick up a copy and thumb through it and you’ll see the difference.

It’s not one of those “here’s what’s cool in web design right now” kinds of things. It goes a bit deeper than that and it looks more at the components and structure of a site rather than the things that you could slap onto the exterior to make your site a bit more trendy (Ajax revolution anyone?) Instead, it breaks things down into patterns that describe the bits that make a web site what it is.

Each of the patterns presented are components, like “order tracking and history” or “personalized content”, that can be swapped around and plugged together to make a site. Of course, a book full of these kinds of things could get messy, so they divided them up into chapters:

  • Site Genres
  • Creating a Navigation Framework
  • Creating a Powerful Homepage
  • Writing and Managing Content
  • Building Trust and Credibility
  • Basic E-Commerce
  • Advanced E-Commerce
  • Helping Customers Complete Tasks
  • Designing Effective Page Layouts
  • Making the Site Search Fast and Relevant
  • Making Navigation Easy
  • Speeding Up Your Site
  • The Mobile Web

It’s a long list of a lot of great stuff that could get hard to keep track of. Thankfully, they thought of this too and color-coded each of the sections. Then, inside of each, the design patterns all have their own shade of the color for where they fit. Using these colors (and a letter/number combination) , they reference the patterns beside some of the other related patterns. It’s a bit hard to describe without seeing it, so I’d recommend picking it up and flipping through it to check out the layout style alone (definitely well thought out).

All of the patterns are briefly covered in an overview chapter (to make finding what you’re looking for fast) and expanded out in the later chapters with descriptions, examples and screenshots. They don’t just describe the end result (like a “grid layout” or a “progress bar”) either. They explain the concept behind it and, if needed, get into a little design concept theory showing why the pattern would be used.

There’s tons of great stuff crammed into this book (weighing in at over 800 pages, not counting the Appendixes) – so much that I’ve really only scratched the surface of the content. Plus, for a book of its size, the cost is pretty good – $40 USD from a site like Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

So, “The Design of Sites: Patterns for Creating Winning Web Sites” – definitely pick it up and take a look. It’s nice to see a web development book that focuses more on making sites better rather than just making them better looking.

Oh, and a quick last note to the coders out there – don’t get this one thinking it’s going to be all about programming these patterns. It’s mostly a theory book with a dash of code thrown in here and there to show what they’re talking about.