Review of “Sexy Web Design”

Title: Sexy Web Design: Creating Interfaces That Work
Author: Elliot Jay Stocks
ISBN: 0980455235

Note: This is an edited version of a review I previously posted on Amazon.

I rarely buy technical books these days since so much knowledge is available for free on the web, but I was excited to get hold of this tome by Elliot Jay Stocks since he’s an excellent designer and I hoped to tap into what it is that sets him apart from the rest of us.

I think the title “Sexy Web Design” implies a “how to” of designing visually stunning websites but unfortunately, it doesn’t quite do that. You’ll have to look elsewhere for inspiration on current trends, beautiful design examples and stunning site designs. For that reason I think the title of the book is slightly misleading and is much better qualified by the tagline “Creating Interfaces That Work.”

“Sexy Web Design” is much more valuable as a book that teaches you two main things:

  • A sound web design process
  • Designing websites that are successful

Elliot takes us through a typical web design process up to the point of delivery of design comps. There’s virtually no content that concerns the learning of HTML, CSS and the fine art of cutting up designs into working web pages. It’s about the design process only, so if you want to learn other aspects of web design or development, look elsewhere.

The book covers many topics such as wire-framing, site structure, layout, colour theory, typography, style, visual flair, grid systems for layout, web safe fonts and many other technical issues. As a book outlining a sound web design process and a checklist of all the compromises and considerations that go into that process, it delivers very well.

If you’ve been in the industry for a few years and already work to an established design process, then this book probably won’t teach you much. But it will be worthwhile for beginner web designers and will also be very insightful for the more experienced designer who never plans their work and simply jumps straight into PhotoShop without thinking about what their website needs to achieve.

I do have a few reservations though. The main issue is a lack of detail. The book skips through at a brisk pace and I would have liked to see a more detailed break down of some stages, for example: How to work with clients, how to brain storm and come up with concepts, how to refine concepts through collaboration and iteration. Kudos for linking out to useful websites where appropriate, but more detail would have been welcome.

“Sexy Web Design” also seems overpriced. Other technical books coming in at 300-400 pages are in a similar price range yet here we only have about 140 pages of actual content for around £30. To be fair the price is because the printing is in full colour with plenty of full page screen-shots, but for this price I’d expect something more detailed and definitive. As it stands it’s a little lightweight and I don’t think you get enough for your money.

I think it’s wonderful that Elliot has written this book, as it covers an area of web design that’s often not discussed. It’s also great to read about how a respected industry veteran (if you don’t mind me using that word Elliot!) goes about his work. However, I think it does miss the mark a little. In the introduction of the book, Eliot states:

Whether you’re completely new to web design, a seasoned pro looking for inspiration, or a developer wanting to improve your sites aesthetics, there’s something for everyone here.

As an overview of good web design practices, ‘Sexy Web Design’ offers lots of useful advice for inexperienced web designers, or developers with no design skills, but I think “seasoned pros” are likely to be disappointed.

I would have given a rating of 4 out of 5 if this was specifically geared to beginners and was a bit cheaper, but I felt that the price was a significant problem and so had to drop a point.

Final Rating: 3 out of 5

3 thoughts on “Review of “Sexy Web Design”

  1. Hi LWD, thanks for your comment. I’m not entirely sure what you mean.

    Good SEO isn’t a way of measuring a website’s success: once a visitor lands on your site and starts using it, good SEO is irrelevant.

    Poor design choices can break the usability of a site and poor usability will affect the success of a website. Good SEO might get people to your site in the first place, but it’s the design, content and usability that determine its overall success.

    Is this what you mean? Are we agreeing? :-)