Designing for Emotion by Aaron Walter

Designing for Emotion by Aaron Walter is definitely less expensive if you buy it from the publisher, A Book Apart. As of this writing it’s $41 on Amazon and you can get two of them from ABA for that price. Support small press publishers!

I put off reading this book for a long time because I thought it was about designing for emotional situations. Shows what kind of reading comprehension I’ve got! It’s actually about designing a product or interface to resonate with its own emotion – giving your product a personality and voice and tone.

As a UX Designer, it invites me to think of different interactions that my designs can have with our users – from silly and playful to sincere and human. It talks about techniques for researching both the design persona one starts with and the usability tests one uses when the design persona has been drafted.

Like most of the A Book Apart books, this book isn’t designed to be the be-all-end-all on the topic, but rather an introduction to it, which will give you enough information to move more deeply into designing for emotion either by experimenting or by using the resources listed at the end of the book.

I would’ve liked a few more examples of what can go wrong, but otherwise, it was a well put-together book and one that I thoroughly enjoyed reading.

HTML5 for Web Designers by Jeremy Keith and Rachel Andrew

HTML5 for Web Designers by Jeremy Keith and Rachel Andrew (also available from the publisher, A Book Apart, possibly cheaper)

This book breaks downs a few very important points about HTML5 that other books I’ve read on the topic do not, and they all involve history. Jeremy Keith explains how we got here, from the beginning with HTML 2.0 through the WHATWG and WC3 kerfuffles to the present (2010) day.

Knowing the history of HTML helps considerably in understanding what decisions were made and why. Understanding the design principles — especially in the light of graceful degradation — is also quite helpful.

I read both the first edition and the second edition. The bulk of the second edition changes are dedicated to updating the features and options that have become browser-supported since the first edition came out in 2010. Because of the solid principles Jeremy Keith describes the web standards groups are using, the first edition isn’t inaccurate so much as missing all the cool stuff that’s developed since so if this is the only edition you have access to, it’s still worth the read.

CSS 3 For Web Designers by Dan Cederholm

CSS 3 For Web Designers by Dan Cederholm (also available from the publisher, A Book Apart, possibly cheaper. Support your small press publishers!)

This book actually spurred me to update my entire A Book Apart library this year. I’d read it when the original edition came out in… 2011? Something like that. And at the time it was a cutting-edge book covering all the things we hoped would be in supported in browsers sometime this decade.

So when I did a reread earlier this year, I discovered that not only were most-to-all of those things implemented, but a whole bunch of new things that Dan could only dream of in 2011 had also crossed the finish line. So, upgrade central.

The new edition covers everything through about 2016 I believe, which considering how quickly CSS is moving, means it doesn’t quite get to CSS Grid… on the other hand, A Book Apart has a book for CSS Grid now too.

Meanwhile, if you want to learn or refresh on all the goodies in CSS 3 this is an excellent place to get the not-flashy basics down, and understand what may yet be to come.

The Elements of Content Strategy by Erin Kissane

The Elements of Content Strategy by Erin Kissane (also available from the publisher, A Book Apart, possibly cheaper. Support your small press publishers!)

Note: at the time of this writing, the paperback has been out of print for quite a while. I’m hoping that’s because they’re doing a second edition because this is a fantastic book. Meanwhile the e-book version is still available through A Book Apart through the links above.

As an Information Architect, I’ve dabbled in the more IA-like parts of Content Strategy for a number of years… but without necessarily knowing that’s what I was doing. CS has been a thing that the Documentation/Writing/Marketing teams did, not something that directly affected me. On the other hand, when I’ve worked with Content Strategists, we’ve produced better projects than I could dream of doing on my own.

Erin Kissane’s book, as a primer on content strategy, will provide you with a short history of the field, the kinds of skillsets that are adjacent to Content Strategy, the kinds of work that Content Strategists do, and the kinds of pitfalls to look out for as a Content Strategist.

If you know nothing about Content Strategy, pay close attention to the Design Principles provided at the beginning of the book. Strategists I’ve worked with who align to those principles have been highly successful; strategists who work off of “please the client” principles instead have caused nothing but disruption for otherwise on-track work.

For me, one of the biggest takeaways is that I need to learn more about editorial work if I want to pitch in as a content strategist as needed. Your takeaways will likely be different, because you likely don’t have my work history ;)

How to Make Sense of Any Mess by Abby Covert

How to Make Sense of Any Mess by Abby Covert will help you do two things:

  1. Understand how to break a big hairy problem into smaller steps so that you can approach solving it.
  2. Understand some approaches to solving it.

It will give you examples of various activities, tools (i.e. worksheets) and things to understand about problems. It’ll do this one page at a time, which is to say each of the 150ish pages covers exactly one topic, and covers it well enough that you’ll know how to move forward to the next topic. It also gives references and resources to places that you can learn more, because let’s face it, 150 topics is a few too many for anyone to cover in depth in one book.

Many of the topics in this book are topics of their own.

But that’s really the point of this book beyond all the others: it’s the book to help you find the path through the mess you’re dealing with, and help you identify what you need to know more about. It’s the solution to the “I don’t know what I don’t know” problem, at the highest level.

It’s immediately on my recommendation list for all new Information Architects, User Experience Designers, and a good number of others that are both inside the Information Technology field and outside of it. This book is well-written enough that I feel like I could hand it to someone in a totally different industry and say “Hey, here’s where to start” or “Hey, if you’ve ever wondered what I do for a living…”

I’m glad it’s a tool I can now use to make my own work better.