on April 5, 2004
I started making web pages back in the dark ages of 1996. In 1999 I was making streamlined web apps for Franklin that my coworkers and I used to make on the fly calculaitons and data lookups. Eventually, I was a staff web developer at schwab in san francisco and in tokyo, japan. I had heard of Jacob Nielson at useit.com, but only after using thousands of web pages and making hundreds of web pages myself and making dozens of web apps did I come across Jeffrey Veen's book "The Art and Science of Web Design." I cringed when I read that he wrote to avoid using images when you can use text. Everything seemed to be agains the grain and I felt like I was swimming up river as I read what Veen was writing, but only after years of experience have I learned to respect Mr. Veen and his infinite wisdom. A web site is only good if it achieves its purpose, which is access to information. And this occurs only through a site that possesses speed, simplicty, and clarity. Download speed is the most important, and meeting the user's expectations. A simple design that works is worth a bucket of gold. Only after making countless web pages have I finally taken Veen's philosophy to heart - make the web site simple and fast and don't dwell on the unnecessary frivolous pretty gifs and clutter that predominates on so many web pages. Simplicity. Speed. Clarity.
I hope that Jeffrey Veen writes another book. I highly recommend this book.
It's like Jeffrey Veen is a Web Philospher, and everything he wrote in the book is true, though for those raised on photoshop and obsessed with glossy web pages, it's hard to swallow the truth sometimes - less really is more. Make the site fast and make it simple.
on June 22, 2003
Here's a book that's sitting on my desk and it's going to be there for good long time. I mark it up. A few weeks later I come back and look again. Good writers give you that. Yes, even about technical subjects, good writers deliver. This will be one of my dog-eared ones.
The graphics are done so well that I almost feel bad about marking it up. Colored tabs on each chapter make it easy to get back to particular sections. Screen shots of leading web sites are used generously when he's trying to make a general point of design. Full scripting to cover the examples under discussion are provided, in part, and then brought together as a whole. Well-developed and simple figures are used to make specific points. Each chapter contains several side-bars and other sections covering related information to the main.
The level of writing is aimed for someone with beginning level skills, but goes quickly to the more technical issues without leaving the reader behind. When Mr. Veen is leaving out information, as when he sidesteps error trapping for active pages, he points it out. The writing flows smoothly around what could easily be an unorganized collection of confusing hyper text jargon. I found myself reading through a section to find a quick answer to something I was working on, only to end up engrossed for an hour or more.
One of the most valuable parts of this book is the experience Mr. Veen brings to his discussions. "When I started out in this business years ago my first job was, in essence, to be a human Perl script," he states at one point before going on to describe how he, and others, went on to solve the problems of high maintenance sites. In another area he describes the business of information architecture and how it could mean success or failure for sites seeking to make a profit. For those of us who are seeking to make our way in the world of web design, few lessons could provide the knowledge that is presented here in clear and concise language.
on September 4, 2002
This is what a former college professor of mine from Nebraska probably would have called a "Platte River" book--i.e., "a mile wide and an inch deep." That's a bit of an overstatement, however, as it does go into depth in some areas while it skims the surface of others. But the book couldn't have been exhaustive, as each chapter is worthy of a book unto itself.
If you know everything there is to know about the art and science of Web design, then you're probably not looking to buy this book anyway. But if you're interested in the history of the Web and how it evolved, how it fits into our 21st century lives, its potential, its limitations, its assets, and its pitfalls, then this is a book for you.
For me, its value was giving the Web a context, and focusing on Web design as a discipline distinct from other media, such as print matter and television. By examining the Web and what it can and can't do, Web designers can put their work in perspective, exploit the Web's possibilities, and stop trying to make it do things it was never intended to.
I recommend it to Web designers and developers at all levels, but beware: as a couple of other reviewers have mentioned, the typos are insufferable almost to the point of distraction. You'll want to mark it up and send it back to the publisher for corrections.
on April 20, 2002
Timothy E. McMahon, M.S.
Principal Web Developer
The McMahon Group
There are hundreds, if not thousands of books on web design and development out there for us to reference. While there are so many authors writing, there are far fewer worth spending your money on. Jeffrey Veen though is one worth the money.
Veen's book The Art and Science of Web Design is a lesson to all of us in web development that the age of specialization is drawing to an end. To succeed in this maturing field, we need to begin integrating our design, programming and usability skills into one cohesive package that provides value to our employers and value to our users.
The Art and Science of Web Design touches on many areas from interface consistency, to rule-based design to browsers. I've read scores of books on web development and without doubt, Veen's book was one of the most enjoyable reads and one of the more informative texts I've purchased.
This is one book worth adding to your personal library.
on January 13, 2002
After reading several books on the science of web design (the Non Designer's Web Book, the Elements of Web Design, etc.), I was interested in seeing what this book had to say. Unfortunately, what it had to say was very little. Pretentious and self-consciously trying to appeal to the hip crowd, this book is just plain annoying in its writing style. The reviewer below me from England hit it right on the head-- the author never, ever gets straight to the point. Instead, he uses a lot of pretty, unnecessary verbiage just to state the obvious and the simple. Even more annoying is how the author coins these terms which I guess are supposed to be cool, but strike one as being highly pretentious, since they don't shed any light on what he's talking about. A great example is his coined phrase, "liquid web design," which is just another pretentious way of saying a web site that is built to adapt to different browser conditions. This term is annoying not only because the author could have just as easily used more commonly known words like "malleable" and "adaptable," but because you have to learn what he means if you aren't *hip* enough to know what "liquid web design" means. It's almost as if to understand this book you have to learn a new language only spoken by elitist, trendy techie hipster snobs who sit around at Starbucks and use words like "pro-active." This is an unnecessary extra step in trying to understand something as straightforward as web design. Terrible, annoying, and pretentious with a capital "P."
One star from me.
on November 23, 2001
A disappointment, given the author's guru reputation and the five star reviews here at Amazon.
All in all, an incoherent series of essays with no clear message and little practical advice, badly edited and badly proofread (a typo on every other page -- check out the bullet points on page 17) with umpteen unenlightening screenshots and illustrations ("Code", "Word" and "Pictures" in circles joined by a triangle -- hey! they're connected!)
It's too basic for techies (readers are advised to give alternatives when specifying font names...) but too cryptic for the novice or general reader ("Just as a good classification system will spawn prediction in information retrieval, a good integration structure will do the same with services" - -huh?)
The general-reader stuff is padded out with platitudes ("The Web may be growing fast, but its foundation stretches back through years..."), the nuts-and-bolts sections are far too specific to be useful (several pages are devoted to an IE-only method of dynamically resizing headlines, which is pretty questionable anyway) and most of the last chapter is taken up with ASP code for a specific database application.
The author also has an irritating predilection for long-winded tangential analogies (three paragraphs describing how David Copperfield uses diversionary tactics to do his magic) and unnecessary long words like "disambiguate", "heuristics" and "deconstruct".
Far better alternatives are Steve Krug's book Don't Make Me Think!, any of the O'Reilly Web books or Jakob Nielsen's website (...)
on May 2, 2001
I was disappointed by this book. I have read several articles by Mr. Veen and I'm familiar with some of his (and other's ) work on Webmonkey so I was looking forward to his insights. I've been working on the web as long as Mr. Veen and I wanted war stories and advice from a peer. Unfortunately this book is not what I expected. I expected a more advanced look at the issues and challenges of web design. His topics are huge, so why bog down with history and overview? If he had of assumed a baseline of tech and history knowledge then more meat could have been here (at least for me). Something beyond the brief web/browser history, professional anecdotes, overviews, and basic examples he provides. If you are very new to the web then this is probably a good book for you, but I think it speaks more to the newbie audience than to advanced readers. For what it is (a beginner's book), it is about a 4 star book). On the plus side I appreciated his advocacy of standards adherence and cross-browser support -- critical for beginners to hear in contrast to today's Flash/Shockwave-sodden web.
Having a stylish and effective web site for your business is now a necessity rather than an option. For many varied, unusual and sometimes baffling reasons, it is very difficult to create a site that satisfies a sense of good style as well as a taste for commerce. Jeffrey Veen is an acknowledged expert in making web sites work and much of that expertise is captured in this book.
I was very impressed with his starting point that simple consistency is a virtue. While fancy displays are impressive at first sight, if it is not backed up by clearly understandable functionality, your captured eyeballs will not bring their brains and wallets along. The basics of page layout and design listed here are rules of thumb that you should violate only in the most unusual of circumstances.
One of the best points he makes refers to the magician David Copperfield. He notes that while the scantily clad women do provide entertainment value, their real purpose is to take your mind away from paying too close attention to the magic tricks. The same thing applies when designing web sites. If the page display proceeds in steps, the result is to render a powerful illusion of speed to the user. Therefore, while the primary concern must be the overall speed of the download, a secondary concern is to organize the page so that it appears to load quickly.
Veen also has all of the proper scorn for the tactics used by some online advertisers. Like him, it has always baffled me that someone would believe that the way to get me to buy something from their site is to mislead me into clicking to it. His disdain for those ads that mimic an operating system message is well deserved, although you would think that the poor return on their long-term click-through rates would tell the designers all they need to know.
The recent dot-com flameout and declining online revenues will have a positive effect on the quality of web designs. Some of the more deceptive and unusual sites will die their well-deserved death as their guerrilla marketing developers lose out in the competition for customers that will stay and pay. To succeed in the long term you occasionally have to be boring and uninspired, which to some means stable and dependable. If that is your goal when using your web site, then you should read this book.
on January 15, 2001
The cover..., not because Mr. Veen does not own a serviceable countenance, but because it doesn't clue the prospective reader in on the wealth of useful Web interface-related junk inside.
"Junk" is used in its most positive form, of course, as related to the effusive collection of diverse material Veen attempts -- and succeeds -- to convey in his color-coded pages. He's all over the place as he gathers together everything there is to say about Web design through copious color illustrations (one on almost every page, for those who count such things) without actually giving step-by-step instructions.
Ultimately, 'The Art & Science of Web Design' manages to provide lots of great examples of both what is right and what is wrong with current thinking regarding the balance of useability and pretty pictures, the so-called "laws" of use (which are sometimes overzealously applied) and one man's rather well-reasoned opinions and well-researched facts concerning how people use the Web, and how Web sites need to adapt to those principles.
on January 10, 2001
Jeffrey Veen is on a mission to make the Web a better place. His latest book, "The Art & Science of Web Design," came from a need he saw for a higher-level view of Web design: "I looked around at what Web design books were available, and saw a hole in the market." Veen was Executive Interface Director for Wired Digital, and the man behind Webmonkey, HotWired, and HotBot's designs.
For many of you, reading this book will be an "aha" experience. According to Veen, Web design is no longer logos and layouts, it now takes a multidisiplinary approach, with elements of information architecture, programming, and of course design. Veen says: "The line between design and programming is getting more and more blurry." The rare few who stretch beyond their comfort zones and learn these other disciplines can become design masters. Jeffrey Veen is such a person.
It's a different kind of Web design book. Veen doesn't dwell on technical details, he guides you towards more elegant solutions. He provides ways you can find the best solutions (interfaces etc.) through the use of heuristic usability and pattern matching, rather than the tedious testing promoted by the likes of Jakob Nielsen. It's a new design philosophy really, a more fluid approach with "intelligent content that can figure out how to display itself correctly" created from dynamic publishing systems (databases and scripted templates).
And Veen makes it look easy. Veen's final chapter on "Object- Oriented Publishing" ties it all together with a great example of a database-backed scripted template (using ASP) front-end to a church's sermon respository. He whipped the site up on his hard drive using low-cost tools, and shows how easy it can be to create a consistent look site-wide, lower maintenance costs, and easily add new "views" of your data. The benefit of separating presentation from content is that your site can more easily adapt to changing standards, and formats. Want a WAP feed? No problem, query the database with a different template, or even an XSL style sheet.
The days of large static sites are numbered. Going to "dynamic publishing" using a database gives your company a strategic advantage over your competition, as you can publish content faster, and change designs and formats much more efficiently. Your site comes alive.