10 books every web professional should read

On this weeks show we look at the top ten books every web professional should read whether they are a designer, developer or website owner.

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On this week’s show we look at the top 10 books every web professional should read, whether they’re a designer, developer or website owner.

Paul Boag:
So, welcome back to Boagworld, the podcast for web people. One of many, many web design podcasts these days, Marcus, aren’t there? There are flippin’ thousands of them.

Marcus Lillington:
Are there?

Paul Boag:
Yes, but we’re obviously by far the worst.

Marcus Lillington:
We’re by far the oldest.

Paul Boag:
We are the oldest, that’s nothing – nobody can ever take that away from us.

Marcus Lillington:
No, we were the first.

Paul Boag:
That’s, that’s, yes, I don’t like, yes, I prefer first to oldest, because that could refer to our age and we probably are the oldest, although Jeffrey Zeldman does his one, he’s older than us.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, Andy Clark is older than… me actually I think he’s a little bit older than me so he’s certainly older than you.

Paul Boag:
My word that’s ancient, Marcus.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
So yes, there are many web design podcasts out there that you can choose between and thank you very much for choosing us. We realize that other shows are available. So yes, it feels like forever since I’ve talked to you, Marcus.

Marcus Lillington:
Don’t make it up, it was two minutes ago.

Paul Boag:
Okay, so we had to finish last week’s show off, and now we’re doing this week’s show.

Marcus Lillington:
One thing I do know is I don’t have any of those nice notes that you’d send to me usually.

Paul Boag:
I’ve sent you the notes, you’re just so flippin’ unprofessional. Here we go, let me copy the link and find you in Skype.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay.

Paul Boag:
There you go, try that.

Marcus Lillington:
Thanks, Paul.

Paul Boag:
Because we’re talking about books this week.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay, I do read the odd book.

Paul Boag:
You don’t, you don’t read web design books.

Marcus Lillington:
I’ve read two.

Paul Boag:
Right, what are the two that you’ve read; let’s see if they’re on the list?

Marcus Lillington:
I’ve read Content Strategy for the Web by Kristina Halvorson.

Paul Boag:
Content Strategy for the Web by Kristina Halvorson, yes it is on the list.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay, and I can’t remember much about it. And I haven’t read it all but I’ve kind of perused Undercover User Experience Design by Cennydd Bowles and James Box.

Paul Boag:
Oh, I haven’t read that one and that’s not on the list.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay.

Paul Boag:
Is it good?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, I mean it kind of – they do stuff that we do, we took some of their ideas and now apply them to our process, so yes, it’s got to be good from that point of view. We’ve used some of the ideas.

Paul Boag:
We’ve stolen their ideas.

Marcus Lillington:
I have bought other books. What else have we got up here? Oh there’s one called the Website Owner’s Manual.

Paul Boag:
Oh that’s shit.

Marcus Lillington:
I have read Don’t Make Me Think.

Paul Boag:
Oh there we go, that’s on the list obviously.

Marcus Lillington:
There is another one, Redesign the Web, a smashing Book

Paul Boag:
No, that’s not on the list.

Marcus Lillington:
A Project Guide to UX Design: For user experience designers in the field or in the making.

Paul Boag:
I’ve never even heard of that one, who is that by?

Marcus Lillington:
It’s by…

Paul Boag:
It sounds like Marcus has just broken his office.

Marcus Lillington:
I’ve always had a habit of putting things in front of books on the shelf. It’s by Russ Unger and Carolyn Chandler.

Paul Boag:
Never heard of them or their book.

Marcus Lillington:
I saw them speak at South by South-West.

Paul Boag:
It’s going to be really embarrassing because they’ll be super famous won’t they and I’ve just not heard of them.

Marcus Lillington:
I think Russ Unger is fairly super famous.

Paul Boag:
Okay.

Marcus Lillington:
What else have we got up there?

Paul Boag:
This has turned into not the top 10 books every web professional should read but Marcus’ book shelf.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, I’ve got sort of work-y books, Bryson’s dictionary that’s a good one for writers, Bryson’s Dictionary of Troublesome Words, things like that. That’s more kind of contentee, writee-type stuff.

Paul Boag:
Well, what I’ve tried to do this week is, because obviously there are bloomin’ thousands of books about web design, but most of them are either aimed at designers, UX people, developers, it’s got a kind of individual audience, so what I’ve tried to do is pick 10 books that I think every web professional should read, almost irrelevant of what their job title is.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay.

Paul Boag:
Which is quite challenging. I wish I hadn’t started off like that to be honest.

Marcus Lillington:
Is it quite difficult?

Paul Boag:
It proved much harder than I thought it was going to but it’s a good list, it’s a good list. We’ve got 10 excellent books. Some are not actually directly related to web design.

Marcus Lillington:
I thought you were going to say some of them aren’t actually books.

Paul Boag:
No, some of them are in my mind.

Marcus Lillington:
They are recipes.

Paul Boag:
No, they are TV programmes because I don’t read. Actually I don’t these days, I tend to listen to audio books.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, see I can’t get my head around that.

Paul Boag:
Well, it’s really good when you are in the car.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, I suppose but, yes, maybe. I listen to music and I don’t read books. I tend not to read webby books I read sci-fi books.

Paul Boag:
Yes, that’s – I do, do a lot of that as well, it is true. But at the moment I am on a non-webby book. I am reading something called the End of Business As Usual, link in the show notes.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes I suppose mine, mine is a non – it’s a non-fiction book but it’s about the 50 years of pop.

Paul Boag:
Are you still reading that?

Marcus Lillington:
It’s the biggest book in the world.

Paul Boag:
You’ve been reading that for like ever.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes and I am on 52% of it, it’s just on and on and on but it’s quite interesting.

Paul Boag:
You need to read Digital Adaptation.

Marcus Lillington:
I do, well I kind of feel I know it. That’s not an unfair thing to say, isn’t it because I’ve seen you talk about it.

Paul Boag:
You’ve seen a 30 minute presentation that is hardly encompassing all the things I cover in my book.

Marcus Lillington:
It’s by my bed to be read.

Paul Boag:
Okay. Well before we get onto our list of books, we’ll kick those off in a minute but I do just want to quickly mention the Future of Web Apps, that I mentioned in last week’s show, and honestly I am not getting paid any money for this. But I do want to promote the conference because it looks like a good one and also they’ve been kind enough to give me a 15% discount for anybody that uses the code Headscape15 when they check out. So it’s a conference really for developers that happens between the September 29 and October 1 in London, they’ve got a brand new format, so they are talking about APIs, toolkits, developer best practice, all the kinds of things that would send and Marcus to sleep. But if you are a developer, I am sure you would find it incredibly useful. So check that out, it’s been going for eight years, it’s a well established conference and it has got a very good reputation and if you use the code Headscape15 at check out, you will get 15% discount. So there we go, that’s that, I just wanted to mention, that’s probably the last time I’ll mention it on the show. Shall we kick off with our list?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, because I can’t think of any other inane babble.

Paul Boag:
No, well let’s be focused and to the point this week.

Marcus Lillington:
My garden looks really nice.

Paul Boag:
Oh, shut up.

Marcus Lillington:
Looking out the window.

Paul Boag:
Right, we’re moving on. Blah, blah, blah.

Laws of Simplicity

Laws of Simplicity

Paul Boag:
Alright, so the first book on our list is a great book, Marcus, this one you should definitely read. And the reason you should read it because it’s really, really, short. Alright.

Marcus Lillington:
I won’t get bored.

Paul Boag:
So there is no excuse not to read this book. It’s called Laws of Simplicity, simplicity in design, technology and business life by John Maeda. And John Maeda is a professor at MIT or some such thing.

Marcus Lillington:
Oh, very clever person.

Paul Boag:
Very clever person and his book is a very clever book, The Laws of Simplicity, you must feel like you’ve read this book, Marcus, simply because I quote from it so often, don’t I?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, I am trying desperately to remember what the five pillars are or whatever it is…

Paul Boag:
No, there are three rules, The Laws of Simplicity, which is remove, hide, or shrink.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, yes, I remember, yes.

Paul Boag:
Although it’s been so long since I’ve read that book I think that might almost become Chinese whispers, do you know what I mean? Where you’ve said that so many times and it’s kind of changed and actually I can’t remember what’s in the original book. But it’s a stonking book, really, really great. So essentially it’s about simplicity, how to make things simple and what’s really good about the book is it really does apply to designers, developers, and website owners or project managers or whatever you are because everything can be simplified from the code that you’re writing to the designs that you’re producing, to the way you’re running projects and structuring stuff. So it is an excellent book, it is currently £11 on Amazon and obviously I’ll put a link in the show notes to where you can get it on Amazon. Check out the reviews, there are some great reviews, it’s a very kind of informal light read and it’s not kind of really heavy going or anything like that but it’s concise, it’s to the point, it kind of – it gets over the things. Most importantly, it’s stuck with me. It’s one of those books that the lessons in it have stuck with me and as I said a minute ago, they are lessons that I’ve quoted again and again, so that’s why I think it’s really a worthwhile read for anyone. So that is the Laws of Simplicity, I don’t think there is a lot more to say on it really.

Marcus Lillington:
There’s a very nice quote at the end of the book description which says, Law 10, I think it is, this law which Maeda calls ‘the one’ tells us, simplicity is about subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful.

Paul Boag:
Absolutely.

Marcus Lillington:
Which is rather good I thought.

Paul Boag:
Yes, and I would really agree with that. And he gives loads of examples, obviously like everyone he talks about the iPod and various other Apple products but he does kind of cover all kinds of different things and both products and processes and all kinds of stuff so check it out when you get a chance. That is the Laws of Simplicity by John Maeda.

Okay, so next up.

Marcus Lillington:
What’s number two, Paul?

Good Strategy, Bad Strategy

Good Strategy, Bad Strategy

Paul Boag:
Number two, now number 2 you could argue isn’t for everyone. But I think it is, and it’s called Good Strategy Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt. So immediately you think, well I am a developer, what do I need to know about strategy for, but actually I think it’s a good rounded book about how to plan things, how to whether it’s a project you’re trying to do or whether you’re trying to change the direction of an entire company, it’s got some really solid advice in it. Sorry I’ve got the hiccups all of a sudden and now I’ve got a plane going over now, damn this hot weather and opening the windows.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, dogs barking, everything.

Paul Boag:
Yes, it’s just the way of it, we need to sit in a little bubble somewhere, an air-conditioned bubble.

Marcus Lillington:
We should have a proper studio, shouldn’t we?

Paul Boag:
Oh, that’d be awesome.

Marcus Lillington:
Seeing as we are so old, I mean first.

Paul Boag:
Yes, we should be well established. Yes, anyway the plane has gone now. So Good Strategy Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt. Now the thing about this book is, it is not specifically about digital at all and neither was the Laws of Simplicity but it teaches principles of planning and strategy that I think can be applied to – certainly to digital and to any digital professional. So he talks about a kernel of good strategy because a lot of strategies, and we encounter this all the time. You go into a company and you say well, what’s your strategy for digital and it’s usually some vague goal like increase revenue by 15% or whatever, oftentimes it’s even vaguer than that, it’s err I don’t know.

Marcus Lillington:
Make it better.

Paul Boag:
Make it better, yes. So what this book does is, it gives you a kernel of what makes a good strategy, the core of a good strategy and he talks about, I’ve got to remember it now because it’s gone out of my head, it’s been a while since I’ve read it. He talks about establishing, identifying real world problems that you’re solving, what are the problems you’re solving. Then it talks about forming a framework within – which define how you go about solving those problems and then the final component is that kind of the practical steps for solving the problem. So it’s actually, you look at something like gov.uk and they’ve very much followed this through that they defined a set of problems that they were being used centric enough et cetera, they created a framework from which they operate which is their kind of design principles and then they’ve created a kind of roadmap of actions that need to be taken.

So it is really quite cool and he also talks about identifying actions that have a cascade of favorable outcomes, which when I first read it, I thought that sounds a bit kind of pretentious, but actually when you kind of get past the stupid wording on it, is a really good principle, so for example, you might say, your call to action on a website is to sorry – an action that you want to take on the website is to fix the calls to action that that website has, alright, so you have multiple calls to action across the site and they’re a bit rubbish at the moment, we’re going to fix them, that is one of our actions as part of our strategy. Now what’s great about fixing calls to action is it has a cascade of favorable outcomes because obviously your calls to action are used for signing up for the newsletter, purchasing a product, sending an inquiry, all of these things actually, so it improves multiple things by just fixing one element. So he talks a lot about identifying those kind of linchpin actions, that have multiple effects to them which I am a great fan of that idea of doing the minimum amount of work for the maximum result, which is the story of my life.

Marcus Lillington:
I was going to say, we had that conversation yesterday, didn’t we?

Paul Boag:
Did we?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, why are we working so hard?

Paul Boag:
Yes, that’s wrong. We shouldn’t be doing that. So yes, a really good book. It is kind of, it’s a bit kind of more corporate-y than maybe some of the others in the list but it is very much jargon free, it’s plain English, it’s perfectly understandable by anybody and this guy has got some serious weight behind him, he is a serious author and a very well known strategist. So it’s certainly worth checking out, and again gets stunning reviews on Amazon as you might expect. So that is Good Strategy Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt.

Nudge

Nudge

Okay, next book in the list is called Nudge, great name for a book with the strapline ‘improving decisions about health, wealth, and happiness’ which immediately makes you think this isn’t a book that I am interested in at all because it’s about health, wealth and happiness but it’s really not.

Marcus Lillington:
No, this is a book about manipulating people.

Paul Boag:
Exactly, which is wonderful. How would you say those author’s names, Richard…

Marcus Lillington:
Thaler and Sunstein.

Paul Boag:
Sunstein, Cass Sunstein. So a couple of authors on this book. Really recommend this book, really cheap at the moment, it’s only £6.99 which is a bargain for this book and it’s a really interesting one. It introduces a concept called – now what do they call it, paternal liberalism, which is really pretentious-sounding. So, okay – so a lot of the time in the book, they’re talking about how to get people to do the right thing, alright, and often it talks a lot about government and stuff like that and you think it’s not really relevant to me as a web professional but bear with me, it gets there. So, it’s talking about government, how many laws should you have or how much should you just let people do their own thing, so it’s the kind of liberal versus conservative kind of approach. And what they propose is a kind of middle ground to that, so one of the examples they use is organ donation, alright. As a liberal they fully accept that nobody should be forced into donating their organs on their death, right, they believe people should have the freedom to choose what they want but on the other hand they believe, rightly so, that organ donation is really important and it should be encouraged. So what they talk about there is clever defaults that you could make a huge difference by just switching the default from being you have to volunteer to donate your organs to you – you’re automatically will get – give your organs unless you opt out, right. So it gets a lot into the psychology of users and people and how essentially lazy people are and the power of defaults and how you can essentially get people to go in a certain direction, make a certain decision without restricting their freedom of choice or overly manipulating them, alright. So you said it was a book about manipulation but it’s not really, it’s more subtle than that.

Marcus Lillington:
It’s sneaky manipulation.

Paul Boag:
Sorry.

Marcus Lillington:
Sneaky manipulation.

Paul Boag:
Sneaky, yes, alright, something like that.

Marcus Lillington:
It’s still manipulation.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
But you would never get the organ donation example because everyone knows of our innate laziness, liberal groups or any groups, pro-choice groups or whatever would say that you can’t make that, it has to be something you have to opt into and it is manipulation by the default being the other way around.

Paul Boag:
But the default, it’s manipulation having the default either way.

Marcus Lillington:
Is it?

Paul Boag:
Well, yes, because you are manipulating people not to donate at the moment.

Marcus Lillington:
No, you’re not.

Paul Boag:
Why not?

Marcus Lillington:
Because…

Paul Boag:
Because people have to take a specific action to do it.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, but that’s not manipulation, is it, not doing it is just doing nothing.

Paul Boag:
Well, no, I think it’s either way you are doing something, you are choosing not to donate or choosing to donate, either way…

Marcus Lillington:
That’s the point, you are not choosing not to donate, sorry I am getting very confused here, because and I am a perfect example of this, I have absolutely no problem whatsoever in giving my organs away after I am dead, after you’re dead who cares? But I haven’t volunteered for it.

Paul Boag:
Yes, you see and so…

Marcus Lillington:
I haven’t made a choice is what I am trying to say.

Paul Boag:
But then, but yes, but that’s the kind of premise of the book is the fact you want to do something, right, you’ve just said yourself, you’re quite happy for someone to have your organs but because of the way the system is set up, you are not doing it. So what they’re – the whole premise of the book is encouraging people to do things that they actually want to do, right. So another example they talk about is saving for retirement, right. You want to save for retirement, Marcus, you know that it’s the right thing to do but…

Marcus Lillington:
Nah, I might get run over by a bus tomorrow.

Paul Boag:
Yes, but even so I’ve heard you say before, it’s the kind of thing you should do but you are really crap at doing it and you’ve actually actively encouraged, when we’ve met as a board and we’ve discussed this kind of stuff, you want just the money to be taken out, so you don’t have to make the decision.

Marcus Lillington:
Absolutely, otherwise I’d spend it.

Paul Boag:
Yes, exactly, so they actually, one of the other things they suggest is, well, why doesn’t that happen by default, why doesn’t – isn’t if it’s something people already want to do and say they want to do, why can’t you – why couldn’t it be taken out of your salary by default but you could choose to opt out of it? Another great example which I’ve taken from this because we do a lot of work with charity websites is the idea of give later, alright, because another thing that people say they want to do is give to charity, alright, but whenever they actually come to do it, their lizard brain kicks in, the kind of flight and fight kind of immediate concerns brain and says, well at the moment I haven’t got enough money, when you know I’ve got this big bill to pay or whatever else, so I can’t do it right now but I do want to give to charity, so they talk about tricking your lizard brain and letting somebody say, okay, well, this is – I know I am going to get pay rise in January, so I am going to set up my giving to start in January, so then deferring the decision, so their lizard brain doesn’t kick in to influence that decision, does that make sense?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, same applies to buying sofas I guess.

Paul Boag:
Yes, and that’s why they offer interest free…

Marcus Lillington:
Interest free but start paying in a year.

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
Basically it’s a free sofa, isn’t it?

Paul Boag:
Well know what you’re doing is you’re tricking that short term, I mean if you are sensible about it and not like you, you’re going, well I know I can pay for that but I’d prefer to put it off so that I don’t panic about it and pay for it now, be put off for paying for it now. And so you can take all these principles and start applying them to the web as well where you can set sensible defaults on stuff so that people go in a certain direction, or for example here is a list of different packages that are available, highlight one that is the default package on your web app or whatever, you can do all kinds of things in the user interface to kind of nudge people in the direction you want them to go. So it’s a really interesting topic, I mean the danger of it is you end up with dark patterns link in the show note to more information on dark patterns where essentially you’re kind of tricking people into doing something that they don’t want to do and this book is very much about helping people trick themselves into doing what they really want to do anyway.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
And that’s really interesting, it’s a really interesting subject, definitely worth checking out. Nudge available now from Amazon at only £6.99, so there you go, but obviously all these are available on the Kindle as well.

Tipping Point

The tipping point

Okay, so next up is probably the most famous book out of the list, well, no, maybe not, no because we are going to cover Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think which is probably even more famous but this is a really well known book. It’s an international number one best seller and for good reason, it’s called The Tipping Point, it’s a book by Malcolm Gladwell and probably I would say his best book.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay.

Paul Boag:
Have you read the – no you haven’t read The Tipping Point.

Marcus Lillington:
No, I haven’t.

Paul Boag:
Tipping Point is a really clever book, so again it’s not directly a web design book, I am trying to avoid just normal, straightforward web design books but maybe broaden people’s perspective a little bit further. Yet it has got in it lessons for us as web designers. So The Tipping Point is about how, well their strapline is how little things can make a big difference which kind of sums it up and Malcolm talks about various kind of social phenomena and how those have begun and about how you get these tipping points where things are very, very difficult up to a particular point where something happens and then suddenly it takes off. So from a web perspective it would be things like how Twitter took off, what was their tipping point, now he doesn’t talk about this in the book but I know damn well that the tipping point for them was when they attended South by South-West and that was the point where suddenly everybody was talking about Twitter and it was all those geeks coming together in one place at one time that kind of transformed them and gave them the kick and got that early group of adopters and a lot of the book is about that, it’s about those early adopters and how their behavior can kind of tip things.

So he gives a great example about Hush Puppies, you know the shoes, and they had really fallen, obviously they were huge in the 1950s and the 1960s but then very much fell out of fashion and they were almost at a point of closing the brand down and then a weird thing happened. A small group of friends in a city, I can’t remember, I think it might have been New York, a small group of friends started wearing Hush Puppies ironically, right, as a bit of a joke and they wore them to this nightclub and for some reason it kind of took off in the nightclub and more and more people started to wear Hush Puppies in this one particular nightclub and then what happened is, that there was a fashion clothes maker, nothing to do with shoes but he made men’s clothes and he attended that nightclub and he needed some shoes to put alongside the outfits that he was creating and so he saw all these people wearing Hush Puppies and thought yes they’ll do. I don’t think he overly cared particularly and he then started putting those on his models that were walking along the runways and then suddenly Hush Puppies took off, they started to appear in magazines and stuff like that, so there was this particular tipping point and the book talks about finding those tipping points.

Now obviously from a web point of view this is hugely relevant because a lot of us are looking for ways to promote our websites or to engage with a bigger audience or to get our own message out there, our own – increase our own reputation. So identifying those tipping points and how to influence them is, I think something that’s very relevant to all of us and is something that Malcolm Gladwell talks about in his book. Now I have to say with this one, you don’t come away with a kind of list of, do this, this and this and you can create a tipping point because I think it’s more ephemeral than that, I don’t think it’s as black and white or as easy as that but what the book does do is kind of make you very aware of these tipping points and also aware of the kinds of individuals that can cause tipping points. These kind of mavens, these kinds of people that others go to for their opinion and trend setters if that makes sense. So it’s a really interesting book, but then everything that Malcolm Gladwell writes is really interesting, even you, Marcus, I think would enjoy Malcolm Gladwell’s stuff.

Marcus Lillington:
I think out of the four so far, this would the one that I’d probably enjoy the most.

Paul Boag:
Yes, it’s a really good book, very, very interesting and he writes loads of others as well which I was tempted to include as well, he writes a book called Blink about how we make decisions in kind of blink of the eye which again is very relevant for us as web professionals. He writes one about outliers about the story of success which is all about how outliers in our society, people like Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, what is it that makes them special. What happens that enables them to be successful and then he’s got a couple of other books I haven’t read, David and Goliath is his most recent book which I will get around to reading at some point. So anything about Malcolm Gladwell is really good but The Tipping Point is the one I want to recommend here.

100 things every designer should know about people

100 things every designer should know about people

Paul Boag:
Okay, next one – next one really is a book for web designers, so we’ve got halfway through the list and only now do we really have a book that’s written for web designers and it’s a brilliant book called 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People, which I think is just a great title for a book full stop. It’s one of those books that you can read piecemeal. So it’s not like you have to read from start to finish because it’s essentially a list of a 100 things. It is written by a psychologist and it’s essentially, she’s got like 30 years of applying psychology to the design of technology, so everything in the book is about how people interact with technology and the psychological factors that come involved. So it’s a really interesting read. Now, a lot of the things in this book I’ve kind of picked up over the years if that made sense that it’s kind of things that you learn yourself but it’s really interesting to discover the psychology behind those things as well and to actually understand why we’re wired in that way and why our brains think in that way. She shows lots of websites, screenshots of how you can apply those kinds of things.

So she talks about how to grab and hold people’s attention. She talks about what makes elements on a website stick in the memory and she talks about things like peripheral vision and central vision, how you can predict the kind of errors that people are going to make on your site and design around them. What limits somebody’s social circle and what motivates someone to continue on to the next step in a process. She talks about line length of text, font sizes, all kinds of stuff. So it’s maybe a bit more of a designer book here but the reason that I feel like it applies to any web professional is because even if you are not designing user interfaces the psychology behind it all is fascinating and I actually – I think it’s quite helpful just in day to day life as well in knowing how to interact with people. So a really good book. Definitely check it out. She has written some other good titles as well that I’d recommend but I would say probably start with this one and then kind of go from there. So it’s available for £16.09 on Amazon.

So we’re halfway through, I think we need to pick up the pace, don’t we really?

Marcus Lillington:
I think we do a bit.

Rework

Rework

Paul Boag:
Yes, it’s just I’m so into these – into books, I love my books, and my reading. Alright, the next one, 37signals, you know these guys, don’t you, Marcus?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, yes, yes indeed.

Paul Boag:
So they wrote a book called Rework, come across that one? You read their other one, didn’t you? Remote or didn’t you?

Marcus Lillington:
No.

Paul Boag:
You’re just so uneducated, do you actually do anything?

Marcus Lillington:
No, not at all, I kind of just laze around really.

Paul Boag:
Or perhaps it’s you are doing all the work while I am sitting around reading stuff.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, I think that’s probably closer to the truth, but no, you read these books for me, Paul, and tell me about them.

Paul Boag:
Yes, well, I will tell you now about Rework.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, I don’t think – yes, I remember Remote well I remember you talking about it.

Paul Boag:
So 37signals is a – well they used to originally be a web design agency but then they went on to create a project management tool called Basecamp and now basically create online projects. Now, they are very, very vocal not just about their products but also about how they work and how they operate and that’s what Rework is all about, it’s about changing how businesses are run and looking at the tools that we use and the technology that we use in order to achieve our work and they’re basically arguing that the world of work has changed and now we live in a world where anybody can start a business that you don’t need to buy technology that was worth thousands of pounds. You can now get stuff that’s a few pounds or is free. It talks about how to do away with the miserable 80 hour work week which I don’t think anybody does 80 hours, do they, really?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, maybe one or two but no that’s pretty rare.

Paul Boag:
They’re nutters, and it talks about, very much lifestyle business stuff that we talk about a lot. I don’t agree with everything that’s in the book, they are a little bit draconian in some things like never have a meeting, which meetings are sometimes actually quite useful but what I do like about the book is it challenges your perception about the way that you work and the way that you operate and maybe makes you do things just a little bit differently and be more efficient in the way that you operate and create some boundaries about how much you are willing to work. So if you are somebody that’s a little bit miserable in your job as a web professional, not entirely happy with the ways things are going, then check out Rework, it might give you some ideas of how things can be improved.

Don’t Make Me think

Don’t Make Me think

Okay, finally Marcus, we reach a book you’ve read.

Marcus Lillington:
Which one is this one then?

Paul Boag:
Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
This is just compulsory reading for everyone, isn’t it?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, I mean, it’s kind of Laws of Simplicity as well really, isn’t it?

Paul Boag:
Yes, absolutely, yes, it covers very, very similar kinds of things. What’s particularly good about this book, the one that I am linking to is that it’s the revised version which I haven’t read but it covers mobile as well which is really helpful. So check it out, very, very – I can’t believe it was first published in 2000 and this is kind of the staple book for all web professionals that you must read. It’s a very, very short book, you can read it on a plane flight, been read by hundreds of thousands of web designers and developers and Steve Krug is very witty, he’s got lots of common sense, he’s eminently practical in the book and it’s a pleasure to read really. It is about usability but it’s more than that. I think it’s about becoming user focused and it’s also about even kind of really how you interact as a team. How to resolve those arguments between the client, the project manager, the designer, the developer through the use of usability testing. He is very down to earth about his usability testing, he doesn’t kind of expect the world, he doesn’t require you to have usability labs and professional facilitators or anything like that. He is kind of – I think he actually describes it as bargain basement usability testing. So highly recommend, Don’t Make Me Think.

Rocket Surgery Made Easy

Rocket Surgery Made Easy

Now I am going to bundle that up with our next suggestion because that next suggestion is Rocket Surgery Made Easy which is also by Steve Krug and really is the kind of follow up book. You haven’t read this one, have you Marcus?

Marcus Lillington:
No.

Paul Boag:
Do you – I mean I didn’t really give you a chance to talk about your opinions with Don’t Make Me Think. Is it a good book?

Marcus Lillington:
Don’t Make Me Think, yes, we still follow the ideas set out in it nearly 15 years ago.

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
So that says enough to me about…

Paul Boag:
It really does, isn’t it? 15 years ago, wow.

Marcus Lillington:
The bottom line is, some usability testing, asking your mom is better than nothing at all.

Paul Boag:
Absolutely.

Marcus Lillington:
That’s the bottom line really.

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
And keep doing it I suppose.

Paul Boag:
Yes absolutely and that’s where Rocket Surgery Made Easy comes in because in that – in Don’t Make Me Think he’s much more kind of selling why usability testing is important, right? And about being usercentric and all the rest of it. If you’ve already got that, if you are one of these people that say, we never really have time to do it, or we don’t have the budget to it, or those kinds of statements, then you need to read Rocket Surgery Made Easy, alright. Because in Rocket Surgery Made Easy, he talks about how on the low end websites, he talks about websites between say $5,000 and $10,000 usability testing rarely happens. And so he basically suggests a methodology for how you can test even on those low end projects. So one of the things – and he also provides a lot of advice to people that are in-house about how they can be testing on a regular basis and how you can kind of embed user testing into the very culture of the organization that you work in.

So he talks about having a morning a month, alright, so every month, irrespective of where you are and what you’ve got to show, you do some usability testing every month and you have a morning a month and you do it the same morning every month and you open it up, you only test three people in a morning, you open it up for anybody to come and watch, so you encourage people from around the organization to come and watch the testing and then you bribe them by offering them lunch and after the testing you all sit down for lunch and discuss what was seen and how you can go about fixing it. So very, very good advice. He also talks about remote testing which he doesn’t talk about in his first book which personally I find absolutely invaluable and is really useful if you want to keep the money down, the cost down and the timescales down. So he talks about services like usertesting.com that we talked about in our first show of this season. Really solid book, definitely check it out. I would read, Don’t Make Me Think first, but then read this one straight after, they’re both great books and well worth adding to your list.

Content strategy for the web

Content strategy for the web

Okay, so next up we have a book that Marcus has read and I haven’t. Kristina Halvorson’s book Content Strategy for the Web. Marcus, tell us about this book.

Marcus Lillington:
It’s a very long time ago I rode – I read it, I didn’t ride the book I read it. I wonder when it was first published actually.

Paul Boag:
2009.

Marcus Lillington:
Well, I guess I read it then, then. I saw her speak at South by Southwest obviously I would think in 2009 it might have been 2010 I suppose and she was great. Basically she has been the kind of flag waver, banner waver for content strategy and basically making designers, developers et cetera take heed. Because I mean I’ve been saying for years, everyone you meet has been saying, content, that’s the most important thing, content, content, content, we must design content first, don’t use lorem ipsum a great design is irrelevant with bad content, all these kind of things we’ve all been saying for years and we still say, and we still – we’re not as bad but there is still a certain kind of well content has got nothing to do with us, that’s what the client does.

Paul Boag:
Yes, all talk and no action, we say it’s important but don’t do anything.

Marcus Lillington:
But I think clients are just as bad, I mean, we are bad at this, not just us but the web industry and our clients. I think there’s just a kind of somebody else is going to do the content stuff…

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
Is a bit of an attitude, that is still around but it is getting better, we are certainly designing content first now which is a good thing.

Paul Boag:
Does she talk in the book about making a business case for content strategy?

Marcus Lillington:
Not really, this is what I’m going to say, what this book is about I mean she probably does but I am doing it down but basically it’s about what content strategy is and how to do it.

Paul Boag:
Okay.

Marcus Lillington:
But it’s very, this is going to sound a kind of dumb thing to say, it’s very kind of copy focused again I think she’d probably say no it isn’t if I was having that conversation. But what we’ve found lately or what I’ve found with the people who are talking to us about content strategy is what they mean these people that are coming to us is we want you to help us sort out our team to look after content strategy. I.e. help us with the people that need to do this.

Paul Boag:
Sure, the kind of governance issues.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, much more governance related rather than content audits and writing styles and that kind of thing which is much more what her book is about.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
And actually I think that’s the interesting part of content strategy, the kind of writing and setting styles and all that kind of thing is what I personally see content strategy as but then maybe that’s because I read her book five years ago.

Paul Boag:
Yes, I kind of would agree but of course content strategy these days is becoming a lot more complicated even from 2009 because there is social media in the mix now and even things like video, that is content, so there – it is a more complex issue and there is more and more and more people are actually contributing content especially to larger websites. So it may be a bit more complicated than when she originally wrote the book. But I mean this is considered the Bible of content strategy stuff so it’s definitely worth getting your hands on if in any way you are involved with content or are trying to extract the content from clients et cetera.

Marcus Lillington:
I would say that it’s good for pretty much anyone to read because it makes you realize the importance of getting this stuff right and doing it as part of alongside all of the other design work or development work that you are doing it is not a bolt-on at the end.

Paul Boag:
Yes, which is brilliant. So it’s £16.90 at Amazon at the moment so check that out and get yourself a copy.

Okay, so it’s time for our very last book.

Made to Stick

Made to Stick

Marcus Lillington:
Okay.

Paul Boag:
Which is called Made to Stick.

Marcus Lillington:
Don’t know this one.

Paul Boag:
Why some ideas take hold and others come unstuck by Dan Heath and Chip Heath who are brothers. And it is an excellent book, building on very much some of the stuff that we talked about when we talked about The Tipping Point and Nudge. So their book is very – well exactly as it says in the strapline, why some ideas take hold and others come unstuck, so it’s the idea of why do some things stay with you over a long period of time. How do you encourage some things to stick in people’s minds because obviously the big challenge we face as web designers is that there is so much content online, there is so much stuff out there, how do we get people to remember our stuff over somebody else’s and of course this applies whether you are a designer, whether you are a social media person, whether you are a content creator, whether you are a website owner, in most jobs there is a degree that you want users to remember your stuff, you want to keep it in their minds. So it’s a very kind of easy to read book again, it’s very much in the style of Tipping Point, very easy and accessible, entertaining, I really enjoyed reading it, it’s got some great examples in it. So it’s one worth adding to the list, I wouldn’t say that it’s the best out of the list but it’s definitely a book worth reading once you’ve kind of picked off the real cherries from this list. And I think it has something for everyone again, so a really good one to wrap up the list with.

Okay, I think that’s about it. Wow. These ten things are a lot aren’t they? Especially when each of them are so flipping good. So there you go, that’s what we’ve got for you this week. Marcus, have you got a joke?

Marcus Lillington:
I’ve got a – I’m pretty sure I’ve told this one but it’s so good, I’m going to tell it again.

Paul Boag:
Okay.

Marcus Lillington:
Because this is the problem, I don’t kind of…

Paul Boag:
Is it about cross eyed dogs?

Marcus Lillington:
No, it’s not about cross eyed dogs. It’s – I must keep a kind of list of the jokes that I’ve told and then I won’t repeat them but hey, I won’t, why can’t you hear a pterodactyl going to the toilet.

Paul Boag:
I am sure you haven’t told this joke because that’s the kind of one that would stick in my mind talking about made to stick. Go on.

Marcus Lillington:
Because the P is silent.

Paul Boag:
That is awful.

Marcus Lillington:
That is a really good joke.

Paul Boag:
That is quality, I am very, very impressed. So that about wraps up this week’s show. Thank you for listening. Hopefully you found that list a useful one. I think there are some really good books in there and they will encourage you and excite you and inform you, so get reading guys and we will be back again next week with another list.

  • Okke Tijhuis

    Great list. I also really enjoyed ‘Designing the Obvious’ and especially ‘Predictably Irrational’.

  • Colin James Firth

    Excellent reading list. I’ve read three of those already (Laws of Simplicity, Don’t Make Me Think, Content Strategy for the Web) and they were brilliant. I’ll pick one of these for my next read for sure.

    Another I recommend is: Predicatably Irrational – The Hidden Forces that Shape our Decisions, by Dan Ariely. It’s basically about how humans make decisions. And it turns out we’re not very good at it. Which makes it easy for designers in the know to get a certain amount of control over what people do.

  • Adam Green

    I’d add ‘Seductive Interaction Design’ by Stephen P. Anderson. Short, easy to read and doesn’t overstep it’s remit. And you know it’s good because it has illustrations from Kevin Cornell. :D

  • http://optimwise.com/ Chad Warner

    I’ve read 6 from your list. I also recommend The Principles of Beautiful Web Design by Jason Beaird and Designing with Web Standards by Jeffrey Zeldman.

    On the business side, I recommend The Web Design Business Kit from SitePoint, Design Is a Job by Mike Monteiro, and Starting Your Career as a Freelance Web Designer by Neil Tortorella.

    I have other recommendations for those wanting to learn WordPress or general web design. Here are all my reviews.

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