Category: Resources

WordPress Visual Page Builders

Visual page builders for WordPress sites have gotten some attention lately because they can make building a site out very easy–especially for those who don’t know code. You still need a developer to get certain functionality working, but a page builder can definitely get you up and running with a semi-custom site.

The following is a list of WordPress page builders that I’ve encountered.

Visual Composer
Massive following for WP Bakery’s Visual Composer and a favorite of mine for sites where a client wants to be able to update and adjust the design themselves. If you’re just someone looking for a drag and drop page builder, VC has a lot of powerful features and options to chose from. If you’re a developer looking to allow clients the ability to edit their own pages, and want something that will work well with or without a framework, VC is a good option. It’s not a free solution, but at $34, you are getting your money’s worth.

A rapidly increasing user base around VelocityPage and for good reason. It’s a feature-rich page builder that offers even more user friendliness than Visual Composer. It’s also highly compatible with existing, pre-made themes and runs out of the box on a blank theme just fine. VelocityPage starts at $97 for a single site. I’m looking into using VelocityPage as an alternative to Visual Composer for some clients because its workflow is a bit more simple.

Page Builder
One of the free options for a page builder is, simply named, Page Builder by Site Origins. It has a nice feature set with a good sized following. It might not be as feature rich as VC or Velocity Page, but it has good community support and if you’re a dev looking for a page builder for your client that doesn’t have bulky extra bells and whistles, Page Builder is worth looking into.

Divi Builder
Another free option (you need an account to get it) is the Divi Builder, used by Elegant Themes and featuring some nice options to get your site up and running quickly and easily. It isn’t as powerful as VC or VelocityPages, but it handles simple sites like a champ. One of the nice features in Divi is the ability to save segments or components that you’ve built to quickly insert into other pages. Then edit those saved segments and have the changes reflected on all pages that they appear on. It’s a major time saver.

Themify Builder
A premium page builder with a lot of nice features, on par with VC and VelocityPage when it comes to extras and support for things such as WooCommerce. Clocks in at $39 and has some really nice parallax options built in. If you don’t see it, there’s always the add ons which has some useful features to extend your vanilla Themify Builder.

I’m still of the opinion that you need a designer to lay out a good, presentable design with optimized content and architecture whether you’re using a page builder or not. And you still need a developer to create a fully customized option that the page builders can never automate. Things like optimal user flow, accessibility and dependencies are still very much in the human domain and can’t be replaced by page builders. What page builders excel at is allowing a non-coding user to create something quick out-of-the-box. When your business grows beyond its first stepping stones, or if you want to start off a business with a good foundation, call in the designer and developer.

Resources for Checking Accessibility

Making websites and apps that work for everyone should be something every web designer thinks about. It’s been on my mind a lot lately because I’m working on a project that must be Section 508 compliant. I’ve found the following resources useful.

Easy Checks for Accessibility
Gives some generalized tips and tricks for ensuring accessibility for websites. This isn’t a tool, but a great resources to brush up on some of the simpler things about making sites that can be forgotten as our development and design processes become more involved.

Check My Colors
Pretty cool site where you can plug in any live URL and get an analysis back on how your site does when it comes to color-related contrast.

Readability Test Tool
Tests the readability of your text as it relates to your diction, sentences and so on. The more readable something is, the more people will be able to understand it. FYI, this website’s readability is around Grade 7. I’m not writing the next greatest novel of our time, so I’m pretty happy with that.

Contrast Ratio
Way cool tool to check color codes against contrast. It gives you a live score of how your color choice will perform.

Colorblind Filter
Tests your website against color blindness filters. Renders an “as close as possible” version of your site as someone colorblind might see it. Very useful for making sure no one misses out on critical information that you may have chosen to color code.

While these tools are useful and kind of neat to play around with, keep in mind that if you’re working with something that must be accessible, a human should be the final point of reference for all accessibility evaluations. Software, at the moment, can’t catch it all, but it can help us out a little here and there.


Usability Geek, 10 Free Web-Based Accessibility Tools
Web Field Manual

Great Places to Get Free Images

Stock photography can make or break a design–whether it’s a website, app or print piece that you’re working on. Good stock photography often comes with a hefty price tag. But, when you’re a design student, buying thousands of dollars worth of stock photos might not be a realistic expectation. So any time you can get some nice free images, is a good time. I would have loved to have had access to some of these sites in college. Check out some of my favorite free image resources and save some money.

The British Library on Flickr
Tons and tons of old school illustrations and photos from the British Library. I can imagine having a hard time figuring out what to do with some of these images, but the collection is no doubt extremely impressive. And if you’re working on a vintage project, this might very well be an invaluable resource.

A giant collection of stock photos, and a decent collection of photos featuring people in them. One of the more difficult parts of sourcing free stock photography is finding images containing people. Pixabay’s taken the legwork out of that and sourced a few good quality images so you don’t have to worry about finding an image of a–oh, I don’t know–woman biting into a doughnut while a small green arm comes out of her nostril. Look, I just find these things. I can’t explain them.

My favorite place on the internet–when it comes to free photography anyway. Unsplash’s images are gorgeous, well-curated and new photos are added every ten days. They have a simple licensing structure too, it’s literally: Do whatever. Some of the images on Pixabay come from this fabulous site.
Tons of beautiful copyright-free photos here and they’re all very searchable and of good quality. Stocksnap borrows from UnSplash and KaboomPics, but consolidating those two resources makes things a little bit easier for stock photo searchers. I’ve found they have a rather impressive array of really nice food-related photos.

Excellent photos, lots of good quality images and you can use them personally and commercially, with some very reasonable restrictions (you can’t resell them, you can redistribute them without asking first, etc). I’ve used some of these images myself when building generic themes to fill out photo galleries, blog posts and other dummy content.

Beautiful, free stock photos. Lots of artistic shots with a lot of very usable content. Bonus points to FancyCrave for updating their library daily!

One can thank Ryan McGuire for curating this fantastic website full of free photography. Beautifully shot, some with a bit of photo manipulation applied. It would be super awesome to donate a few bucks for the work McGuire does. And you know that green arm doughnut picture? It came from here.

New Old Stock
Need some pictures, but you need them to be vintage? Old New Stock has you covered. No attribution or worries about copyright, just a lot of really fascinating imagery for free. If you’re a Shorpy fan, definitely check this one out.

Startup Stock Photos
If you ever needed photos of people in an office, working on laptops, sitting in meetings, contemplating UX, and just generally doing their jobs during a workday in the office–Startup Stock Photos is probably your place. They also have some great shots of equipment and devices.

Made in Moments, Freebies
I’ve always wished my husband and I could travel the world, freelancing wherever we land–maybe some day. In the mean time, living vicariously through Tomy & Marina’s collection of free pictures will have to do for now. They do have paid photo packs, but check out the freebies section I linked, plenty of good content there.

Another collection of stock photos from various sources. Presented nicely, and with a search function which is always appreciated.

ISO Republic
Some of the nicest architectural photos I’ve seen from a free stock site. I love the repeating patterns that they’ve captured and there’s a very unique perspective to each of the shots on this site.

With so many great stock photo resources, you should be able to find what you need without spending too much. Some of these photos work fantastically for dummy content in a theme as well. Or as blog post images too. Enjoy!

5 Frameworks Worth Checking Out

Frameworks seem to be the in thing and while I’m still kind of old school about this in that I’ll insist upon building things from scratch, I do still use a framework to avoid the hassle of the setup. It’s also imperative that designer/developers understand at least one major framework because hey, they are tools that exist to speed up your development time and you can’t go into every project setting things up from the ground. I’m only going to go over the lesser known frameworks here because knowing jQuery, Bootstrap, Foundation, AngularJS, etc. are pretty much a given. Here are some of the frameworks I’ve been using lately.

Material Design Lite
Gorgeous, well thought out, logical and the documentation is available right on the site along with helpful examples and visual demos. Material Design is a beautiful thing and this framework makes working with it super simple.

I prefer Foundation over Bootstrap 9 out of 10 times, but when I do use Bootstrap for a client, I head off to Bootply first. It’s always a good idea to know how the guts of a framework is setup, and once you have that down, using a generator like Bootply will speed up your development time exponentially. Beautifully written and easy to use.

Webix – DataTable
If you ever find yourself having to work with a good amount data, Webix Framework’s DataTable is a treat. Working with tables and tons of data can get frustrating, tedious and downright painful. This takes a little bit of the edge off. Webix has a lot of components as a part of its framework, but the DataTable is by far my favorite.

Code generation and scaffolding for PHP? Gorgeous! This makes writing web apps that have to deal with PHP a snap. And as much as I advocate building PHP from scratch, I will admit it’s a chore unless you have a good framework to smooth things out. I’ve been working with Cake for a few years, and it’s hard to imagine not having it in a workflow.

One of my favorite WordPress Frameworks. Combines the latest version of Foundation into a clean set-up. I have some things I don’t use in Joints, but they’re easy to remove or modify to my liking. It’s one of the fastest and smoothest implementations of Foundation for WordPress I’ve found.

There’s a lot more where that came from as knowing one framework is great, but there are newer, more exciting ones coming out all the time. Have I missed anyway? Share the frameworks you’re using in the comments below!

10 Beautiful Free Fonts on Behance

Behance is like a cave filled with treasure, beautiful free fonts treasure specifically. I’m constantly impressed by the great fonts exclusively available on there so I decided to highlight some of the nicest ones that I’ve found recently. Some of these are completely free for an entire font family, others have some free weights, but they’re all delightful in their own way.

The Beautiful Free Fonts

Moon by Jack Harvatt
A lovely rounded typeface with some nice spacing. Very modern with a touch of friendliness. Great for minimalist headings in your design.

Pier Sans by Mathieu Desjardins
A great structured typeface, another good option for headers and headlines. I’m particularly fond of the R in this one.

Glamor by Hendrick Rolandez
Curly and glorious, like a fancier Bodoni. Glamor would look great set large as a headline on a page or layout.

fontbe04 Linotte by Joël Carrouché (free weight)
Cute and friendly, Linotte’s line is a rounded sans-serif that would be super cute setting a subheading or as an accent type.

Geomanist by atipo
Bold and modern, Geomanist is easy to read and well set. The entire family features an ultra bold that’s great for really heavy type jobs.

Arca Majora by Alfredo Marco Pradil
Tightly kerned and Arca Majora looks great. Would work very well for accent type jobs.

Voga by Charles Daoud
(free weight)
Bold and different, Voga’s unique shapes would look good as an attention-grabbing headline.

Aleo by Alessio Laiso
Aleo is a pleasant, friendly serif with a lot of different features, good amount of readability and a distinctive modern feel.

Rabiola by Raphael Sathler
Serif and classy, Rabiola should be right at home representing a subheading and maybe even body type.

Ailerons by Adilson Gonzales de Oliveira Junior
Ailerons beautiful free fonts
Tall, thin and ultra modern. Ailerons is the kind of typeface that would be great as a headline on a modern or tech-centric design.

My Favorite Free Code Editors

There are so many code editors out there that when I was getting back into full-time web design, I couldn’t figure out which one to start with. So I decided to go for the most basic one and I’ve worked my way through a few to end up with the one I’m using now. This is a list of my favorite code editors that I’ve actually tried and used and my experiences with them.

All of these are free or shareware. Because with all the awesome free and open source editors, why pay for one? In no particular order, my favorite code editors…

Download | Plugins
Windows Only
When I was first starting things up again, I was primarily using a windows machine. Notepad++ was consistently recommended as a free code editor. In my experience, it worked and worked well. I used it as my primary editor for around six months before moving onto an IDE. Even after the IDE came into the picture, I still used Notepad++ as an editor for quick changes to simple files. There was a lot I like about this editor, it was lightweight, did everything I needed it to, it checks syntax and highlights code, was fast and had plenty of features and plugins.

Download | Plugins
OSX & Windows
Recommended by a student, I decided to give Brackets a try after feeling a little frustrated with how long it took to load up an IDE and recently having a falling out with my previous quick code editor. I now find myself using Brackets for a vast majority of my web design coding and only falling back to the IDE for more complicated projects. Brackets is fast and deceptively simple but it has a long list of awesome extensions and delightful built-in features. My favorite feature–which you might laugh at, but I find it so convenient–is the ability to see a preview of a color when I hover over the value.

OSX Only
TextWrangler was a good free option when I needed to do something quickly without a lot of other stuff to slow the program down or get in the way. It has a pretty good set of built-in extensions, but you will have to put in a little bit of time to find them. I stopped using TextWrangler because I wanted something with a few more features.

Sublime Text
OSX & Windows
Simple, extendable and feature-rich code editor. I used Sublime Text for a short period of time. It is shareware with an unlimited demo that will nag you occasionally to get the paid version. It has a great set of plugins that really make it shine. Ultimately, I fell out with Sublime Text when I discovered Brackets. The nagging isn’t too bad (it amounts to a pop-up dialog that asks you to purchase the full version), but I really didn’t want to deal with it anymore when there was another free editor that did most of what I wanted. Sublime Text, at the time, had more features than Brackets. But then, those features were also being covered by the IDE I’m using.

Code editors and their features change all the time. So, while the stuff I wrote above about which ones I went to and which ones I left behind may be current as of this post, who knows what things will look like in the future.

At the moment, I am loving Brackets for my quick coding and crack open NetBeans when I need more control. If you have other Code Editors you want to share that you love using, feel free to leave a comment.

Choosing a Good Web Host

I’ve encountered a lot of situations where clients are having trouble with their web host. Most often, it’s related to how slow their website is loading after adding a content management system to their previously static website.

Content Management Systems (CMS) such as Drupal, WordPress, Joomla, etc. tend to add a bit more load to a web server compared to static websites coded in strict HTML and CSS. This is because CMS sites have to interact with the web server with more frequency whereas HTML/CSS only sites rely on less communication with the server. In short, the more a website communicates with a server, the longer it takes to load the site.

Before we talk about choosing a web host, let’s identify some different hosting choices. I’m only going to list examples for the most likely options that a small business client might want to choose.

Free Hosting
I think most web designers these days started out sometime in the 90s with a free website that they had hosted somewhere like Geocities, Angelfire, Homestead. Most of these free hosting services are now obsolete. I still remember the day Geocities went down (October 26, 2009). New free hosts are available such as, FreeHostia and Wix. If you’re running a business website, it’s probably a good idea not to use a free host as they are often limiting in spacing, bandwidth and sometimes have uptime issues and sometimes including advertisements on your web site in exchange for hosting. Free Hosting services almost always place your website on the same server as many other sites. This can cause your site to load slower.

Some free hosting solutions… – Offers free hosting with no ads on your site. You can also get a WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, etc. CMS up. The catch is you’re only allowed 250MB of space and 5GB of bandwidth. – Free hosting with a very easy to use website builder. The amount of storage and bandwidth you’re allocated as a free user is not clear, but their first tier paid option gives you 500MB and 1GB of bandwidth so you can assume the free tier may be less than that. – Gives you slightly more bandwidth than and includes support for content management systems as well. 250MB of space and 6GB of bandwidth. You must pay for and provide the domain yourself.

The above are just a small sample of free hosts. I always recommend clients move away from free options when they’re dealing with a business site. If the site is personal in nature, a free host might be all you need. But if you want your site to work for you, draw in potential customers and reflect professionalism, it’s best not to consider the free options.

Shared Hosting
One step up from Free Hosting is Shared Hosting. Shared Hosting costs money, though very often the fees are fairly low. This option places you on the same server as other websites too. Shared hosted sites are often sharing servers with hundreds and sometimes thousands of other sites. Most of the time, this arrangement doesn’t cause loading problems but if a host overloads their server or if one website uses a ton of resources, you may experience some loading issues as well. If you’re on a shared hosting plan, you can actually do a look up to see how many other sites (and who they are) are sharing your server. Check out Reverse IP on DomainTools to see how your website is doing. Generally speaking, the more sites that are on a server, the slower it will be–especially when it comes to using a CMS.

Update 1/4/2015 – I’ve recently had to amend my list of recommended Shared Hosts because I discovered a couple of them had been acquired by EIG, having spent some time hosting with EIG/having clients hosted on an EIG account or one of its owned companies, I can’t recommend their services. I’ve replaced two of the three recommendations as a result.

Hawk Hosting – $2.99/month for 10gb of space and unlimited bandwidth*. Hawk Hosting is speedy and reliable. I’ve had one client host with them and had no problems with their server or responsiveness.

LiquidWeb – $14.95/month for 5gb SSD space and 240gb bandwidth. LiquidWeb is upfront about what you pay for and what you’ll get, which is always a plus. They also offer their space on an SSD which provides a nice speed boost for load times on your site. Their customer service is also exceptional.

Dreamhost – $8.95/month for unlimited space and bandwidth*. Dreamhost boasts that it’s optimized for WordPress and largely has a decent reputation as a shared host. Reasonable uptime, server responsiveness and of course all the scripts you want.

*Now, a very common theme you’ll notice with some shared hosts is that they’ll say they offer “unlimited” space and bandwidth. While this might be true in theory, in actuality, what’s happening is the host is betting you won’t use a ridiculous amount of resources on the server. It’s not unheard of for a very popular website to consume thousands of GB of bandwidth every month and if a shared host finds someone is being greedy, they might try to throttle back the user either by slowing down their site or even just sending them a notice that their site is consuming absurd amounts of resources and that they should either upgrade or stop being greedy. So while “unlimited” might look like a great deal, keep in mind that it’s only unlimited up to a certain point.

Reseller Hosting
Getting hosting through a reseller is usually pretty similar to getting hosting through a shared host. The reseller will often have the same level of service as the shared hosting operators, but may provide different levels of support.

Virtual Dedicated Server or Virtual Private Server
Virtual Private Servers (VPS) load you up on a server with other sites but divides that server into virtual sections. VPS services tend to cost more than reseller or shared hosting plans. You aren’t technically getting your own server, but you are allocated a specific amount of server resources that no other site but yours can use. This solution will let your site load fast because it’s not sharing RAM or CPU with anybody else and are given root access to their virtual server allocation. Sometimes VPS setups require you to update and maintain your own server section unless the provider offers managed services.

Some VPS providers include…

Knownhost – Offering a VPS starting at $25/month for 25GB of space, 3000GB of bandwidth and 1024MB of RAM. Knownhost also offers managed services for their VPS customers. As with most VPS providers, sites load fast, you run what you want on your own space and you get root access.

Linode – Starts at $20/month for 48GB of space, 2TB of bandwidth and 1GB of RAM. You are responsible for maintaining, securing and updating your own VPS. Sites will load fast, you run what you want on your space, and you get root access.

BigScoots – $39.99/month for 40GB of space, 500GB of bandwidth and 512MB of guaranteed RAM. BigScoots also allows for a fully managed VPS. Once again, fast load times and you do what you want with your space.

One thing that makes initially causes some raised eyebrows is why a VPS costs so much more than shared hosting and doesn’t offer unlimited resources. Remember that the promises of “unlimited bandwidth, space, etc.” aren’t really unlimited and with a VPS you get guaranteed access to bandwidth, space and RAM on a server. This means you aren’t sharing with other sites which guarantees your site will be served up fast.

Dedicated Hosting
Dedicated Hosting will allocate you with your own web server with no one else on it. You still don’t technically own this server and are more likely just leasing it, but you will be the only customer using it. This ensures fast load times but also puts all responsibility for that server on you including maintenance and updates. Some dedicated hosting providers will also offer managed services for additional fees.

Colocation Hosting
Frequently the most expensive option. Colocation hosting means that you own a server but that a company is housing that server for you in a certain location. While the company is housing that server, you pay the company for your server’s use of their electricity, internet connection and sometimes maintenance. Sometimes colocation hosting doesn’t offer maintenance outside of your server being housed in a location and you will have to visit your server to perform maintenance yourself. Colocation is often fast, though all speed and reliability is up to you to maintain and determine.

Cloud Hosting
A relatively new addition to hosting options. Cloud hosting services let you put your site up on a provider’s cloud servers. This ensures that your site loads quickly and has the added bonus of ensuring your site’s up time is as good as possible since your site doesn’t have to rely on just one server. Cloud hosting is often billed on a ‘per use’ basis.

Some cloud hosting providers…

Amazon AWS – Amazon Web Services is a powerful cloud hosting solution. They bill per use and have a ton of different plans and options. They also have a free one year trial if you want to test things out. Like with all cloud hosted sites, you get lightning fast load times and redundancy. The catch with cloud hosting is that you have to figure it out first ;-).

Rackspace Cloud – Another powerful cloud hosting solution. They offer bill per use as well as a fully managed option that will run you $100/month on top of bill per use.

Joyent – Offering cloud hosting services that are bill per use. Lots of options to choose from too.

I typically don’t recommend cloud hosting to most clients as they tend to be start ups or small businesses whose websites don’t need the power of a cloud hosting solution. Cloud hosting is very powerful and will hopefully continue to grow to a point where the service becomes less expensive. Who knows? We might all be hosting in a cloud someday. 🙂

Private Hosting
Private, personal or home hosting solutions involve someone running a server out of their home. Sometimes this involves running a normal desktop computer or even a server rack out of a residence. The server or computer would draw electricity from the residence and use the residence’s internet connection. Maintenance and uptime depends solely on the individual running the server and the cost may vary.

Choosing a Web Host

There are a lot. And I mean a lot of different web hosts out there and many of them offer pretty similar services and prices. It really comes down to what you need in a web host.

Low on budget and just need a site up with reasonable uptime?
Go for a shared hosting package. I can recommend either Bluehost, HostGator or Dreamhost. All three are big companies, are likely to stick around for a while and offer reasonably good service. Bluehost is pretty good, has good uptime and offers a fairly competitive price for their service. HostGator and Dreamhost are also good options to consider for shared hosting.

Want to run WordPress/Drupal/Joomla etc.?
Any shared host worth their salt will offer you the ability to run a WordPress site. It’s almost a given that VPS options, dedicated servers, cloud hosts, and so on will let you run WordPress too. If you’re paying a web host and they don’t offer you the ability to install a CMS or run other common scripts, consider moving to a less restrictive host. If you’re paying for it, you should at least get some freedom for your buck.

Having problems with slow load times for your site?
If you’re on a shared host and you find your site is slow or just not performing the way you want it to, consider switching to another shared host. Unfortunately, when it comes to shared hosting, the speed your site loads is entirely up to the server, what other sites are doing on the server, how many visitors those other sites are getting, and the hardware of the server itself. If one shared hosting provider has been giving you absurdly slow loading times, maybe it’s time you considered other options. Before you move, check to see how many other sites are hosted on the same server as you: Reverse IP Lookup. I’ve had clients on servers with only a couple hundred other sites that were slow because of server issues, and clients on servers with up to twenty-five-thousand other sites which were slow because the server was just overloaded.

Need consistent load times and don’t want to share?
A VPS is good if shared hosting hasn’t been giving you what you want. Keep in mind that moving off of a shared host and onto VPS, Dedicated, or Cloud will increase your hosting fees per month and require you to know a little bit more about the administration of your server. Not all website owners find it necessary to get off of a shared host.

Is cheaper generally worse than more expensive?
When you’re dealing with hosts in a similar line of business ie. Shared Host, or VPS Provider, or Dedicated host, the differences in cost between one or the other isn’t necessarily indicative of their quality or level of service. For instance, you might find yourself paying two to three dollars more per month for a Shared Host that’s slow, unreliable and just generally not very good. Or you could just be spending $3/month for an excellent Shared Host. If you’re not happy with the way your host is treating you or the services they’re providing for what you’re paying them for, there is a huge amount of other hosts available. The market is big and open and the ultimate say is up to you.

Are well-known hosts better than lesser known hosts?
Reputation does count for a lot these days, but well-known hosts aren’t necessarily always better than lesser known ones. Some well-known hosts might not offer as many features as a lesser known one. Larger hosts might also have to deal with more customer sites and may have servers that are more frequently overloaded. Then again, sometimes a larger host offers something a smaller one doesn’t.

Should I get a cloud hosting account?
How knowledgeable are you in terms of cloud computing technologies? How much time do you have to dedicate to learning cloud computing? Does your website absolutely need that much power? And how many resources will your website actually consume? Cloud computing is excellent and a very exciting new option, but it may not be the right choice for everyone and someone completely new to the technology will take some time because it can be a pretty steep learning curve.

Ultimately, if your site is going to small at first and you don’t need it to run super resource heavy scripts or systems, a shared hosting account will probably be a good for for 90% of you. If you want more power, and more control, you can see that there’s plenty of choices and options available. The providers mentioned in this post are just a drop in the bucket.


Research as a Hobby, List of EIG Owned Companies
A handy list compiled by Research as a Hobby that lists all the companies owned by or run by EIG. Having run into them a few times, I cannot recommend any company under the EIG umbrella for the poor support and server uptime I’ve experienced with them. Maybe things will improve, but at the time of this writing, I cannot recommend their services or products.

Resources: Some Useful Design Books

Most of my first two years of higher education were spent in a dark room with ten to fifteen other people, drawing from a still life or live model. Sometimes we were loosed outside to sit in the frigid autumns of Canada to commit a landscape to paper. Later on, I started getting more design, more web development, more programming and the days spent sitting in the frigid autumns of Canada turned into days and nights sitting in the frigid autumns of Canada with a laptop. In that time, I was given a list every semester of the textbooks I’d need. I would go out and purchase these textbooks and promise myself every single semester that I would read them and be enlightened. I amassed fifty or so books, possibly more than I don’t remember and I didn’t read a single one all the way through.

It wasn’t until I graduated that I finally sat down and went through any of those books. Well, it’s never too late to be enlightened. Of those books, here are some useful design books (including some I went out of my way to read after graduation).

Some Useful Design Books

Design is a Job by Mike Monteiro
Monteiro is one of the founders of Mule Design, and is a treasure trove of practical knowledge related to the web design industry. He talks about everything from the importance of contracts, how to deal with clients, how to work with other creatives, and how and why it’s important you get paid for what you do.

Thinking With Type by Ellen Lupton
Not the most detailed book on type, but if you’re intimidated by typography, Thinking With Type lays out the basics in an easy to digest manner. Great for undergrads who need to get their feet wet in typographic basics. If you’re a practicing professional who just needs a refresher, this book is a great quick read.

The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst
Bringhurst’s book seems to be required reading for most type enthusiasts and designers. It outlines ideas and theories all related to typography and design. I found it to be equal parts clever and useful. Be aware that this can be a bit of a slog, so take your time.

The Elements of Typographic Style Applied to the Web by Richard Rutter & Steve Marshall
The quintessential typographic style concepts applied to web design. I found this invaluable, and best of all, it’s free!

Making and Breaking the Grid by Timothy Samara
Describes various grid structures used in graphic design that could easily be reworked for the web as well. Invaluable book about organizing information and presenting it in fascinating ways.

Responsive Web Design by Ethan Marcotte
Tablets and mobile device use is on the rise and web designers need to stay on top of the game. Responsive Web Design applies CSS and Design techniques for the mobile device.

There are more useful design books where that came from because design and especially web design is an ever evolving beast. Reading and gathering inspiration is as much a part of being a designer as actually designing.