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Web design is challenging stuff. There’s a reason that talented and well-read individuals can make impressive sums of money with a little HTML and CSS know-how. But everyone had to start somewhere and properly educating yourself is the first step to honing these skills. Myriad tutorials and forums exist that can help make sense of markup and formatting language, but the breadth of information required to create attractive and usable websites demands the touch of experts.

These resources may not be free, but valuable information rarely is. Furthermore, the capabilities of print to flexibly and graphically represent the trickier aspects of coding are worth the investment in order to build a foundation of knowledge that will pay for itself in time. From the copious volumes of web design information, we’ve selected five gems that are sure to put you on solid footing and get you coding with confidence.



Building attractive websites demands an attractive resource. Jon Duckett’s comprehensive volume builds the essential skills needed to create your first website, with the added benefit of some truly beautiful and informative graphic design. Aside from the aesthetic appeal of its pages, the tome holds thorough explanations of web basics and advanced CSS functionality.

The true value of this book lies in a creative and considerate application of visual and textual elements. The benefit of online tutorials is that they can actively demonstrate the effects of syntax on a working page. However, their instructional capabilities are limited to the technical acumen of the instructors coding the lessons. In this way, a printed volume of well crafted, textual explanations reinforced by visual aids can help enlighten key concepts in ways that online tutorial simply cannot.


Don’t Make Me Think

But learning to construct web pages is only half the battle. With appropriate markup and formatting knowledge, one can create gorgeous, utterly unusable pages that benefit no one. That’s where Steve Krug’s user experience guide comes into play. By examining the process of human interaction with web pages, nascent designers can understand the essential elements of usability and function.

In teaching these concepts, Krug takes a unique and valuable approach. Instead of simply delineating UX best practices, he teaches readers to think like a usability expert, in order to guide future development efforts and inform functional solutions. In addition, the guide is short, engaging, and extremely digestible, bucking the unfortunate reputation of educational texts as dry, sleep-inducing slogs. By teaching a process in a digestible way, the book helps demystify our relationship with the Internet to great effect.


Responsive Web Design

If you’ve paid any attention to the progression of web design in the past couple years, you know that responsiveness is in. The solution, which endeavors to design versatile configurations that address complicated and ever-changing platform concerns, has taken root in large and small-scale web development alike. For this reason, any rudimentary education in web design necessarily includes at least a cursory look at adaptive and responsive layouts.

Ethan Marcotte’s 150-page crash course in this web design revolution will give you the information you need to jump on the wagon. The book examines key aspects of adaptive layouts including a look at how to adjust media, text sizes, and arrangements of elements in order to accommodate mobile, tablet, and desktop devices. Since whatever you craft will likely be seen on each of these platforms at some point, it behooves you to consider everyone’s needs when creating your masterpiece.


The Smashing Book

Smashing’s reputation as an authority of design knowledge precedes itself. Their website houses droves of professionally curated techniques, code, and ideas with the express intent of making you a better designer. But their greatest contribution to the annals of design history is a massive regular publication containing all the latest developments and information an aspiring web designer needs.

The Smashing Book’s true value exists in its authors’ abilities to turn sophisticated design concepts into actionable takeaways. Recent articles run the gamut from predictions on the future of web typography to the logistics of content strategy. With this resource in your office, you can assure that your skills keep up with the rapid pace of development; an essential consideration for any successful web designer.


Mobile First

The cell phone has become as much a part of our society as khakis and hotdogs. But to the chagrin of web designers, this transition necessitates some special accommodation in order to fit small screens and finger-based interfaces. Furthermore, the commercial potential of mobile adaptation is immense, rendering an education in mobile a designer’s obligation.

Now that our knowledge of the platform has reached critical mass, Luke Wroblewski’s paperback guide represents an essential piece of any web designer’s library. The former Yahoo! design architect packs each page full of data-driven strategies and time-tested techniques to making your mobile site the best it can possibly be. With an entertaining voice and a concise format, readers will find themselves privy to some of the most important design information of our modern age without facing the trudge of dry academic reading.

As the body of web design knowledge continues to grow, these volumes may, time, fade into the distance. But for the current wave of technologies, each book listed here contributes essential knowledge and skills that will put your web design on solid ground. From attractive and understandable explanations to yearly updates on important design developments, your bookshelf and your brainchild will both benefit from these handy references.

What other books have you found helpful? Add the titles in the comments section below!