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Review categories > Website Design Books > Creating Killer Web Sites
By: Charley Morris
Review for 'Creating Killer Web Sites'

Rating: 6 of out 6

Written By: David Siegel

Page Count: 305

Cover Type: Softcover

Published By: Hayden Book Company

Date Published: 10/1997

List Price: $49.99

Author's Site: http://www.webdevelopersjourna...

This is an excellent book about Web design. The main focus is on creating attractive, functional pages, although there is insightful advice on many subjects. Author David Siegel is the owner of a well-known Web design firm, Verso, and the author of various other works, including Secrets of Succesful Web Sites, which takes up where this book left off, and delves into project management as it relates to Web sites.

Siegel explains how to create "third-generation" Web sites. I think we can all imagine what a "first-generation" site is. Grey background, with text and graphics presented in a linear way, one after the other. Lots of horizontal rules and bulleted lists. David Siegel has no truck with horizontal rules or bullets, by the way. He points out that the proper use of white space eliminates the need for such crudities.

A "second-generation" site has the traditional structure of a home page with links to various sections. For many sites this remains the best way to present information.

So what's a "third-generation" site? It has nothing to do with what technologies are used to create a site, but with the way the site is designed. Rather than a simple top-down hierarchy, Siegel's third-generation site offers various paths through the site, with an entrance and an exit. An exit for a Web site? Well, Siegel points out a fact of human nature: having a defined exit paradoxically makes people tend to stay longer. And having definite entry and exit points makes a site feel more like a "complete experience." The crux of the biscuit is that third-generation designers spend a lot of time thinking about the paths that different visitors will take through the site, and design accordingly.

Siegel describes different organizational methods that might be used for different types of sites. Needless to say, an "entry tunnel" is not for everyone. He also discusses the use of metaphor in site design, giving several good and bad examples. Throughout the book, there are plenty of pix of existing Web pages, as examples of the techniques discussed.

Next it's on to preparing images. Here is a very well-written, in-depth guide to the subject, with lots of tips on how to get the best results on the Web. If you follow his advice to the letter, you'll find yourself spending lots of time preparing graphics, as well as getting to know Photoshop (and other packages) inside-out. By the way, you'll also find your graphics looking a lot better. Siegel is a perfectionist when it comes to graphics, and this chapter alone is almost worth the price of admission.

Laying out pages has always been a Web designer's biggest headache. At the moment, tables are about the only tool we have to work with, until the CSS cavalry arrives. When it comes to page layout, Siegel belongs to the less-is-more school. Use properly proportioned white space to divvy up your page, not pokey-looking horizontal rules and bullets. He also abhors the practice of using a blank line between paragraphs, instead of indenting in the traditional way. Sorry, Dave.

There's an in-depth chapter on rendering type, as you'd expect from a guy who designs typefaces for a living. Using anything other than Times or verdana still means creating individual gifs, and it's a big chore. Siegel has some tips for keeping all your headlines, subheads and so forth organized.

Having covered graphics, layout and type in the first section, Siegel proceeds to describe several Web sites, each illustrating different techniques. He takes us through a page makeover, bringing a site up two generations by reorganizing it and spiffing up the graphics. Next he designs, from the ground up, a personal site, a storefront for a small retail store, and a gallery or online photo exhibition. Each site presents different challenges, but Siegel's solutions always show his strong emphasis on simple but elegant design.

More case studies? The way to learn is by doing, especially in the fast-moving Web scene. The next chapter presents 15 short descriptions of sites that earn Siegel's praises.

The next chapter is a Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) primer. Whenever Netscape and Microsoft decide to abandon their arms race, and get back to serving their customers, we'll all have a far more powerful toolbox: HTML 4.0 with CSS. Until that glad day, however, we can either keep creating pages the old way, create 2 (or more) versions of every page, or try to find some happy medium.

The book winds up with a thoughtful look at some of the new technologies that are just coming out, including new graphics formats, new font tools, and new audio and multimedia frontiers.

This is an excellent book, well-written, well-organized and packed with useful information. As a design book must be (but some ain't), it is well laid-out, and the pictures look great. This book is about design, mainly visual design. To get into the business end of things, check out David Siegel's other book, Secrets of Succesful Web Sites, an equally fine book about project management on the Web.