Web design guides for the novice.
January 11, 2009 10:42 AM   Subscribe

Looking for the best useful basic guides for web design, aimed at novice volunteers.

I'm tasked with writing a guide for small volunteer groupings to do web design on a voluntary basis. Imagine someone who is able at using their computer, operating the Microsoft Office suite and able to get online, and able to do basic HTML. What are good guides to deal with stuff like accessibility, good design, promoting your website, blogs, and copyright issues?

I don't want to get into the scripting and more web development sort of stuff. I imagine that the most people would do is install a basic web template for a static page, maybe plus a self hosted blog for easy updating.

Creative Commons and other free guides strongly preferred. The guide doesn't need to be complete - if it goes into a few or just one of these issues, it's welcome.
posted by By The Grace of God to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
I've often recommended this site
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 11:08 AM on January 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Look at Jakob Nielsen's Top Ten Design Heuristics, and the Yale Web Style Guide.
posted by xammerboy at 11:21 AM on January 11, 2009

w3schools for brushing up your html is essential (just to bookmark as a reference)

A List Apart has the occasional good article of standards, accessibility, good practice etc.
posted by twistedonion at 11:46 AM on January 11, 2009

I highly recommend HTMLSource - very straightforward and well-organized. Check out Basic Web Design, the Accessibility section, and the Full Index.
posted by oulipian at 1:04 PM on January 11, 2009

Please don't look at Jakob Nielsen as a model for anything other than self-promotion. He's a lunatic nazi who exists in a world that is different from the practical one.

(Godwin in six moves!)
posted by rokusan at 6:24 PM on January 11, 2009

Opera has a great guide for standards compliant web design, and it 's licensed under Creative Commons.
posted by clearlydemon at 10:26 PM on January 11, 2009

I can't imagine anyone taking rokusan seriously but, just in case, don't. Nielsen is a humourless old curmudgeon, but he's done the work. He's researched what makes things usable and what doesn't. He's sat banks of people down in front of banks of computers and run the tests. People don't like him, but he's not someone you can ignore.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 3:10 PM on January 12, 2009

Awww, Ambrose, I can't imagine anyone taking me seriously (on anything!) either, but for the record, I have also run hundreds (perhaps thousands by now) of usability tests with rigorous methodologies and real-world subject groups over the last twenty five years, on everything from software to websites to washing machines. I have read all of Neilsen's books and spoken with the man more than once. I get what he is saying. He is a strong-minded professor, with some very... personal ideas. But just as you would not ever blindly follow one professor's philosophy unless you're looking for a tenure track, you shouldn't follow one expert's very personal opinions on anything.

He is hot these days, yes. In a typical argument at a usability conference, he is usually the loudest voice in the room, whether he's there in person or not, and perhaps the most frequently appealed-to authority at large. But a large portion of his "insights" are either decades-old established tenets wearing Web 2.0 makeup, or ridiculous arbitrary nods to transient style. Find me a real world designer who will make a commercial website using only default link colors and keep her job.

(Relatedly, I believe that anyone who finds the type on "useit.org" (Nielsen's home) actually "readable" is either from another planet or being intellectually dishonest. Being labeled an "expert" does not make one correct.)

If you ignore Nielsen, you lose nothing. All his good ideas are elsewhere, so you won't miss anything at all. So, yes, I do think he can be ignored.

And now I'm veering off-topic. But please don't rely on Nielsen (or any one "expert") as authoritative in any way. Read and consider, but for god's sake don't just follow.

And most of all: talk to your users. They're not meat.
posted by rokusan at 5:33 PM on January 12, 2009


Care to make a specific claim? What, exactly is Nielsen so wrong about?
posted by xammerboy at 11:27 AM on January 16, 2009

« Older Please identify this "Beethoven and Goethe" art...   |   How can I design and make a custom camera bag? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.