Birth of a Book: Part 3

Read parts 1 and 2.

The book proposal was comprised of 24 questions categorized into six sections:

  1. Author and Title Information
  2. Subject Matter
  3. Manuscript Information
  4. The Market
  5. Competition
  6. Reviews

The very first question asked for several tentative titles and subtitles. This ended up being the most difficult decision about the book. My criteria for a good title was completely different from the publisher’s. I wanted a title that was interesting and fun—something that would intrigue a potential reader. Some of my favorite design book titles are Stop Stealing Sheep, See What I Mean, Make It So, and Form Design: Filling in the Blanks. I was proposing titles such as Sitting in the Driver’s Seat and Working with Developers for Fun and Profit with subtitles like Production Ready Web Design and Better Results Through Tight Integration with Your Development Team.

The publisher, on the other hand, was concerned with SEO and wanted to have UX in the title, along with either Design or Development. I was being given suggestions like UX Professional’s Guide to Web Design and Integrating UX and Web Design. They were mostly generic, and I didn’t feel that they gave a very good description of the book’s content. Besides that, they were boring. However, there were two suggestions that I thought had some potential.

Bridging UX and Web Design wasn’t quite right. Web design is part of UX, or UX is part of web design, depending on your perspective. They don’t need to be bridged. But, the book is, in large part, about bridging design and development. The second title suggestion with merit was UX and Web Development: Better Results through Integration with Your Development Team. It’s not worded particularly well, but it’s getting to the meat of the matter.

We bounced a number of thoughts back and forth. Mostly joking, I threw out The Unicorn Book, imagining an O’Reilly styled cover. Eventually, I had the idea of morphing the two suggestions the publisher had made, and we word-smithed the subtitle into Bridging UX & Web Development: Better results through team integration. The bridging metaphor was enough to satisfy my criteria, and the publisher got the words UX and Development in there. The subtitle speaks to the key goal of the book.

To be continued…

The Birth of a Book: Part 2

Read Part 1

So, several days after Interaction 13, I received a “short book” proposal form. The Acquisitions Editor was on the fence as to what format the book should be. I was given the options of a “short, concise book” to be marketed as a hands-on, practical guide, or a “short format project”. They sounded like the same thing to me, but it turned out that the former would be around 200 pages, while the latter would be 120-140. That’s the difference between a typical book from Rosenfeld Media and one from A Book Apart.

Having never written a book before, I really didn’t have any idea how to estimate the number of pages it would be. We decided to shoot for 200. At the same time, I suggested including information from my talk, Working with Developers for Fun and Profit, making the book a blend of practical, professional insight and tangible, technical instruction. So, I started putting together my proposal, which was quite a bit of work in and of itself. It took me just under four months to complete, though I admit I wasn’t dedicating much time to it.

To be continued…

The Birth of a Book: Part 1

On January 7th, 2013, I received an email message from an Acquisitions Editor at Morgan Kaufmann. She had come across my name in the program for the then upcoming Interaction 13 conference. I was leading a half-day workshop on production-ready CSS. She was interested in speaking with me at the conference about a possible writing project, explaining that conference sessions are often good frameworks for books.

I was intrigued, but I didn’t put a lot of stock in it. I assumed that they probably contacted a lot of speakers at the conference and that very few would actually pan out. Besides, she couldn’t have thought too much about it, because she told me that she was looking forward to my session, but then said she would be arriving Sunday evening. The workshop was Sunday afternoon.

We scheduled to meet during the Tuesday afternoon break. She asked me if I had ever thought about writing a book, and I replied quite honestly that I hadn’t, not seriously anyway. I had read Dan Saffer’s Designing for Interaction and thought that I might like to write a book like that some day, but there’s a big difference between that kind of thought and the drive to do it. That said, ever since I had received the email, I had been rolling the possibility around in my head.

Our discussion wasn’t very long. She was familiar with my writing here on DesignAday, so I guess my blogging has finally resulted in something more than an academic exercise. We parted with an agreement to pursue the idea. She would send me a proposal form, and we would go from there.

To be continued…

Book Progress

Well, you all are in luck. When the copyeditor reported the estimated page count for Bridging UX & Web Development, it was about 25 pages short of the 200 page goal we had set at the beginning. With all of the figures and code snippets, I really had no idea how long it was going to end up as I was writing it. As a result, I spent the past few weekends going back through the book, finding subjects to flesh out with more detail, adding figures, and even writing an additional chapter. The new last chapter is titled Looking Towards the Horizon and provides directions for further exploration. You’ll be getting information about CSS preprocessors, JavaScript libraries, and even an additional exercise demonstrating how to create a test harness.

The last chapter is currently being reviewed. I’ll be editing it this weekend and delivering it to the publisher. We’re still on target for our July publication date.

Book Cover

Here’s the front cover of Bridging UX & Web Development. Using a photo of a bridge may be a bit obvious, but it was an opportunity for a personal tie-in. One might expect, given the topic, to see the Golden Gate or some other noteworthy bridge from the west coast. But, I’m on the east coast. I’m not a big-city person. So, I used my own photo of the New River Gorge Bridge in West Virginia, the state of my childhood. For many years, it was the longest steel single-span arch bridge in the world. It is now the fourth longest. I like the contrast between the structural steel and the heavily wooded hillsides. The photo wraps around to the back.

image

Review: Sass for Web Designers

I’ve been reluctant to dip my toes into the waters of CSS preprocessors. I don’t like the idea of having to compile my CSS for it to render, of having non-standard compliant code in my files, of introducing a new standard that none of the developers will know anything about. Of come up with all kinds of reasons not to even try Less or Sass. Dan Cederholm felt much the same way. Then he dove in head first and ended up writing a book about it.

Sass for Web Designers is another great, little book from A Book Apart. I’m a big fan of Dan’s previous book, CSS for Web Designers, so when I saw his name on this one, I figure I ought to give it a shot. At just under 100 pages, I figured that even if I decided it wasn’t for me, I wouldn’t have to sink much time into it. I wasn’t disappointed, and I’m now itching to put it to use.

There is a lot to love about Sass, but the two main advantages to my mind are variables and mixins. Variables allow you to, for example, define a color once, give it a name (the variable), and then use it in multiple rulesets by name, rather than having to repeat the hex value. If you need to change it, change the variable’s value, and all references to it will be updated. Mixins basically do the same, except with chunks of CSS, rather than a single value. Define your drop shadow with all the various vendor prefixes and give it a name. Then you can use that name in any ruleset.

That’s just scratching the surface. If you are Sass-curious, I recommend Sass for Web Designers.

Back Cover

This is the draft text from the back cover of my upcoming book, Bridging UX & Web Development. It’s the only part of the book I didn’t write myself.

The first and only book to help UX professionals bridge the gap between designer and developer, enabling you to create a more productive and healthy work environment.

The divide between UX and Web development can be stifling. Bridging UX and Web Development prepares you to break down those walls by teaching you how to integrate with your team’s developers. You examine the process from their perspective, discovering tools and coding principles that will help you bridge the gap between design and implementation. With these tried and true approaches, you’ll be able to capitalize on a more productive work environment. Whether you’re a novice UX professional finding your place in the software industry and looking to nail down your technical skills, or a seasoned UI designer looking for practical information on how to integrate your team with development, this is the must-have resource for your UX library.

Key Features

  • Establish a collaboration lifecycle, mapping design activities to counterparts in the software development process.
  • Learn about software tools that will improve productivity and collaboration.
  • Work through step-by-step exercises that teach font-end coding principles to improve your prototyping and implementation activities.
  • Discover practical, usable HTML and CSS examples.
  • Uncover tips for working with various developer personas.

Author
Jack Moffett is Senior Interaction Designer at Inmedius, a Boeing Company, adjunct faculty at WVU, and writes about design at designaday.tumblr.com.

Review: Responsive Web Design

I was on a business trip last week (training the crew of the USS Carl Vinson) and made good use of my travel time. During take-offs and landings, when I couldn’t have my laptop out, I read Ethan Marcotte’s Responsive Web Design, published by A Book Apart. It’s one I’ve had sitting on my desk for months now. The book itself is well designed with full color screenshots. The code is nicely formatted with just enough syntax coloring to improve readability without painting every page a rainbow. Ethan did a fantastic job explaining and demonstrating fluid and responsive layouts. He walks the reader through the design of a webpage, starting with a Photoshop mockup from “a designer” on their team. His writing style is easy on the brain with a good dose of humor.

I highly recommend the book, not just for front-end developers, but for designers that contribute production code. I’m looking forward to putting media queries to use in my own work.

Microinteractions

Dan Saffer’s new book, Microinteractions, is now available. I received mine from Amazon on Friday. This is not a book review, though I’ll likely write one later. Between Mother’s Day activities and getting my grades submitted, I haven’t had time to read the book. I just wanted to take the opportunity to give the book what little publicity DesignAday can offer. If you enjoy my In the Details posts, you should like Dan’s book as well. This is taken from the acknowledgements:

Jack Moffett, writer of the “Design A Day” blog, should also get a nod of appreciation. Not only did I draw many examples from his “In the Details” section, but how he dissected those details has long been inspirational to me and led indirectly to this book.

I want to thank Dan for that. I get a great sense of satisfaction knowing that my writing here is respected by, and occasionally inspirational to, the very designers that have inspired me.

One recommendation: get an electronic version of the book, if you can. The pictures, of which there are many, are printed in a rather poor quality grayscale in the paperback.

In the Details: Microinteractions

The hardest choice I had to make at Interaction 13 was the first multi-track session on the first day of the conference. Pittsburgh’s own Matthew Powers was presenting Smart and Beautiful: Designing Robots and Intelligent Machines. He actually had presented it a week before for our local group as a practice run for the conference, including a tour of the robotics lab at CMU. I really wanted to attend that, but had an obligation to be somewhere else. In the other corner was Dan Saffer with Microinteractions: Designing with Details, a preview of sorts for his soon-to-be-released book by the same title.

Of all the 45-minute talks to be presented during the week, these were the two I most wanted to see. It figures they would be scheduled for the same block. The deciding factor I typically fall back on in such situations is which one I could more easily make a case for directly applying to my daily work. Microinteractions won out. Actually, it’s a topic that I’m particularly interested in. If you have been reading DesignAday for any length of time, you’ll know that I regularly make posts in my In the Details series. These are exactly the types of interactions Dan is talking about.

It’s the little things that make the difference between a good digital product and a great one. In this insightful book, author Dan Saffer shows you how to design microinteractions: the small details that exist inside and around features. How do you turn on mute? How do you know you have a new email message? How can you change a setting? These moments can change a product from one that’s tolerated into one that’s treasured.

I couldn’t agree more. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised to see one of the examples I wrote about fairly recently on screen towards the end of his presentation. In fact, when I spoke with Dan afterwards, he mentioned that he had mined my posts during his research. It’s good to know they’ve been of use, and I’m looking forward to reading about all of the examples he has included when the book releases this May from O’Reilly Media.