If you don’t want to hear the truth, don’t show it to me. Read these instead.

I’ve had a look at a site that is difficult to navigate, painful to look at, and has the usability of a two-headed spoon. That’s not what they wanted to hear, but I’ve not softened the blow much from that.

It doesn’t take much, folks, to work out a clean and efficient interface that is still inviting and exciting. Have a look at a couple of books from this list and you’ll see that I’m not just being difficult and pedantic – I’m actually quite mild compared to the people with books for sale. There’s no excuse for bad design, no matter what your level of expertise. Even pulling just a few suggestions from these experts will make your site or online application far more usable. Remember, the usability comes first, then the visual design. No one is going to come back to a site that is pretty without being easy to use. It is the Holy Grail to create a user experience which encompasses both, but rare to actually get it right. If you create a positive user experience through how that user interacts with your site or application, then you’ve got a return visitor in the bag. If you brand the product (your site/application) properly – read: use a professional for this – then he will remember you even more so. You aren’t creating a painting or a billboard to leave only a graphic impression- you’re creating an experience that is meant to be interacted with. Simple and sensible. Design it that way.


“Don’t Make Me Think!: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability” (Steve Krug)


“The Elements of User Experience” (Jesse James Garrett)


“The Design of Sites: Principles, Processes and Patterns for Crafting a Customer-centered Web Experience” (Douglas K.Van Duyne, James Landay, Jason I. Hong)


“Web Redesign Workflow That Works” (Kelly Goto, Emily Cotler)


“Hot Text: Web Writing That Works” (Jonathan Price, Lisa Price)

These books are all on our own office shelves. I wouldn’t recommend them otherwise. They clearly aren’t pleasure reading, but are vital reference for anyone who wants to be successful in online endeavours. Sure, you can learn a lot by visiting successful sites and applications, but to understand what makes them so and to be able to apply those principals and psychology to your own project often requires the behind-the-scenes understanding explained in these books. We use them as reference but also pull them down off the shelf between projects to learn something new.

Web development isn’t about making a pretty picture with clicky buttons on it – don’t treat it that way and for goodness sake, don’t try to be clever without understanding user psychology. It won’t work…

Here’s the company I develop for: Fishlight Ltd.
We also offer consultation, in case you really do want the truth without reading the books. πŸ˜‰

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6 thoughts on “If you don’t want to hear the truth, don’t show it to me. Read these instead.”

  1. Couple more recommendations, not quite as ‘ardcore as those listed:

    – The Big Red Fez, Seth Godin (0743220862)
    – Bulletproof Web Design, Dan Cederholm (0321346939)

  2. @Pete:
    Speaking of Seth Godin, I once followed a link to a blog that lists me in a blogroll consisting of Seth Godin, Molly E. Holzschlag, and regularjen. That’s it. I am so unworthy, yet completely flattered!
    I’ve never read any Seth Godin, but keep hearing good things. I may put that book on my Amazon list… Thanks for the suggestions. πŸ™‚

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