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Head First Web Design Book Review

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Head First Web Design

Head First Web Design

Cover shot courtesy O'Reilly

Bottom Line

This is a great book for web designers who want to work as freelancers. It covers a lot of the things you need to know to be a good freelance web designer. Yes, you will learn design basics like color and layout. But You’ll also learn about how to deal with clients, and even some aspects of the business.

What I like best about this book is how pretty it is. This is not a book about HTML with “web design” on the cover. This is a design book, with well thought out design choices in the book, and good coverage of what a designer should know. If you are a web designer, you will like this book. If you think web pages should be built using an HTML text editor and that coding is more fun that colors, then you won’t.


  • Full color photos and illustrations throughout
  • Good coverage of basic and advanced design features
  • Understands that a freelance web designer needs to know more than just HTML


  • A very stylized format that might seem “cutesy” or casual to some
  • The internal pictures are very young-white-male focused


  • Publisher: O’Reilly
  • Price: $49.99
  • Length: 451 pages
  • Released: 2009
  • Chapter 1 covers understanding your audience
  • Chapter 2 explains how to deal with clients
  • Chapter 3 works with site organization
  • Chapter 4 teaches about web design rules
  • Chapter 5 covers color
  • Chapter 6 moves you from organization to navigation
  • Chapter 7 explains how writing for the web differes from writing for print
  • Chapter 8 covers web accessibility
  • Chapter 9 is all about listening to your users
  • Chapter 10 helps you move forward with new features and continuing to learn
  • Chapter 11 covers business features a web designer should know
  • Appendix i includes some (10, to be exact) things that they didn’t cover in the rest of the book

Jennifer Kyrnin’s Review of Head First Web Design

This book, like all the Head First books I’ve reviewed is a lot of fun to read and look at. The pictures make the book more engaging, and unlike most computer books, all the pictures are full-color. It uses a lot of the upward looking models that you’ve become familiar with in the other Head First books. But one thing I noticed was that the diversity of the people in this book, while there, is still pretty generalized. It was surprising to me to see so few women in the book, when web design is one of the few fields in the computing industry that has almost as many women as men. And of course all the pictures are of young people, mostly young white men.

But if you can get past this, the book is one that most designers will find much more palatable than your standard HTML tutorial and I include my own book in that mix. :-) Most authors focusing on a web design book focus more on the technical details about writing web pages, but the reality is that most designers use a program like Dreamweaver and don’t worry too much about the code. This book assumes that what you really care about is the way your pages look and act, and not so much about how the HTML or CSS in the background works.

This is a Good Book for Beginning Freelance Web Designers

If you’re considering breaking into the freelance web design business, this is a good book to consider. While it covers a lot of things like colors and layout that you would expect from a design book, it also covers things like planning, clients, and the difference between a site owner (your client) and a site user (the site’s client). This is one of the few books on web design I’ve seen that actually cover how to work with clients.

The Book is Pretty

One thing that will appeal to most designers is how pretty this book is. As I mentioned before it’s got a lot of full-color photos and pictures and the style of the book is casual but fun. Some people might not like the casual style, but I enjoy it. There are other great features of the book that I like:

  • Exercises spread throughout the book help you practice what you learn.
  • There are HTML and CSS examples posted and annotated in most chapters.
  • Examples with live sites and help creating a sample site

I hope you find this book as useful and fun as I did.

Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.

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