If you are a web designer or developer, then you know what I am talking about when I say, Smashing Magazine (SM). Smashing Magazine, founded by Vitaly Friedman and Sven Lennartz in 2006, is iconic in the world of web design and development, and it is the number one blog in the field. I personally visit the blog numerous times a day as a great resource for up-to-date information in web design and development. For those one or two developers who are not familiar with The Smashing Magazine blog, it is one of the most popular web design and development blogs online, and it is well known for great articles, tutorials, and inspirational lists. Now, Smashing Magazine took all of there great ideas from the blog, and combined into The Smashing Book that has just about everything you need to know to create smashingly amazing websites. If you are like me, then you too waited patiently for your book to arrive as well. Once it arrived, I went straight to reading it! Here is my verdict on this very eagerly awaited read!
The book features 311 colored pages of essential information in topics ranging from User Interface Design to Websites Optimization to Typography. Each chapter is written from different authors in the field, so it gives a comprehension and complete package of information with many different perspectives. The book has a great style, though I find its design somewhat flawed. The compact size, though having positives and negatives points, I find to be a little difficult to read and manuvear when trying to read information and implement it at the same time. However, the size is also very useful when using while traveling, because of its compact shape. The book is divided into 10 chapters, and below I will give my opinion of each.
Chapters from The Smashing Book
User Interface Design in Modern Web Applications
The book opens with Dmitry Fadeyev talking about the best practices and techniques involved in user visual interface design. He starts with basic information and gives a great background on the topic and then proceeds to delve into greater detail, in addition he provides examples for each of his topics. All in all, it was very interesting and useful information.
The Art and Science of CSS Layouts
In this chapter, the authors, Jacob Gube and Kayla Knight, go through the different CSS layouts, fixed-width, fluid, elastic and hybrid, explaining the pros and cons of each one. Each explanation is accompanied by examples, CSS code, and a website that had achieved those layouts, which is very useful and allows the reader to see practical applications of the information. I liked this chapter because it provides useful examples, where the reader can actually see examples of these principles. Great work!
Typography: Rules, Guidelines and Common Mistakes
This chapter goes into details about best practices in the area if typography in design. It starts with a definition of terminology used in typography, which though basic is a needed foundation. Then, the authors Alessandro Catteneo, Yves Peters and Jon Tan talk about the need for white space in design, which then leads into the need to provide balance and legibility in a design, both of which appropriate typography and text placement can provide. I found this chapter to be very beneficial in general, because it is often an area overlooked by many designers. Interesting read!
Usability Principles for Modern Websites
In this chapter, Andrew Maier and David Leggett discuss usability, which is one of my favorite topics. We have discussed this issue on numerous occasions here at AdmixWeb, but in The Smashing Book, the authors take a deeper look into the principles explaining point by point the common mistakes that websites can have which can interfere with the user experience. It gives great examples of each, and gives the reader a first-hand view as to why usability is so imperative. This chapter was a good read on a great topic, with very essential information.
The Ultimate Guide to Fantastic Color Usage in Web design, Usability and Experience
This chapter discusses everything relating to color, including usability, catching the user’s eyes, where to look for inspiration, and the importance of the color palette. The author, Darius A. Monsef IV, gives great examples of galleries with websites using appropriate colors, and they are accompained by the color palette implemented in the website. The chapter utilizes numerous examples, but I found the information itself too basic for even an intermediate level designer. However, it does make for good review.
Performance Optimization for Websites
Design to Sell – Increasing Conversion Rates
Improving sales and conversion rates is the topic of this chapter, well-written by Dmitry Fadeyev. The author takes a fairly complicated topic and condenses it to the essentials, and he takes about what sells on a site, how to increase sales, and how to get web visitors to actually buy your product on your site. He touches on the economic principle of scarcity and money back guarantees, as well as the design principles of focus, usability, and placement. Furthermore, he goes through the AIDA principles, which he says have been found to be very practical in increasing conversion rates. What I liked about this chapter, is the author goes beyond just design related ideals, and teaches designers and developers something that they might not have known. Very easy read, with practical information!
How to turn a site into a Remarkable Brand
Chris Spooner writes about the importance of creating a website that is new and orginal, with unique style, but also how that stylish website must provide new and useful information in order for you to make it in your field. I have touched on this same topic in AdmixWeb, and he actually mirrors a lot of my own ideas. I agree with all of his ideas, and I especially like the idea of using social networking sites as a way to promote your site. All in all, it was nothing remarkably original in the chapter, but the information is nonetheless significant.
Learning from Experts – Interviews and Insights
This is a little treasure of a chapter, with great pearls of wisdom! The author, Steven Snell, interviewed experts in the area of design and developers, including Chris Spooner, Jonathan Snook, Dan Rubin, and Tony Chester. In the chapter, each expert shares their knowledge and viewpoint in various design and development related topics. This chapter is great because we see the opinions and philosphies of real designers and developers who actually work in the field! I loved this section because it was written in a very personal manner! Very cool read!
The Smashing Magazine Story
The last chapter is short and sweet and is dedicated to the story behind Smashing Magazine, from the beginning to where they are now. Sven Lennartz and Vitaly Friedman discuss the evolution of their online magazine, and showed how much work went into making it a success, though they mention they never meant for it to be as successful and profitable as it is today! They end the chapter by thanking the viewers, which shows they are humble and know who helped to get them where they are today. It was enlightening to read about the guys behind the Big S, and to see they they have a lot in common with the rest of us!
All in all, I think the Smashing Book is a perfect book for web designers and developers of all levels, and I am excited that it lives up to the hype. It provides very comprehension information, that is both useful and essential for designers and developers who want to make the quailty of their websites improve. If you read the SM blog as much as I do, then this book is a must buy! If you have not ordered your The Smashing Book yet, order it here! Also, we will be doing another free Smashing Book give away in a few weeks! Leave your comments and opinions about the book below! And to Friedman and Lennartz, great job and I eagerly await your up coming books; only suggestion would be to include more topics on development! In conclusion, I love the book!
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