Review of The Web Designer’s Idea Book II

Wdd Logo.
October 15, 2010

I have to admit, the idea of a book that aims to inspire web designers with example websites seemed a little repetitive to me when I first thought about it.

After all, there are dozens of excellent galleries out there online that we can access for free, that are updated on a daily or at least weekly basis.

Could a book compete with that? Or would it just be filled with the same sites we’ve all seen in every gallery and design roundup out there.

As someone who studies design galleries and roundups on an almost daily basis, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the majority of the designs included in The Web Designer’s Idea Book, Volume 2, by Patrick McNeil (who writes a monthly column for .net magazine and runs Design Meltdown), were not ones I remember seeing previously.

In fact, most of the designs in the book are fresh and new, and haven’t made the usual rounds of galleries and showcases.

Now, of course, just because something is new doesn’t mean it’s going to be useful. It takes a combination of new and well-organized to stand out.

And The Web Designer’s Idea Book really comes through in that respect, too. It takes the best methods of organizing content from a variety of online galleries and combines them to create what could be the most well-thought-out source of design inspiration available.

The book starts with a brief section on how to use inspiration to create a unique design that doesn’t copy any one existing design, but instead pulls elements from a number of sites to create something better than the sum of its parts. It’s a useful section for anyone, whether they’re a new designer or more established, especially since it uses a real-world example.

From there, the book is broken down into a few sections: Basic Principles of Design, Sites by Type, Sites by Design Elements, Sites by Styles and Themes, Sites by Structural Styles, and Sites by Structural Elements. Each section includes a number of chapters that cover individual elements, with some commentary on some of the examples.

Within in the Basic Principles of Design section, there are chapters on Emphasis, Contrast, Balance, Alignment, Repetition, and Flow. Examples include The Urban Mama, Tunnel 7 and Bryan Connor, among dozens of others. Some of the designs you’ll surely recognize, but there are plenty you probably won’t.

From there, the book moves on to Sites by Type. Here it covers websites by industry and purpose, including iPhone Applications, Bands, Events, Travel and Tourism, Portfolios, Real Estate, and Coming Soon pages.

In some chapters, there are Notes from a Developer” sections that give tips on web design from a developer’s point of view. It’s sections like these that add a lot of value to the book that you won’t get with the majority of online galleries.

The Design Elements section is great if you’re stuck on one particular part of your design. This section does feel the most random of any in the book, though.

While the information and examples are all great, the choices for chapters feel very disconnected: The Pitch, Lighting, iPhone as Flourish, Social Media Links, Icons, Typographic, and Photographic Backgrounds. Again, the examples here are great, but there just doesn’t feel like much of a theme running through the chosen topics.

The next section pulls things back together and is very focused. Here, designs are covered by style and theme. While it’s not the most comprehensive collection of design styles, it does cover some of the most commonly seen (Ultra Clean, Minimali, Solid Colors, and Type-Focused) and some of the most popular in recent years (Sketchy, Collage, Illustrated, Fabric, and Wood).

Some examples in this chapter include Pro Theme Design (Ultra Clean), Studio Z Films (Modern), Saizen Media (Illustrated), and Kinetic Technology Group (Wood).

The second-to-last section has some of the most visually interesting design examples. The Structural Style section has chapters on Atypical Navigation, Atypical Layouts, Pseudo-Flash (sites using JavaScript to create Flash-like effects), Horizontal Scrolling, and One-Page sites. If you’re looking to create something a bit different, turn to this section first.


The final section in the book covers Structural Elements. This is where you’ll find examples of things like Tabs, Buttons, Form Elements, Helpful Homepages”, Functional Footers”, Homepage Slide Shows, and 404 Pages. Examples here include Fhoke, Panda Themes, and Gieves and Hawkes. This is a great spot to look if you need inspiration for just a specific part of a site design.

As already mentioned, I was pleasantly surprised by the content of The Web Designer’s Idea Book II. It’s not a book I would have typically picked up off a shelf, with the notion that buying a book about web design inspiration just feels a bit odd. But there’s enough value-added information in the book that it stands out from free online galleries and showcases.

It’s not just a book that shows you pretty pictures, but actually shows you how to use what you’re seeing to create your own unique designs without directly copying anything.

Be sure to check out Volume 1 as well, for more great inspiration. Links for purchase are included on the The Web Designer’s Idea Book website, including the link to Amazon (where it sells for less than $20, compared to the usual $30 cover price).

Reviewed exclusively for WDD by Cameron Chapman

Have you checked out the book? What are your thoughts? Feel free to share below…

WDD Staff

WDD staff are proud to be able to bring you this daily blog about web design and development. If there’s something you think we should be talking about let us know @DesignerDepot.

Read Next

3 Essential Design Trends, June 2023

This month we are focusing on three trends within a bigger website design trend – different navigation menu styles and …

15 Best New Fonts, May 2023

The choices you make when selecting a typeface have more impact on your design than almost any other decision, so it’s …

10+ Best Tools & Resources for Web Designers and Agencies (2023 updated)

Having the ability to envision a tastefully designed website (i.e., the role creativity plays) is important. But being …

20 Best New Websites, May 2023

This month, there are tons of great new agency websites to get excited about. 3D animated prisms are a popular theme, a…

How to Find the Right White Label Website Builder for Your Agency

Web design agencies face a lot of obstacles in closing the deal with new clients. One of the most common ones is the ar…

Exciting New Tools For Designers, May 2023

There are hundreds of new tools for designers and developers released each month. We sift through them all to bring you…

3 Essential Design Trends, May 2023

All three of the website design trends here mimic something bigger going on in the tech space, from a desire to have mo…

10 Best AI Tools for Web Designers (2023)

It’s time to stop worrying if AI is going to take your job and instead start using AI to expand the services you can of…

10 Best Marketing Agency Websites (Examples, Inspo, and Templates!)

Marketers are skilled in developing strategies, producing visual assets, writing text with high impact, and optimizing …

15 Best New Fonts, April 2023

Fonts are a designer’s best friend. They add personality to our designs and enable fine typography to elevate the quali…

20 Best New Websites, April 2023

In April’s edition, there’s a whole heap of large-scale, and even full-screen, video. Drone footage is back with a veng…

Exciting New Tools For Designers, April 2023

The AI revolution is having a huge impact on the types of products that are hitting the market, with almost every app b…