"Above the Fold" Book Review


One of the great things about books on design is that they themselves are often well designed. Above the Fold is no exception; boasting over 250 glossy, luxurious pages, filled with great imagery, quality typography, and considered, controlled layout. Read on for my thoughts on the book.

Winners Announced!

Brian Miller, the man behind the book, has generously handed over two copies for Webdesigntuts+ readers!

I’m afraid the draw has already taken place… Congratulations to our winners! Never mind if you weren’t one of the lucky two, keep checking back and you’ll hear of plenty more giveaways soon ;)

My Thoughts on the Book

Author Brian Miller readily admits that when first embarking upon Above the Fold he had no clear objective in mind. A chat with friend Jeff Kroll forced him back to the drawing board, to consider the audience and the essential purpose of the book.

Amusingly, this book performs that very role for us as designers. It lays out perimeter fences, fundamental guides within which we can practice our creativity.

If you're just starting out in the industry, reading Above the Fold will give you a solid foundation in all aspects of the web design process. If you're more experienced, keep this book close at hand, dip in occasionally to refresh your knowledge, and lavish in the production quality.

Using This Book

It's easy to use this as a reference guide, each section is digestible in its own right, but the overal structure is deceptively cunning. The whole book is split into three distinct areas, each one confronting a particular stage in a web design project: Design & Typography, Planning & Usability, and Business value. In itself nothing ground-breaking, but Brian synchronises each stage with a player in the process: Designer, User, and Client.

Differing motives and priorities often cause differing (sometimes conflicting) perspectives on a web project, and catering for everyone's interests can be very challenging. Above the Fold helps you, as a designer, step back and view web design objectively.

What's Under the Hood?

I'm not really sure where to take this review now. Typically I might list the key subjects covered, or noteworthy chapters, but there's just too much to discuss in this case! There genuinely is something for everyone here. Design theory, practice, wireframing, typographical concepts, imagery, working with grids, conversion, online marketing, SEO - I'll stop there.

It's an all-encompassing view of the web design process, and all topics are covered from the ground up. Not neccessarily to advanced levels, but the fundamentals are discussed thoroughly. Even if you think you know it all, you need the basics in order to avoid those nasty bad habits forming.

The key to this book is the content. It's no coffee table idle flick-through, it has a truly valuable message. But Brian has recognized the appeal of good design (his market is, after all, designers) and the finished product is irresistable.

Informative literature (especially when printed) often crams its pages with details - Above the Fold however, practices what it preaches. The typography, the grid-based layout, the white space, the intermittent colored pages, the headings, the screenshots - they all make for an aesthetically satisfying read.

To Sum Up

There are more crucial parts of the Above the Fold branding, including the promotional site, the blog, and the accompanying iPad app.

Check them out, they each add further to the rich experience this book offers. It's quite simply a great design publication, and it should be on your shelf.

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