This is about web design and production, actually about books about web design and production. Which is, I think, fannish since we spend a lot of our time building and maintaining websites: personal pages, archives, blogs, etc, etc.
I've been making websites since 1995, sometimes for money and sometimes for love and sometimes for beer. I've tried to keep abreast of the latest and greatest while keeping the user experience in mind. I've got a shelf of books, some at home, some at work, but these are the core, the books that you should read to help you build better websites.
Don't Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability by Steve Krug
This is the book you read before you start. There's no code in here; this is all about user experience on the web. Krug, a well-known usability consultant, covers topics like organizing your navigation, common and expected elements on a web page, writing for the web, usability testing, and other things to consider to improve your visitor's time on your site.
And he does it all with wit, style, and grace. This is the book that I make the designers and account managers read and that I recommend to people at every opportunity. It's a slim volume -- 208 pages -- easy to read and well worth your investment. Forget Uncle Jakob -- this is the book you need.
Designing With Web Standards by Jeffrey Zeldman
This book just came out and it's both an apologia for standards-based design and a good introduction to XHTML, CSS, and accessibility. As I've been exploring these topics myself, there wasn't a lot there new to me, but I'm still glad I picked it up.
Zeldman organizes the information well and presents it lucidly. If you've been staring at your font tags and table hacks, wondering if there's a better way, there is and Zeldman will show it to you and explain why it's important.
Separating content from presentation is the key. As well as general principles, Zeldman works his way through several design projects to show you it's not hard to be both standards-compliant and pretty.
All his examples are from real-life sites and all the code is available on line. And be sure to read his Daily Report. He's always got the skinny on the latest cool techniques, nifty sites, and interesting dirt.
Cascading Style Sheets: The Definitive Guide or Eric Meyer On CSS by Eric Meyer
Eric Meyer is THE CSS (cascading style sheets) guy. He demystified CSS for me and he can do the same for you. I own CSS: The Definitive Guide and it's helped me immensely. It's more of a reference book, where Eric Meyer On CSS is a how-to book with a number of different projects in it. (I confess -- I haven't read that one, but it's gotten stellar reviews.)
Also check out CSS/Edge where he posts CSS design experiments.
Building Accessible Websites by Joe Clark
I love Joe. He has a forthright, curmudgeonly style that makes even the most dry information entertaining. Everything you need to know is here, from how to make your site accessible to people who are colour-blind or motion-impaired, to techniques for captioning video and animation.
Accessibility doesn't have to be hard -- you just have to understand why it's necessary. The look of your site doesn't have to change, usually, just the code underneath. As well, these techniques benefit people using palm-top devices and off-brand browsers. You want everyone to read your fic, right?
The Non-Designer's Design Book by Robin Williams
This isn't a web book. It's really more of a print-design book. But that's not the point. It covers basic design skills that everyone should have that work just as well on the web as in print.
This books starts at absolute zero and gives you a minimum of solid design principles that will help you make attractive posters, newsletters, invitations, and, yes, websites. This book made me a better designer in one afternoon.
It's short, easy to read, and very entertaining.
And that's all for now. Soon, I hope to post a list of my fave sites on these topics. But now I have to go get ready for the LotR/TTT double-feature up at the uni theater. My life is so hard. :)