You Don’t Need to Go to Art School to Design Great Looking Websites

I’m a fan of rules. It makes me feel warm and fuzzy to know that a green light means I can safely proceed through an intersection or that sliding into home before I get tagged with the ball means I’ve scored a run. Rules are what prevent contractors from cutting corners and car manufacturers from making unsafe vehicles.

While there’s a lot of great experience to be gained from a formal design curriculum, I stand behind the claim that, “You don’t need to go to art school to design great looking websites!”

Learning to design websites is about understanding the fundamental rules (or principles) of design and seeing how they apply to real-world examples. Once you’re able to see design as a set of rules, it makes that blank page far less intimidating and takes the mysterious black magic out of choosing colors. In short, design rules should make you feel warm and fuzzy.


As I was writing the first edition of The Principles of Beautiful Web Design, I tried my best to summarize these rules as they apply to the web. I broke the subject down into five chapters: layout, color, texture, type and imagery.

For the most part, the basic principles of design haven’t changed a bit. After nearly four years, though, the technical aspects of website design covered in the book were a bit dusty, and most of the example sites I included screenshots of have changed many times over.

For these reasons, I’ve worked with SitePoint to update The Principles of Beautiful Web Design for 2011, and the new edition will be released next week!

Did you see that exclamation mark? Yes, I’m excited!

Writing the second edition of the book was quite a project, but the result is an up-to-date resource that is even more beneficial than the first.

I got to talk about information architecture and grid systems. I was able to cover some new and exciting topics like CSS3, @font-face, and responsive web design. It was also refreshing to share some new design trends, tools and resources. My favorite part about the new edition, though, is the case study.

If you’ve read the first edition of The Principles of Beautiful Web Design, you probably remember my fictitious Country Tile project. This time around, I had the opportunity to write about a real project for a real client that was designed recently by a team you’ve probably heard of. I won’t spill the beans, but it made for an excellent case study to show how applying basic design principles really RULES!