Recommended Books on Web Design

by Jakob Nielsen on January 1, 2007

Brief lists of good books about:

Each of the recommended books is linked directly to the appropriate page on For any other book, please use this link to's home page and they will give me a few percent referral commission (which helps me pay for my server).

Web Design Books

Prioritizing Web Usability , by Jakob Nielsen and Hoa Loranger
My newest book. An overview of the highest-priority issues you need to know about Web usability.
Information Architecture for the World Wide Web , by Louis Rosenfeld and Peter Morville (3rd edition): buy in the U.S. or buy in the U.K.
Classic book, now in its third edition. The authors' emphasis is on the structure of the site and how to facilitate users' access to the information they need the most. Even though these are crucial issues in Web usability, they are often overlooked in the quest for cool pages (that download slowly and are impossible to navigate). I liked the manuscript enough to write the foreword to both the first edition and the second edition .
Web Bloopers: 60 Common Web Design Mistakes and How to Avoid Them , by Jeff Johnson: buy in the U.S. or buy in the U.K.
As the title says, 60 of the most basic guidelines for Web design. But the book is really much more than that because each guideline is discussed at length with many screenshots and examples. Also, the author is well-grounded in the basic principles of human-computer interaction, having many years experience in interaction design, so he explains why the mistakes are bad with reference to the underlying big picture. Truly an excellent book, and pretty easy to read because it's structured according to the bloopers and the entertaining examples.

Overview for Beginners

Web Design in a Nutshell by Jennifer Niederst Robbins (3rd edition): buy in the U.S. or buy in the U.K.

If you don't want to go too "deep" in thinking about Web design, then this book gives a quick and colorful overview of the main issues.

Implementation-Oriented Books

Learning Web Design: A Beginner's Guide to (X)HTML, Style Sheets, and Web Graphics , by Jennifer Niederst Robbins (3rd edition): buy in the U.S. or buy in the U.K.
If you don't know HTML there are a million books to learn from. This one is a favorite of mine. The book does go beyond basic HTML to explain CSS, graphics formats, and the differences between browsers ("platform idiosyncrasies" as the publisher delicately puts it).
Cascading Style Sheets, Third Edition : Designing for the Web , by Håkon Lie and Bert Bos: buy in the U.S. or buy in the U.K.
Cascading style sheets (CSS) are without a doubt the way to manage presentation design across any medium- or large-size website. For once the blurb on a book cover is right: the authors are indeed "the world authorities" on stylesheets, having been the original leaders of the Web Consortium's stylesheet project, so this is the ultimative reference for HTML stylesheets. Many examples of the slightly obscure features in CSS show how stylesheets can be used to achieve quite refined layouts and page-designs. It would be nice to say that you can pick up CSS from simply looking at examples, but good use actually requires a deeper understanding, as provided by this textbook.
Java Look and Feel Design Guidelines : buy in the U.S. or buy in the U.K.
This is the official style guide from Sun Microsystems. I happen to know the lead author who is an extremely experienced and talented senior user interface engineer. So the guidelines are sound advice. But the main reason to use the book for any Java project is that consistency is key to usability. Don't invent your own weird interaction style when you can use proven ideas that users will know from other applets and applications. Also, by following the official rules, you will ensure that users with disabilities can use your interface. There are several other aspects of interaction design that are often overlooked in the heat of fast-moving Internet projects but are still important: following the guidelines keeps you honest and guards against such design mistakes.
Speed Up Your Site: Web Site Optimization , by Andy King: buy in the U.S. or buy in the U.K.
All about response time and how to make it faster (i.e., better). Even broadband users benefit when web pages are faster, and if you have many dial-up users (or traveling users) you have to make response time one of the top priorities for your site. This books tells you how.

How to Buy

These books can be ordered from the online bookstore by clicking on the titles. This service is provided in association with Books and any questions regarding pricing or handling of orders should be directed to Hyperlinking an editorial site to a fulfillment service is a great example of value-added use of the Web: there is no way I can have a warehouse of books, but through the links you can buy even though I can't sell.


The books recommended on these pages are ones that I personally like and find valuable. There are many other good books that I simply haven't read and thus can't recommend here.

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