While waiting at the shopping mall with some time to kill I ventured into my local chain book store, Borders. Being a web designer I spend all too much time in front of my computer screen and was looking forward to checking out the physical “print” world again. To my surprise, I found a $15.00 magazine with CD devoted to web design
entitled “Practical Web Design.”
I was intrigued to find such an expensive “trade” looking magazine at a local book store. It’s originally published in the UK, but is available at Borders, Barnes and Nobles, Amazon.com and all other major book and periodical shops. I sat down and read the whole thing. It contained a wide array of articles all linked together by the general web design topic.
The most impressive article was a before and after spread of a real website. The writers of the magazine took a boring, regular looking webpage and spiced up the visual content and the information it contained. This included adding style sheets and custom graphic design. This particular feature would be the magazine’s greatest selling point, as it’s relatively unique. I don’t see very many before and after step by step articles that deal with a real life website. Every issue they take a different site and run it through professional web design treatment.
There were reviews of the coolest and most creatively designed websites, which are always fun to check out. In-depth step by step tutorials gave very specific uses for particular web technologies. The November 2005 issue that I read had multiple Flash tutorials with screen shots and excellent directions. The creativity and quality of each tutorial was excellent. They described in step by step detail how to build a moveable user controlled pixel art character with a 2d, vintage, Nintendo-like look. Every issue contains specific tutorials on different web technologies, like flash, PHP etc. An SEO and Internet marketing section outlined the basics, complete with pros and cons, of different optimization strategies analyzing real life case studies. Practical Web Design included multiple pages that showcased royalty-free stock photography provided on the accompanying CD, which also included proprietary software for building css templates, multiple software trials and utilities.
The voice of each article was excellent and I found the writing very professional and fun to read. Now here are the bad things about it. First of all, each issue is relatively thin, about a 1/4 inch thick, so there’s not much content for the hefty $15 dollar price tag. The tutorials are too scattered and unconnected to each other. Descriptions of a user controlled Nintendo looking character may be cool, but without examples of a business implementation or what to connect with, it doesn’t serve much use to me as a professional. If I had that specific of an idea, I’d probably do a lot of research on a site devoted solely to flash innovation, like Flashkit. In this particular type of magazine I would have been more interested in looking at a new way to solve an old problem or a commercial application of the technology being presented.
A lot of the information is just a repeat of what can easily be found and accessed for free online, like the cool site section and the stock photography. Practical Web Design Magazine targets themselves towards professionals, but seems to play more to amateurs than it should. In one article there was a full two paragraph description of CSS which included references to and the definition of the W3C. Come on, any professional web designer and most students will have that information down pat. It’s literally one of the first things you learn and is all over the web. The SEO articles included lots of really basic information and spent a lot of time describing basics like keyword density.
Overall I enjoyed this magazine. I would highly recommend it to any beginner, amateur or anyone thinking about getting into the web design industry. It contains a wide variety of information and is fun to read. I would not recommend it to professional web designers, at least not on a regular basis. With a cover price of $15 per issue, it’s too thin and contains too much information you already know and could easily find online for free. If you need some trade magazines for tax write offs or to look good in your office, Practical Web Design would be perfect, but as an information source for a professional web designer, it’s not worth the price tag. You’re a web designer, use the web to find your way.