A note from the editors: While helpful when first published, many of these links are now out of date.
A List Apart publishes articles written for working web professionals, but we appreciate the predicament of new web designers and builders who aren’t sure where to begin. As we promised in our primer for readers new to ALA, we’ve collected a set of starting points for the next generation of people who make websites.
But before we jump into the lists, a personal note. Early in my career, I found myself at a crossroads: I had to decide whether I should finish my design degree or to go the route of self-education.
I’d been e-mailing Carole Guevin, the founder of Netdiver, with questions about the design industry and about her site — and she was always warm, receptive, and patient with my myriad of inquiries. When I asked her about my educational dilemma, her reply was one of the most memorable of my career to date: “The formal education is good for teaching you the basics, but your real design education begins once you leave the university.”
“Web design” is a much more complicated profession than it was ten years ago, but we still believe in the ability of the self-taught professional to develop top-notch skills through immersion in the kinds of resources and communities we’ve collected below.
ALA peanut butter sandwiches
The following websites comes from ALA staff recommendations. Many of these are the sites that we’ve used—and still use—to improve our own skills. We hope this list can serve as a starting point for a larger collection of resources for fledgling web designers and developers.
Where to begin: essential reference and tutorials
We think these articles, tutorials, tools, and reference guides will help you build a bookmark collection that’s vital to your everday work.
- “A Design Process Revealed,” from Douglas Bowman: for non-designers who need to design
- “Developing with Web Standards and Best Practices,” a practical primer on web standards from Roger Johansson
- “Style vs. Design,” by Jeffrey Zeldman (pdf)
- Typetester: screen-type comparison tool
- Web-safe fonts page and font samples from The Browser News (more on this from an MIT student’s web fonts page)
- “Information Architecture Tutorial,” an old-school Webmonkey article from John Shiple
- An information architecture glossary (PDF) from the Argus Center for Information Architecture
- “Introduction to Information Architecture,” Chapter two of Rosenfeld and Morville’s foundational Information Architecture for the World Wide Web
- “What is Information Architecture on the Web?” by Iain Barker
Markup, CSS, and scripting
- CSS and web standards tutorials and resources from Westciv
- CSS Basics: just what it sounds like, in 18 chapters, all online
- “CSS From the Ground Up,” from Web Page Design for Designers, is a perfect place to begin if you have graphic design training, but no web design experience
- “CSS No Crap Primer,” from Wendy Peck
- CSS Panic: a guide for the unglued from Owen Briggs
- CSS tutorials from Max Design: Listutorial, Floatutorial, and Selectutorial, plus the mighty Listamatic
- “Designing a CSS-Based Template,” a five-part series from Veerle Pieters
- Designing for print style sheets, from Mark Boulton
- Dev Guru, reference guides on markup, style, and scripting languages
- “Learn CSS positioning in ten easy steps,” from BarelyFitz Designs
- The New York Public Library XHTML Style Guide (see also Dave Shea’s short Markup Guide)
- “On having Layout,” from Ingo Chao offers a fix for troublesome IE behavior — a little advanced, but worth bookmarking
- Step-by-step immersive CSS redesign from Albino Blacksheep
- Web browser standards support, a resource on the level of support for web standards and maturing technologies in popular web browsers, from Web Devout
- The Web Form Factory automatically builds PHP forms for you: use it wisely
- XHTML Character Entity Reference from Digital Media Minute
Sites that grow with you: magazines, communities, and portals
While the above sites will help get you up to speed to begin with, the following sites will help you keep learning, stay inspired, and join the global network of web professionals. Most of these sites are updated frequently, and several contain forums or e-lists where you can ask questions that even the strongest Google-fu can’t find answers to.
- Digital Web Magazine: articles, columns, interviews, and reviews on a wide range of web topics
- The University of Minnesota Duluth’s extrordinary collection of web design and development reference material
- Web Design from Scratch: oodles of reference material on web design topics
- AIGA: the professional association of the design industry
- Brands of the World: logos, logos, logos
- Colour Lovers and More Crayons: color reference and inspiration for webby folk
- Communication Arts, Computer Arts, and How Design magazines
- css Zen Garden and cssBeauty
- Design Addict, a resource on modern, post-modern and contemporary design
- Design is Kinky, design magazine and community
- Design Meltdown: design elements, problems, and trends in web design
- Design Observer: writings on design and culture
- Netdiver: digital culture and new media design magazine
- Thinking with Type, the online companion to Thinking with Type: A Critical Guide for Designers, Writers, Editors, & Students, by Ellen Lupton
- Boxes and Arrows magazine
- The IA Institute, information architecture’s professional association; see also the “Introductory sources” section of the Institute’s library
- The Information Architecture mailing list for ASIS&T (American Society for Information Science and Technology) and the IA Institute’s Members’ Listserv (members only)
- The IAWiki, the information architect’s wiki
- Info Design blog and newsletter
Markup, style, standards, and accessibility
- Bite Size Standards, web tutorials, tips, and tricks from standards lovers, frequently updated
- CSS-Discuss Wiki, an invaluable resource and home of the storied CSS-D mailing list
- HTML Dog, HTML and CSS resources from Patrick Griffiths
- The “Starting Off” section of Your HTML Source, a friendly and very intro-level guide to the world of web development
- WaSP, reference, news, and advocacy
- Web Standards Group
New web folk, what resources would you add to these lists? Advanced readers, where do you send your new colleagues when they have questions? Tell us what’s missing in our discussions.