Bootstrapping Design by Jarrod Drysdale is a concise design guide for bootstrappers and hackers. I enjoyed the pragmatic approach — just enough theory mixed with a large amount of practical tips.
Jarrod covers a lot in 155 pages:
- visual hierarchy
- design process
- miscellaneous tips
- evaluating your own design
The book is full of useful tips, but here were some of my favorites.
Stick to conventions — a ton of sites already use the standard 3-section layout with a header, main area, and sidebar. Visitors are already used to it, can you use it too?
Align everything — whether elements are consecutive or have hundreds of items between them, they still need to be aligned.
Either contrast A LOT or don't contrast at all — design gets awkward when there are small breaks from repetition of sizes/colors/fonts/layout. Only break repetition if it's your intention for an element to stand out.
Proximity affects pacing — break apart elements for some breathing room. Use adequate line heights for readability.
Try sticking to two fonts — one serif and one sans-serif for contrast, otherwise it's awkward when two different fonts are somewhat similar. Use one for headlines and the other for long texts.
It's ideal for anyone who wants to roll their own design, whether that's for a software UI or a sales website. You can get the book at Bootstrapping Design.
Another classic book on the same subject is The Non-Designer's Design Book. It includes more theory and foundation, but is still pragmatic for developers who want to learn design for making stuff.