oooh – shiny!!! (now with added book reviews)

It took slightly longer than a week, but dammit – the new styles have been applied. They’ve been tested against nothing but Firefox2 on Linux at 1024 (I did have a peek at 800×600, but it made my eyes hurt. So for now if you care that much, you can upgrade your computer or buy some stronger specs – I am an accessibility Lord). All in all, it’s an obvious improvement over the previous eyesore, I’m still unsure as to how I let myself upload that heap of dung.

Computer Science Degree == the design chops of David Blunkett

I never fooled myself into believing that the previous design looked good, however I just stuck with the excuse that it was probably the best I could do. However, my job as a front-end developer sorta led me to need to at least understand WHY it looked wank, and so I started to do some research. I invested in a couple of design books – specifically Robin Williams’ (no – not THAT Robin Williams, you douche) “The Non-Designers’ Design Book” and Timothy Samara’s “Making and Breaking the Grid: A Layout Design Workshop”. Both have been extremely helpful, particularls the former.

Non-Designers’ Design Book

I cannot recommend Robin Williams’ offering highly enough, she presents the four basic design principles (Contrast, Repetition, Alignment and Proximity – CRAP!!! GEDDIT?!?!) in easily digestible chunks with a bit on Typography to set you on your way to knowing just why everything you put out there looks like it was shat out by a constipated rabbit. Having read through it, I had a better understanding of what to avoid when hacking together this new design. It still lacks in good typography and the contrast aspect of the profane acronym, but I think it’s something ok to work off of.

The only thing I found this design book short of was some level of colour theory, and that’s why I have deliberately avoided using any colour that isn’t in the generic HTML palette (ie the link colours). I’m on the look out for a good book on colour, so anyone with recommendations feel free to shoot them my way. I’d also like some guidance on Typography books – nothing too heavy, there’s such a selection out there and they tend to cost about a grand each, so I wouldn’t mind some advice before I mortgage my (rental) house.

Making and Breaking the Grid: A Layout Design Workshop

As instructional books go, this isn’t particularly amazing – it goes in to what grids are and how to use them, but mostly serves loads and loads and loads of examples. As you can see, I’m currently sporting quite the grid of my own – nothing ripped directly from the book, but plenty of inspiration gained. Half of the book is devoted to breaking the grid and how to do it, but I never really got why the non-grid designs worked even when explanation was attempted. I’m unsure whether this is down to the book or my small brain capacity, either way – you should be expecting to see something more closely looking like a sudoku puzzle than a beautiful garden anytime soon.

To conclude..

I am by no means the next Vivienne Westwood of web design, but this is good enough for now (or at least until I get some colour theory under my belt) – the rest will be done in little increments, (babysteps, if you will). Either way, if you – like me – left uni with a lot of coding knowledge and absolutely nothing in terms of design you should definitely check out Robin Williams’ book.

Tune in next time for a brief recap of hackday…