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Top 7 Web Design Books To Read in 2021

Web designing is an ever-changing field. To strongly position yourself amongst the others or to even begin as a newbie, you must keep gaining knowledge about the industry.

The modes of learning have changed a lot. The web is filled with online courses, webinars, and many educational videos available with a just click of a button. But when someone mentions ‘treasure trove of knowledge’, all we can think about are the books. And there are no second thoughts to it.

So, at times you can give yourselves a rest from endless surfing and pick up a book. 

“When you open a book, you open your mind.”

We have put together a list of books that cover a range of web design topics.

Let’s begin with the list.

#1-HTML & CSS: Design & Build Websites by Jon Duckett

HTML & CSS: Design & Build Websites by Jon Duckett

HTML & CSS: Design & Build Websites is a book for you if you are a beginner in web design. As the book name suggests, it covers the two fundamental languages of web design —  HTML & CSS.

The first half covers HTML that builds website elements like page structure, texts, forms, etc. The second half explains the CSS part of the websites which includes colors, layouts, etc. 

The beauty of this book is that the two different languages are color-coded. If you see the image below, you can find that the HTML codes are in blue and the CSS codes are in pink color. So, it’s easy for readers to perceive how they look alongside each other. 

HTML and CSS Example in book

Unlike other books that just teach coding, this one is written considering the effectiveness of visual learning. The author has added images of how the codes look on the screen and necessary screenshots for explaining a topic. 

The book as a whole ⁠— every page, the texts, the pictures are all combined and put out considering the design principles. It’s visually appealing and aesthetically pleasing. It is colorful and hence takes away monotony and boring elements the readers might experience otherwise.

To conclude, the book is structured in such a way that you can either read it cover to cover or just dip into a single chapter. 

This isn’t just a one-time read, but a book you can carry all along for any time reference.

#2-Don’t Make Me Think Revisited by Steve Krug

“Don’t Make Me Think” published back in 2000, was the most-loved and most sought book among web designers and developers. This book is about web usability, guiding the readers on navigation and information design.

Don’t Make Me Think Revisited by Steve Krug

After almost 10+ years, Steve Krug revisits and re-examines his usability principles with new perspectives, making it relevant to the present audience. ‘Don’t Make Me Think Revisited’ is for the technically advanced world. There is also a new section covering mobile usability.

The book is filled with principles on web usability, even the title is one. Yes, “Don’t Make Me Think” is the first principle of usability. Krug stresses the importance of making the design easy for the users so that they don’t have to think too much as they interact with it.

To make usability clear, Krug states, “Usability is about people and how they understand and use things, not about technology”.

The book contains many such great insights portrayed through amazing illustrations. One such illustration below speaks about how users view the web page.  

Illustration from Don’t Make Me Think

Hence keeping us engaged throughout the book without feeling the information overload.

But there’s more as to what the book contains. The writing is witty, humorous and makes the information easy to remember. While adding fresh thoughts to the old laws, Krug advocates the need for the mobile-first approach among the designers. 

The book is a funny bonanza on web usability, you can keep coming back to it whenever you wish to.

#3-Responsive Web Design by Ethan Marcotte

Responsive Web Design by Ethan Marcotte

Ethan Marcotte talks about how technology is advancing with time. He begins the book with a note that he cannot predict how and in what kind of device the reader would be reading the book, implying the unpredictable nature of technology. He is the one who coined the term ‘Responsive Web Design’.

The book covers three parts of responsive web design — responsive images, media queries, and responsive grids. It is filled with examples for using CSS to build responsive web designs. The author provides you insights into the areas where you will encounter problems and suggests a way to tackle the problems with an apt solution.

He considers web responsive design as a potential solution saying, “…more than anything, web design is about asking the right questions. And really, that’s what responsive web design is: a possible solution, a way to more fully design for the web’s inherent flexibility.” 

In the final chapters, the author speaks about the mobile-first approach, responsive workflows, and real-world implications. The book, when you finish reading, makes you more of a person who is responsiveness-aware.

It contains colorful images. The book is compact, conversational, and humorous, making it an interesting quick read. 

#4-Designing with Web Standards by Jeffrey Zeldman

Designing with Web Standards by Jeffrey Zeldman

This book is for people who are interested in knowing how to design complying with web standards. The first edition came out in 2003 and several revised editions came out later. The last edition was co-authored by Ethan Marcotte, whose book we saw before this.

The book speaks about the three areas of design where web standards are necessary — structure, presentation, and behavior. It also includes the history and concepts behind web design. 

While the book covers coding aspects like XHTML, CSS, HTML5, and CSS3, it’s not just about the technical details and instructions. It mainly speaks about accessibility and other important aspects that adhere to design standards. The author keeps emphasizing why designing according to W3C web standards is essential. 

The recent edition co-authored by Ethan Marcotte covers the current state of the web, changes in technologies, designing that fits the concepts like Responsive Web Design and Mobile-First.

The book is filled with humorous narratives, puns, and wordplay. It’s engaging and informative.

#5-The Principles of Beautiful Web Designs by Jason Beaird

The Principles of Beautiful Web Designs by Jason Beaird

This book is for you if you think your website is functionally sound but not aesthetically pleasing. But the book is not just confined to people with design experience, but also for beginners. The author brings you the design process in detail, starting with discovery to implementation.

The book contains explanations of how the websites work and how people view the websites. This makes you aware of why designs are made a certain way further helping you design consciously.

It covers the following topics — layout & composition, color, typography, and imagery. Each section contains example designs. The author explains the concept behind the examples and the process of creation to completion. General principles that are used in each design process are also presented with details here.  

The first edition was published in the year 2007. In 2014, the revised third edition was released. It covers mobile considerations, Responsive Web Design, new sections on UI resources and patterns, and icons. 

The book contains colorful screenshots and images for explaining concepts. Jason uses a conversational tone throughout and hence the book keeps hold of the reader’s attention with the narrative and the details.

#6-Learning Web Design: A Beginner’s Guide by Jennifer Nierderst Robbins

Learning Web Design: A Beginner’s Guide by Jennifer Nierderst Robbins

This book is a perfect guide taking you through the basics of web designing. It begins by mentioning the essential set of skills and materials needed for becoming a designer. Jennifer then begins the lessons by explaining in detail how the web works and moves on to explain the webpages and concepts behind their way of working.

The book teaches you how to code HTML, CSS, and JavaScript for individual elements of web design. The areas the book covers with relation to coding ranges from text to tables in HTML and colors to layout in CSS. It also introduces you to Javascript adding the importance of the language in web design.

Each chapter ends with a part called ‘Test yourself’, which helps you assess the level of understanding. There are also a lot of exercises that let you have hands-on training alongside learning. 

You can pick this book up to build your technical skills or refresh it once again.

#7-Design for Hackers by David Kadavy

Design for Hackers by David Kadavy

Here, the term ‘hackers’ doesn’t mean the people who would make an unauthorized entry to steal the data away. It denotes people who are extremely skillful and curious in knowing how things work. Along with the explanations on working principles, it gives insights on what could be done in making the products better. 

The book does the job of making designs relevant to non-designers and newbies in the design universe. It is composed of wonderful narratives on great designs and their underlying principles. 

Narrative from Design for Hackers by David Kadavy

The book mainly elaborates on composition, typography & fonts, and color. Under each concept, the author explains why certain designs are the way they are, deriving facts and evidence from history. For example, in the typography part, he explains how the digital fonts are inspired by the Roman du Roi letters. The author speaks in detail about how various fonts are rendered on the screen.

In the composition part, he explains how the human mind tends to read and focus areas using heat maps. He compares the concept of painting in an old sculpture that is done in a way to bring the viewers’ attention to the center part to the logos made these days. Kadavy says,

REMEMBER: In order for a piece of art or design to really be relevant and important it has to be sensitive to the technological and cultural factors present within the world in which the piece is created. Doing otherwise will result only in the creation of a veneer.”

This strikes a chord in readers about the importance of deriving design inspiration from real life.


The books mentioned above are spread over different topics of web design from basic lessons to standards for creating responsive websites. 

Even as a person who has advanced knowledge in web design, you can revisit these books to brush up on those skills. 

Reading books is amazing and once you get hold of it, you will never let it go. All you have to do is begin. Read a page or two a day, to begin with. And you will see how helpful it is in just a matter of a few days.

Don’t let that book wait for you. Leap and grab it open.

Nandhini Narayanan

Nandhini Narayanan

A content writer who loves to explore and write about the digital product space. Constantly attempts to read between lines and live in words.

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