This page contains a selected, annotated view of P.J. Gardner's favorite books for developing accessible and usable web sites. P.J. Gardner, Founder of Boston-IA, says, "If I could afford it, I would have an Amazon.com sized library. But then, I'd never have time to read them all, or develop anything, or make any money."
Note: Some of the books listed here may not be the currently available editions. These are the ones P.J. owned at the time this list was compiled.
The books here are organized within the following categories:
Note: All links on this page to publisher web sites open new windows.
Christina Wodtke, "Information Architecture: Blueprints for the Web", New Riders Publishing, Indianapolis, IN, October 2002, First Edition. www.peachpit.com, ISBN 0-7357-1250-6
I always thought Christina's comments on the SIGIA-L mailing list (an on-line discussion group for Information Architects hosted by ASIS&T) made a lot of sense. When her book came out, it was definitely on my list of books to buy (thanks to Michael J. Salvo, Assistant Professor of English at Northeastern University, for lending it to me before I bought my own copy). The book is very chatty, and the material perhaps best for newcomers to the field, but it contains the same sort of direct commentary that I enjoyed on the web. I like the heavy use of samples.
Eric L. Reiss, "Practical Information Architecture: A Hands-On Approach to Structuring Successful Websites", Addison-Wesley (Pearson Education Limited), Harlow, England, 2000. www.informit.com, ISBN 0-201-72590-8
I was originally attracted to this book by the word "practical". What I like about this book is the low-tech approach of using Post-IT notes and moving bits of paper around. Sometimes low-tech is good. The walls of my condo are always filled with Post-IT notes so I can rearrange my notes to myself at will. Many of the web site examples in this book are dated, but there are some useful thoughts here.
Louis Rosenfeld & Peter Morville, "Information Architecture for the World Wide Web", O'Reilly & Associates, Inc., Sebastopol, CA, February 1998, Second Edition. oreilly.com, ISBN 1-56592-282-4
This book is almost twice the size of the first edition. It certainly includes more modern screen shots than the first one did. I find it hard to plow through, because I think Information Architecture is actually fun. These guys make it sound dry. Is that because of their library science backgrounds?
In 2008, I had the honor of participating in Lou Rosenfeld's day-long workshop, "Site Search Analytics for a Better User Experience", and I had the pleasure of meeting Peter Morville at one of Boston's Information Architecture networking get-togethers. I take back everything I said about their book!
Louis Rosenfeld & Peter Morville, "Information Architecture for the World Wide Web", O'Reilly & Associates, Inc., Sebastopol, CA, February 1998, First Edition. oreilly.com, ISBN 1-56592-282-4
I list the first edition, too, because there are things in it that I can't find in the new edition. I was disturbed when I read the first edition that Lou and Peter did not include technical writers among the disciplinary backgrounds that would make good Information Architects. As a former technical writer myself, I think we meet every objection they mentioned about the other job descriptions. I define Information Architecture a bit differently than they do (don't we all?). I hope Information Architecture is more than creating taxonomies and thesauri. For me, it is creating structure that supports usable designs, no matter how information is delivered, including both printed and electronic formats.
JoAnn T. Hackos, "Content Management for Dynamic Web Delivery", John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York, NY, 1998. www.wiley.com, ISBN 0-471-17831-4
Content Management is not unrelated to Information Architecture. In fact, I subscribe to an on-line discussion group started by David Heller of Documentum to discuss the intersection of Information Architecture and Content Management. The discussions prove very interesting. I wish there were not such a Catch-22 in the field of Content Management. In order to break into the field, you need to have already worked with one of the major content management systems. These systems cost companies a fortune, so it is hard to gain the experience unless you have worked somewhere that has one. Actually, I have a background similar to JoAnn's, and I have built a source management system by hand, so I enjoyed reading about her approach.
Michael G. Paciello, "Web Accessibility for People with Disabilities", CMP Books, Lawrence, KS, 2002. www.elsevierdirect.com, ISBN 1-929629-08-7
This book was one of the textbooks for Neil Duane's "Accessibility and Interactive Technologies" course at Northeastern University. In fact, when Neil passed away, he left me a copy of this book along with the rest of his accessibility library. Mike's book was one of the first about this growing field and provides an encyclopedia of information on the subject. We are now honored to have Mike Paciello as one of the board members for Boston-IA. Mike is the creator of the World Wide Web Consortium's Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) and an internationally recognized accessibility expert. His consulting company, The Paciello Group (TPG), has collected a host of adaptive devices for testing web designs and consults with governmental agencies, advocacy groups, organizations, and businesses about accessibility topics.
John M. Slatin, Ph.D., and Sharron Rush, "Maximum Accessibility: Making Your Web Site More Usable for Everyone", Addison-Wesley, Boston, MA, September 2002. www.informit.com, ISBN 0-201-77422-4
If you are interested in accessibility at all, this book is a requirement for your library. Written by two people from the dynamic Austin, Texas, community that produces the Accessibility Internet Rallies (AIR), the book is a compendium of useful information. The book is divided into two sections: the first on why accessibility is important, and the second on how to achieve maximum accessibility, with practical examples and details. Interspersed throughout the book are case studies showing you exactly how accessibility barriers prevent people with disabilities, particularly blind users, from accessing information. I particularly liked the fact that the entire book, almost 600 pages, is printed in large print with extra-wide spacing, something that made it very pleasant to read for my aging eyes.
Jim Thatcher, Paul Bohman, Michael Burks, Shawn Lawton Henry, Bob Regan, Sarah Swierenga, Mark D. Urban, Cynthia D. Whaddell, "Constructing Accessible Web Sites", Glasshaus, LTD, Birmingham, UK, 2002. www.glasshaus.com, ISBN 1-904151-00-0
I didn't know how useful this book would be until I opened it. All the stuff I figured out on my own would have been so much easier if I had had this book first. Some of the chief benefits of this book are the detailed examples of each technique and the wealth of links to other places for continuing the research.
Joe Clark, "Building Accessible Websites", New Riders Publishing, Indianapolis, IN, 2003. www.peachpit.com, ISBN 0-7357-1150-X
Joe Clark is vocal on the subject of accessibility on the UVIP mailing list (a mailing list that promotes dialog between Web developers and people with disabilities willing to help test)— and his book reflects the same forthright tone. Joe pulls no punches in telling you what he thinks. Known for his expertise with closed captioning and his participation in the W3C Web Accessibility initiatives, his book provides as much information about what does not work as what does.
Steve Krug, "Don't Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability", New Riders Press, Indianapolis, IN, August 2005, Second Edition. www.peachpit.com, ISBN 0-3213-4475-8
My library could use more books on usability, but if I only had one, this would be it. I hand this book to my new web site customers when they ask me how to get started on their first site. It saves me a lot of explaining about why I am deleting their words. I love the physical design of this book. It is one of the most visual books in my library, and it is one of the fastest to read. Besides, it is incredibly fun. I finally got Steve's autograph when he spoke at a seminar for the Society for Technical Communication (STC). Now he comes to Boston-IA meetings all the time.
JoAnn T. Hackos & Janice Redish, "User and Task Analysis for Interface Design", John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York, NY, 1998. www.wiley.com, ISBN 0-471-17831-4
This book is a classic in the field of user task analysis and deserves its position. The late Neil F. Duane, the instructor for our "Accessibility and Interactive Technologies" course at Northeastern University, assigned this book as a textbook. Neil's course was one of four in a graduate certificate program in Accessible Web Design (now Interactive Design) at Northeastern. It was interesting to view this book through the lens of designing for accessibility needs.
Chuck Musciano & Bill Kennedy, "HTML & XHTML: The Definitive Guide", O'Reilly & Associates, Inc., Sebastopol, CA, December 2000, Fourth Edition. oreilly.com, ISBN 0-596-00026-X
Thank Heavens for O'Reilly. Where would I be without them? I actually interviewed with them back in the 1980's when I could still call myself a Unix expert. This book helped me sort out my very short list of the differences between HTML and XHTML. Since the list is so short, I see no reason to develop sites in pure HTML any more.
Jennifer Niederst, "Web Design in a Nutshell: A Desktop Quick Reference", O'Reilly & Associates, Inc., Sebastopol, CA, September 2001, Second Edition. oreilly.com, ISBN 0-596-00196-7
To quote (or mis-quote) the New York Times, "You don't have to read it all, but it is nice to know it is all there."
Laura LeMay, "Teach Yourself Web Publishing with HTML 3.2 in 14 Days: Professional Reference Edition", Sams.net Publishing, Indianapolis, IN, 1996. ISBN 1-57521-096-7
I include this book as a tribute. It was here I learned the basics of HTML hand-coding back in the "old" days of this "new" medium.
Eric A. Meyer, "Eric Meyer on CSS: Mastering the Language of Web Design", New Riders Publishing, Indianapolis, IN, July 2002, First Edition. www.peachpit.com, ISBN 0-73571-245-X
Before I started reading this book, I thought I was a Grade A expert in CSS. I began learning new things on Page 3 and have not stopped since. This book one of the newer ones in my library. I devoured it. As I worked my way through the book, I decided that it is the single best book I own. I am in love with it. I plan to go out and buy the sequel any day now.
Eric A. Meyer, "Cascading Style Sheets: The Definitive Guide", O'Reilly & Associates, Inc., Sebastopol, CA, May 2000, First Edition. oreilly.com, ISBN 1-56592-622-6
This book is on the verge of getting dog-eared, although I am extremely careful with my books. "Mr. CSS" wrote this book before several of the new browsers came out, but this book (along with TopStyle Pro) helped me figure out how to make CSS work with a variety of browsers at once. I wish there was a second edition with CSS 2 described as thoroughly.
Eric A. Meyer, "CSS Pocket Reference", O'Reilly & Associates, Inc., Sebastopol, CA, May 2001, First Edition. oreilly.com, ISBN 1-596-00120-7
This tiny guide sat at my elbow for a long time. It is current through Netscape 6 and Internet Explorer 5.5, and provides charts of which features the cranky old browsers support and which they do not.
"Adobe Photoshop 7.0: User Guide", Adobe Systems Incorporated, San Jose, CA, March 2002. www.adobe.com, Part Number 90036869
Photoshop is the industry standard for image editing, and Version 7.0 is really powerful. I originally read the documentation for Photoshop 5.0, which turned out to be the best way to learn the terminology and concepts in Photoshop. I never worked in a photo lab: how was I supposed to figure that stuff out? Nowadays, I also use Fireworks MX. I like having the source images in PNG instead of a proprietary format like PSD.
Peter Cope, "Web Expert: Photoshop", Friedman/Fairfax Publishers (Barnes & Noble Publishers), New York, NY, 2002. www.barnesandnoble.com, ISBN 1-58663-681-2
I bought this book because it is quite beautiful. It is great on defining the terminology and features in Photoshop related to the Web, but almost worthless in learning to use it. It is almost as if the book designers did their job, but the author didn't have time to meet the book deadline.
"Macromedia Studio MX: Exploring Macromedia Studio MX", Macromedia Inc., San Francisco, CA, May 2002, First Edition. www.adobe.com, Part Number ZWS60M100
This is one of the poorest excuses for product documentation I ever read. Macromedia seemed to think that our only interest was in how their products integrated with each other.
David Sawyer McFarland, "Dreamweaver MX: The Missing Manual", Pogue Press, LLC (Published by O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.), Sebastopol, CA, November 2002, First Edition. http://missingmanuals.com, ISBN 0-596-00349-8
I am grateful to David Pogue for creating the Missing Manual series, and to David Sawyer McFarland for writing "The book that should have been in the box".
"Macromedia HomeSite 5: Using Homesite 5", Macromedia Inc., San Francisco, CA, 2001, First Edition. www.adobe.com, Part Number ZHS50M100A
The manual for my main tool, the one I live in every day. I love this product, but I can't remember actually reading the documentation, because I learned Allaire HomeSite 4 when it came bundled with Macromedia Dreamweaver 2.0.
Richard Saul Wurman, "Information Anxiety", Doubleday (a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc.), New York, NY, February 1989, First Edition. ISBN 0-385-24394-4
When Don McLagan, founder of Desktop Data (which later became NewsEDGE Corporation and is now part of Thomson-Dialog), first gave me this book, I was insulted because I knew he was saying I wrote documentation that was way too detailed. (He inscribed it "Less is More".) I have learned a lot since then.
The new edition is called "Information Anxiety 2" (Que, December 2000, First Edition, ISBN 0-7897-2410-3).
Donald A. Norman, "The Design of Everyday Things", Basic Books, New York, 2002 Edition. www.perseusbooksgroup.com, ISBN 0-465-06710-7
This was the textbook for my "Communications in Interactive Media" course at Northeastern University, assigned by Professor Michael J. Salvo. It formed the basis for our class discussions and assignments as we examined user-centered design for electronic media. This was the first course in the graduate certificate program in Accessible Web Design (now Interactive Design). The Northeastern program was unique in that it was one of the first to focus on accessibility.
© 2003-2010 P.J. Gardner. All rights reserved.