Book Review: The Designer’s Web Handbook

Since I was a good boy this year, Santa brought me a good haul of loot, including a couple web design books. Let’s look at the first: The Designer’s Web Handbook, an nice little tome by Patrick McNeil, writer of The Web Designer’s Ideas Book series.

The book has a very linear flow to it, starting out with envisioning the website you’re going to create. This goes into some length on some of the different types of websites, and how they function on a fundamental level. It also includes discussion of wireframing, mockups, and getting assets and copy from the client. From there the book continues along the same trajectory, following through the project until the site is done and it’s time to discussion analytics and ongoing maintenance. We touch on a number of topics as we go, such a mobile design, content management systems, and cross-browser testing.

The flow is quite good, and each section read quickly and clearly. On nearly every other page, you get examples of the current discussion, all of which are inspiring. This isn’t terribly surprising, considering the author’s previous books.

The Designer's Web Handbook illustrates every topic with beautiful examples.The Designer's Web Handbook illustrates every topic with beautfiul examples.

The Designer’s Web Handbook illustrates every topic with beautiful examples.

As you might guess from the title, The Designer’s Web Handbook is targeted toward traditional print designers who want to learn more about designing for the web. While I have no background in print design, I still found the book quite useful because it was primarily a general informative book rather than something specifically written for the transitioning print designer.

The Designer’s Web Handbook is that it is written to be quickly breezed through. This is nice when you just want to pick it up and flip to a random page. The information is good and easily digestible. The trade-off, however, is that you don’t get a lot of in-depth information; it almost acts like a teaser, inspiring you to further research each item on your own. To help with this, the book is rich with additional resources to check out, everything from useful apps, websites, and other books.

In addition to the main book, there are four appendices. The first is a WordPress primer, which is quite useful for WordPress newbies, but not terribly useful to veteran users. The second is an essay called “The Myth of DPI”, which is the part of the book that is most targeted to print designers transitioning to web work. Then we get a fairly useful technical glossary. Finally, there’s a nice list of recommended further reading.

What Works:

  • The book is filled with outstanding illustrative examples
  • There are tons of excellent additional resources to check out
  • The content is well laid out and easy to browse

What Doesn’t:

  • The actual content is a little on the light side
  • Somewhat focused on print designers transitioning to web design


The Designer’s Web Handbook is great for quick, casual reads, but lacks for depth. It’s more of a coffee table book on web design than a serious manual, but there’s nothing wrong with that.

Buy a copy of: The Designer’s Web Handbook: What You Need to Know to Create for the Web

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