The first edition of The Principles of Beautiful Web Design hit the shelves in late February of 2007. Considering that I started writing the first chapter in May of 2006, much of the content is now over 4 years old. That’s a long time, and when we’re talking about web design, that’s a *really* long time. In fact, there’s not a single screenshot example in the book that hasn’t changed significantly since it was first published.
In defiance of its age though, the book has continued to be one of Sitepoint’s bestselling titles and sold over 10,000 copies during the second half of 2009 alone. How could a tech book, nearly 3 years past its prime continue to sell? Well, it’s not really a tech book. Looking back through some of my first emails with Sitepoint about the project, I found two critical sentences from Simon Mackie, the book’s managing editor, about my proposed table of contents. “The only thing in the TOC that I’m not completely happy with is the use of CSS – I really would like this to be kept to a minimum. The book is, after all, about design, not implementation thereof.” Those words changed the course of the book for the better.
As a front-end developer, I was eager back then to include some of the latest and greatest CSS tricks. Instead of rambling on about now-obsolete code (for the most part) I focused my efforts on explaining fundamental design principles as they apply to the web and finding examples to illustrate my points. In reading through the book now, it still seems bizarrely relevant. They only time I start to feel like it’s 2006 again is when, of course, I start talking about implementation. One of my favorite examples of this comes from chapter three, “The idea of rounded corners is so popular that it’s even been included in the proposed specification of the next version of CSS. Unfortunately we can’t expect this standard to be supported any time soon.” My, how times have changed.
With quotes like this, it was obvious that the book needed an overhaul. So, when Sitepoint’s program director asked if I was interested in a new edition, I jumped. They proposed a timeline though that gave me just two months to make my changes. As I was considering the project my friend and coworker, Aarron Walter, reminded me of some advice I game him a few years ago, “No matter how much time the publisher gives you, ask for more!”. I could have easily used double or triple that amount of time for what I wanted to accomplish. So why would I agree to a 2 month timeline for the revision? It’s simple. I wanted the book to be as fresh and current as possible. If I let it drag out over 4-6 months, some of the examples would be obsolete by the time it hit the shelves.
I was able take on the project during nights and weekend while still working a normal full-time schedule. What that really means is that for the past two months I’ve essentially been a hermit. While my wife and I normally tag-team meals and chores around the house, I’ve been totally reliant on her (Thanks, Ames!) while living on 5-6 hours of sleep per night. It’s really been a whirlwind, but I’m happy to report that my part of this project is mostly complete. I just turned in my final revisions to the last chapter. I’ll talk more about the second edition over the next few weeks, for now though, I’m just excited to announce that it’s coming soon!