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David Siegel's Creating Killer Web Sites, 2nd Ed.
by Stephen R.Jones (March 1998)

One of the defining books for web design is now in its second edition. In a fast-changing field such as this, such a book is getting pretty long in tooth at two years of age. So, David Siegel's update of his best-selling book comes at a perfect time when the Web is still new enough to benefit from what it has to say yet old enough to learn from past mistakes.

That's where Siegel's book excels. In tone and usefulness it comes across like vivid war stories from a battle-scarred veteran, sometimes scary but always interesting. Part philosophy and part instruction manual it is one of those rare "technical" books that shows you the latest tricks and techniques while arming you for the uncertain future.

A word of caution is in order, however. By his own thoughtful admission, David Siegel approaches design very much from the school of design that treats web design as the direct, but somewhat troublesome, descendant of print design. If you are looking for help building web pages filled with Hollywood special effects and animated VR environments, you will not get any support from this book.

If there is any guiding philosophy for Siegel's design it is "less is more". He decries clutter in all forms, especially the use of horizontal rules. Careful use of vertical white space is one antidote he offers.

Another recurring theme is control with a capital C and Siegel, as the originator of the single-pixel GIF trick, is not ashamed to resort to (and share) any trick to achieve the design control he believes is lacking in HTML as it is rendered by today's browsers. The author is well aware that this places him in direct opposition to "structuralists" that believe HTML tags exist as mere suggestions to web browsers and not pixel-precise page layout commands.

Siegel is merciless in his criticism of HTML as a visual designer's tool while at the same time wielding it expertly to achieve his intended effects. Never flinching from his high ideals, Siegel doesn't skip on practical advice. His treatments of image reduction and palette management are more useful and informative than anything you will read on the subject anywhere.

Less helpful but still interesting are the "case-study" chapters which examine the design process for a personal homepage, a storefront, and a gallery. The makeovers are indeed effective but in each case the ultimate design end always justified the means, no matter how contorted, were used to achieve it. Like a true artist, Siegel often ignores the natural limits of the medium. While this is heroic in its own way, sometimes you wish he would go with the HTML flow and show us not what is possible but what is easy to achieve.

After all this book's war stories are told, however, you realize that its clear language and extensive detail have transported you, virtually, to the front lines of Web design. The fact that David Siegel cares so much for design (and HTML be damned) demonstrates his leadership in making the Web a better place. In the end, it doesn't matter that he goes too far and makes designers work awfully hard (but effectively) to achieve good web design. You can close this book and feel confident that by applying a tenth of the good advice this book has offered you, that your Web creations would be vastly improved. Publisher: Hayden Books www.hayden.com

Pro
An exceedingly well written book by one of the leaders in Web design.

Con
High design ideals sometimes overshadow the needs of practical, workaday web developers.

Company Information
Hayden Books
201 W. 103rd Street
Indianapolis, IN 46290
United States
Phone: (317) 581-3833

Table of Contents
  1. Form versus Function
  2. Third-Generation Sites
  3. Preparing Images
  4. Laying Out Pages
  5. Rendering Type
  6. A Page Makeover
  7. A Personal Site
  8. A Storefront
  9. A Gallery
  10. Creative Design Solutions
  11. A CSS Primer
  12. Transitional Strategies
  13. Looking Forward
305 pages

Copyright 1998 Stephen R. Jones All rights reserved.

   
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