12 Useful and Free Downloadable Web Design Books

There are a multitude of books (whether in digital format or print) that cover every possible aspect of web design, each one is unique and offers a personalized opportunity for the author to both educate, inspire, and guide the reader through there knowledge.

In this post rather than offer all of my favorite web design books, I have listed 12 books that I have either downloaded and read (or at least scanned through), or I have bookmarked with the whole-hearted intention of eventually reading it (Ruby Best Practices), and the best thing of all? All of these books are completely FREE, in digital format anyway (PDF or HTML).

I have not offered a critique of each book, as I feel that would not be fair on the author. If someone spends so much of their valuable time (in some cases months and months) and writes an entire book on web design, in my eyes they deserve only praise and appreciation.
I hope you find these books useful.

The Elements of Typographic Style Applied to the Web (HTML)

The Elements of Typographic Style Applied to the Web
Author(s): Richard Rutter.
About the Book: For too long typographic style and its accompanying attention to detail have been overlooked by website designers, particularly in body copy. In years gone by this could have been put down to the technology, but now the web has caught up. The advent of much improved browsers, text rendering and high resolution screens, combine to negate technology as an excuse.
In order to allay some of the myths surrounding typography on the web, this website/book has been structured to step through Bringhurst’s working principles, explaining how to accomplish each using techniques available in HTML and CSS. The future is considered with coverage of CSS3, and practicality is ever present with workarounds, alternatives and compromises for less able browsers.
The Elements of Typographic Style: Full HTML version »
The Elements of Typographic Style: Chapters »

Integrating Accessibility Throughout Design (HTML)

Integrating Accessibility Throughout Design
Author(s): Shawn Lawton Henry.
About the Book: The Web is providing unprecedented access to information and interaction for people with disabilities. It provides opportunities to participate in society in ways otherwise not available. With accessible websites, people with disabilities can do ordinary things: children can learn, teenagers can flirt, adults can make a living, seniors can read about their grandchildren, and so on.
With the Web, people with disabilities can do more things themselves, without having to rely on others. People who are blind can read the newspaper (through screen readers that read aloud text from the computer), and so can people with cognitive disabilities who have trouble processing written information. People who are deaf can get up-to-the-minute news that was previously available only to those who could hear radio or TV, and so can people who are blind and deaf (through dynamic Braille displays). Web accessibility is about removing those barriers so that people with disabilities can use and contribute to the Web.
This book helps you improve your products—websites, software, hardware, and consumer products—to remove accessibility barriers and avoid adding new barriers. One guiding principle is: just ask people with disabilities.
Integrating Accessibility Throughout Design: HTML version »
Integrating Accessibility Throughout Design: Table of Contents »

Getting Real: The Book by 37signals (HTML)

Getting Real: The Book by 37signals
Author(s): 37Signals Team.
About the Book: Want to build a successful web app? Then it's time to Get Real. Getting Real is a smaller, faster, better way to build software.
Getting Real delivers better results because it forces you to deal with the actual problems you're trying to solve instead of your ideas about those problems. It forces you to deal with reality.
Getting Real foregoes functional specs and other transitory documentation in favor of building real screens. A functional spec is make-believe, an illusion of agreement, while an actual web page is reality. That's what your customers are going to see and use. That's what matters. Getting Real gets you there faster. And that means you're making software decisions based on the real thing instead of abstract notions.
Finally, Getting Real is an approach ideally suited to web-based software. The old school model of shipping software in a box and then waiting a year or two to deliver an update is fading away. Unlike installed software, web apps can constantly evolve on a day-to-day basis. Getting Real leverages this advantage for all its worth.
Getting Real: HTML Version »
Getting Real: Chapters »

Access by Design Online (HTML)

Access by Design Online
Author(s): Sarah Horton.
About the Book: We design Web sites so people can use them. People doesn’t mean “some people” or “certain people.” With universal usability, our goal is to design Web sites that accommodate the diversity of people and the Web browsing devices that they use. To design Web sites that people can use, we must work within the flexible framework that the Web provides.
To this end, we must begin our process with a solid understanding of how the Web works. When we know its nature, we can make intelligent design decisions that uphold rather than impede its functionality. Whenever we face a decision that may impact function, we must look for other options.
Access by Design Online: HTML Version »
Access by Design Online: Table of Contents »

Research-Based Web Design & Usability Guidelines (PDF)

Research-Based Web Design & Usability Guidelines
About the Book: The Research-Based Web Design & Usability Guidelines (Guidelines) were developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), in partnership with the U.S. General Services Administration.
The Guidelines were developed to assist those involved in the creation of Web sites to base their decisions on the most current and best available evidence. The Guidelines are particularly relevant to the design of information-oriented sites, but can be applied across the wide spectrum of Web sites.
Research-Based Web Design & Usability Guidelines: Download Entire Book (PDF) »
Research-Based Web Design & Usability Guidelines: Chapters »

Search User Interfaces (HTML)

Search User Interfaces
Author(s): Mart A. Hearst.
About the Book: This book outlines the human side of the information seeking process, and focuses on the aspects of this process that can best be supported by the user interface. It describes the methods behind user interface design generally, and search interface design in particular, with an emphasis on how best to evaluate search interfaces. It discusses research results and current practices surrounding user interfaces for query specification, display of retrieval results, grouping retrieval results, navigation of information collections, query reformulation, search personalization, and the broader tasks of sensemaking and text analysis. Much of the discussion pertains to Web search engines, but the book also covers the special considerations surrounding search of other information collections.
Search User Interfaces: HTML Version »
Search User Interfaces: Table of Contents »

Dive Into Accessibility (HTML & PDF)

Dive Into Accessibility
Author(s): Mark Pilgrim.
About the Book: This book is entitled "Dive Into Accessibility: 30 days to a more accessible web site", and it will answer two questions. The first question is "Why should I make my web site more accessible?" If you do not have a web site, this book is not for you. The second question is "How can I make my web site more accessible?" If you are not convinced by the first answer, you will not be interested in the second.
To answer the second question,the book presents 25 tips that you can immediately apply to your own web site to make it more accessible. Although these concepts apply to all web sites, the focus is on implementation using popular weblogging tools. If you use some other publishing tool or template system, you will need to determine how to implement the tips in your tool of choice.
Dive Into Accessibility: HTML Version »
Dive Into Accessibility: PDF Version »
Dive Into Accessibility: Chapters »

Web Style Guide: Basic Design Principles for Creating Web Sites – 3rd Edition (HTML)

Web Style Guide: Basic Design Principles for Creating Web Sites - 3rd Edition
Author(s): Patrick J. Lynch and Sarah Horton.
About the Book: Written by Patrick J. Lynch and Sarah Horton for web site designers in corporations, government, nonprofit organizations, and academic institutions, the book explains established design principles and covers all aspects of web design—from planning to production to maintenance. The guide also shows how these principles apply in web design projects whose primary concerns are information design, interface design, and efficient search and navigation.
Web Style Guide 3rd Edition: HTML Version »
Web Style Guide 3rd Edition: Chapters »

The Woork Handbook (PDF)

The Woork Handbook
Author(s): Antonio Lupetti.
About the Book: The Woork Handbook is a free eBook about CSS, HTML, Ajax, web programming, Mootools, Scriptaculous and other topics about web design.
This book is a miscellanea of articles written by Antonio Lupetti on his web design blogr. During the period form January to December 2008 “Woork” has been visited from over 4 millions visitors and has received a lot of requests to distribute a printable version of its contents.
The Woork Handbook: PDF Version »

Web Designers Success Guide (PDF)

Web Designers Success Guide
Author(s):
About the Book: Web Designer's Success Guide is the definitive guide to starting your own freelance Web design business. In this book, Kevin Airgid gives designers a step-by-step instructions on how to achieve the following: Transition from full-time to self-employment, Freelance on the side to make additional income, Find new clients and keep them coming back for more, Market your freelance business, Manage your projects professionally and how to Price your services appropriately.
Web Designers Success Guide: PDF Version »

Eloquent JavaScript (HTML)

Eloquent JavaScript
Author(s): Marijn Haverbeke.
About the Book: Eloquent JavaScript is a digital book providing a comprehensive introduction (tutorial) to the JavaScript programming language. Apart from a bookful of text, it contains plenty of example programs, and an environment to try them out and play with them.
The book is aimed at the beginning programmer ― people with prior programming experience might also get something out of it, but they should not read chapters 2 to 5 too closely, because most of the concepts discussed there will probably be nothing new to them. Do make sure you read the end of the first chapter, which has some essential information about the book itself.
Eloquent JavaScript: HTML Version »
Eloquent JavaScript: Chapters »

Ruby Best Practices (PDF)

Ruby Best Practices
Author(s): Gregory Brown.
About the Book: In 1993, when Ruby was born, Ruby had nothing. No user base except for Gregory and a few close friends. No tradition. No idioms except for a few inherited from Perl.
But the language forms the community. The community nourishes the culture. In the last decade, users increased—hundreds of thousands of programmers fell in love with Ruby. They put great effort into the language and its community. Projects were born. Idioms tailored for Ruby were invented and introduced. Ruby was influenced by Lisp and other functional programming languages. Ruby formed relationships between technologies and methodologies such as test-driven development and duck typing.
This book introduces a map of best practices of the language as of 2009.
Ruby Best Practices: PDF Version »

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Paul Andrew is the editor and founder of Speckyboy Design Magazine.

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