15 of the Best Web Design Books of 2016

By Oliver Lindberg06 Dec 2016News

A round-up of the best web design books of the year covering UI animations, product design, design sprints, accessibility, JavaScript, Sass, design systems, virtual reality, and much more.

Originally published on the Shopify Partner Blog on 6 December 2016.

It’s been a fantastic year for web design books. The following is a greatest hits compilation of the best titles I’ve come across over the last 12 months. I’ve deliberately chosen books that cover a wide range of aspects, and if you look closely, you’ll find more than 15 titles and plenty of useful resources to boot. Fill your own holiday wish list with them, or treat a fellow designer in your life.

This article is also a showcase of publishing in 2016. As well as the usual big publishers, like O’Reilly, there are various titles listed that have been released by indie publishers, or that are even self-published. There are also books here that don’t just come in print and digital editions, but also come as deluxe packages with additional assets provided by, or even in exclusive consultation with, the author.

Happy reading and happy holidays!

1. Designing Interface Animation

Val Head’s passion for web animation is infectious. She’s incredibly prolific. Whether it’s excellent talks, workshops, a resourceful UI animation newsletter, or podcasts, Val’s got you covered. So it’s no surprise that following her CSS Animations Pocket Guide, she’s now written a book on designing interface animations. If you want to use motion in your work and do it well, ensuring it blends seamlessly into the user’s experience, this is the book for you.

2. Do Fly

Do Fly is the first book by Gavin Strange, a senior designer for Aardman Animations, and creative working under the name of JamFactory, who always has a ton of side projects on the go. Do Fly by The Do Book Company, which publishes books written by speakers from the Do Lectures, will inspire, encourage, and remind you that life’s too short to not pursue your passion, whatever your age or position. It’s a thrillingly optimistic read.

3. JavaScript for Web Designers

You could easily fill this list with everything that was published by A Book Apart recently, (Practical SVG, Design for Real Life, Pricing Design, etc.) but I’ve chosen JavaScript for Web Designers because it’s been the year of JavaScript. Once derided as a toy language, it’s now essential and ubiquitous. This accessible guide by Mat Marquis, with a foreword by Lara Hogan, features plenty of practical examples and covers the fundamentals of scripting, how to handle data types and loops, and much more.

4. Designing Products People Love

For this book, lead designer at Tinder Scott Hurff, interviewed 27 product designers from Slack, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Medium, and many more to find out what makes their services successful. It’s crammed with insights on researching, prototyping, launching, and profiting from your products.

You can buy just the book or get a complete edition, which includes all of the interviews, software discounts, and templates that will help you translate the book into action. A must-read for every product designer.

5. Sprint

Jake Knapp created the Google Ventures sprint process, and together with fellow GV design partners John Zeratsky and Braden Kowitz, has written this excellent guide on “how to solve big problems and test new ideas in just five days.” It’s a very practical guide, and a fascinating look behind the scenes of some of the world’s most innovative startups.

For more on design sprints, watch Jake and John talk about this topic at Generate San Francisco this summer.

6. Creative Truth

Brad Weaver has made the mistakes so you don’t have to. Managing partner and director of design at UX design and digital strategy agency Nine Labs, he’s now written down the lessons he’s learned as a playbook for starting, building, and enjoying a profitable design business.

Whether you’re a solo freelancer or a small group of creative entrepreneurs ready to get to the next level, there’s something for your in Creative Truth: practical tips for getting clients, how to price your work and manage your time, building strong networks, hiring help and managing contractors, and loads more. An essential companion for every design business.

7. Inclusive Design Patterns

We all agree that accessibility is important. Yet we experience inaccessible sites and apps all the time. There are many reasons for that, and it’s not for lack of skill and talent. In Inclusive Design Patterns, UX designer Heydon Pickering examines how to code accessibility into web design, busts myths, and presents best practices covering WAI-ARIA roles, accessible forms and widgets, inclusive prototyping, and plenty more. Read it to discover time-saving techniques and strategies on designing accessible user interfaces, and inclusive websites.

8. Jump Start Sass

Another great addition to SitePoint’s Jump Start series, which includes titles on Sketch, Git, and Foundation, this is a comprehensive introduction to Sass for the beginner. The 159-page guide, by Hugo Giraudel and Miriam Suzanne, addresses cover variables, mixins, functions, loops and conditions, and more. Save time by discovering the most popular CSS preprocessor and write better stylesheets. It's available on SitePoint Premium, or you can order a print or ebook version via O’Reilly or Amazon.

9. Frontend Architecture for Design Systems

To build a modern website, you need to discover the power of a scalable and maintainable design system. This practical book, by Micah Godbolt, takes experienced web developers through the different aspects of front-end architecture: code, process, testing, and documentation.

Godbolt discusses the modular CSS, JavaScript frameworks, the rise of style guides and pattern libraries, task runners, and visual regression testing, all while using real-world examples, case studies, and practical tips and tricks throughout. This is web design in 2016.

10. Entering the Metaverse

It’s been the year of virtual reality, and there aren’t many people more passionate and knowledgeable about the topic than Liv Erickson, a VR and AR developer evangelist for Microsoft. In this short guide she explains how to get started in the VR industry, and covers the basics from devices to application development, and recommends plenty of resources for more in-depth learning along the way. Also, check out Liv’s Just A/VR Show.

11. Sketch App Essentials

Sketch is very quickly becoming the industry standard for a lot of designers who are making the switch from Photoshop. This fast-paced practical guide, a follow-up to Discover Sketch App by UK-based designer and developer Marc Andrew, helps you learn how to build real-world applications with Sketch, via straight-forward step-by-step tutorials.

The ‘Keep It Simple’ package includes the ebook and tutorial files, while the other packages also come with files for companion tools, such as Flinto and Framer, and discount codes for various resources. A great starting point for boosting your Sketch skills.

12. Designing for Sustainability

The internet has a massive carbon footprint and releases over 830 million tons of CO2 annually, more than the airline industry. If the Internet were a country, it would be the sixth largest in terms of electricity use. It’s about time we take this into account when we build digital products and services, and optimize them for users, devices, and energy efficiency.

Based on the work of Tim Frick’s agency Mightybytes, Designing for Sustainability focuses on four key areas: content strategy, performance optimization, design and user experience, and green hosting. Let’s build for users, while reducing the environmental impact.

13. The UI Audit

This is a hands-on guide to web application design by Jane Portman, an independent UI/UX consultant from Russia. In The UI Audit, Portman explains how to adopt a simple, strategic approach to your design — from product strategy to each individual screen. It’s based on her consulting experience and real-life research that have helped her identify common patterns, flaws, and good ways to explain them. Also available in advanced and premium packages, which include worksheets, audio interviews with successful SaaS founders, and a one-hour strategy call with Portman herself.

14. Draplin Design Co.: Pretty Much Everything

Pretty Much Everything is a gorgeous mid-career survey of the works of influential graphic designer Aaron Draplin. Beautifully packaged in a 256-page book with 300 full colour illustrations, it includes case studies, inspiration, road stories, lists, maps, how-tos, and tons of advice, all told with the man’s renowned humour.

Draplin also explains the process behind projects like the iconic Field Notes, making this a must-have for Draplin fans and designers alike. A limited edition enhancement kit, with prints and bookmarks is available directly from his website.

15. Hourly Billing is Nuts

Here’s another book that should be on the reading list of every freelancer, especially if they bill by the hour, or are considering it. Software consultant Jonathan Stark makes a passionate plea to stop trading time for money, as it’s a “horrible practice for everyone involved,” as he puts it.

Hourly Billing Is Nuts then features dozens of essays to convince you to ditch this approach in favour of value-based pricing. The ebook is available now, as Stark is writing it, and you’ll get updates and expansions delivered straight to your inbox. Also check out the accompanying weekly podcast.

Bonus: Grow

Of course, Shopify’s very own Grow books, which you can read right on the site or download as PDFs, are also highly recommended. Volume 1 is A Beginner’s Guide to Growing Your Business and features 12 chapters on everything from branding to launch, written by the likes of Kurt Elster, Paul Boag, and Alex O’Byrne. Volume 2 — with advice from Freelancer Union’s Laura Murphy, GatherContent’s Rob Mills, and seven other great authors —delves into Becoming a Full-Stack Web Design Freelancer and covers contracts, user research, analytics, content marketing, and much more.