30 Free eBooks and Whitepapers For Web Designers

As a web designer you have distinct advantages over many other career choices. Your have the added opportunity to work from home; your hiring potential is more flexible; you can freelance; and best of all, you are working largely, online. Apart from the most prevalent benefit to working online (to procrastinate on sites such as YouTube and Facebook) the biggest benefit is your access to information and useful tools, which can be utilized to better your job.

There are a huge number of free ebooks and whitepapers on the Web dedicated to improve your web designs. They touch on a number of issues, from general layout to translating creative concepts, and accessibility to usability.

Whether you are sticking with the old standards such as Flash, or keeping your designs on cutting edge HTML5 and CSS3, here are a list of ebooks and whitepapers (some slightly outdated but still useful) that you can apply to your craft.

Web Style Guide

Perhaps one of the most important web design books to be published, this is the third edition of the guide written by Patrick Lynch and Sarah Horton. It is offered on the site in its entirety.

Access by Design

This is another book written by Sarah Horton, published back in 2006, so, as you can imagine, a lot of the technical relevance is gone. However, the general information and tips are still easily applicable in today’s terms, and it is worth keeping around as a reference.

Building Accessible Websites

Joe Clark immediately points out before the beginning of the book that it is outdated in certain areas. The book was last pdated back in 2007, so you can understand that some of the info (e.g. he points specifically to the tables as layout design section) are no longer useable. But he has some great advice on creating general layouts and how to keep your site accessible. An oldie but a goodie.

Getting Real

Written by 37signals, this ebook has 16 chapters and 91 essays. They cover a wide range of topics that are not only helpful but largely practical, including how to fix time and budget issues, and how to know when to scale.

Task Centered User Interface Design

Those who are planning on building applications, particularly those dedicated to teaching computer systems, can benefit from learning more about interface design. What makes this such a great book now is that it has tips that will assist readers particularly in creating simple mobile applications. So, while it was not relevant a few years ago, it is relevant now.

CSS Cheat Sheet

This whitepaper acts as a quick reference for anyone who wants to take a look at various CSS command codes and classifications. It is small enough to easily print out and hang on a wall.

HTML & CSS Tutorials

This site has long been known for providing great tutorials for designers. Now, you can download the HTML Dog book for free.

Complete CSS Guide

While still in limited version, this free ebook is packed with information. It’s all about the basics making it a great foundation for anyone who is not so up to date with CSS formats to start with. They also have two different extended versions for purchase.

Developing User Friendly Flash Content

Not a lot of people use Flash anymore as it becomes increasingly buggy and clunky for web design. But it is still a relevant format, and this guide will show you how you can use it to create a user-friendly and accessible website. It is old, but Flash itself has not changed much since its creation to make the info that outdated.

The Web Book

I will admit that I am not sure about this one. I have not checked it out, but I saw it linked on so many reputable blogs that I decided to include it. If you download and read it, let us know in the comments what you liked about it.

A Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Obvious: Web Usability 101

One of the best whitepapers out there, this is a fantastic guide to web usability. It provides a ton of information, a good breakdown and a touch of humor. If you often find yourself yawning through web design articles, this one will keep you focused.

Portal Application Design And Development Guidelines

Focusing mainly on how to create portlet applications for WebSphere Portal V5 using various frameworks that are provided as examples, this is an in depth and useful paper from IBM.

5 Common E-Commerce Site Mistakes

If you are a freelancer then you will have noticed that a lot of work has been coming lately from businesses that want to expand or enhance their presence online. E-commerce sites are some of the fastest adapting entitiy on the web, so you might want to regularly read up on this field starting with this nice and simple look at common mistakes made by web developers when creating e-commerce sites.

How & Why To Avoid Mosaic Layouts

More of an article, it is nevertheless a great one to help you make sure that innovative design idea you have isn’t a maze. No matter how creative, web sites should always be aimed at user-friendly interfaces. This article will help you avoid making mosaic layouts.

AJAX Design Strategies

Asynchronous JavaScript And XML (AJAX) websites are the current trend in technology. You can learn to make your own Web 2.0 sites using this whitepaper that explains the process, offers tips and shows you how you can generate perfect sites using open source mentality.

Knock Knock

Written back in 2005 by Seth Godin, this is a short look into the use of tools that were just being released at the time that could be applied to design marketing principles. While outdated, many of the tools mentioned are still around in updated forms, so this paper is worth a look.

Wikiversity Web Design

Wikiversity is full of useful information on any number of topics. It has a series of in-depth essays and tutorials that are regularly updated and maintained, covering a number of technical issues such as developing a client project, and intro to programming.

Eloquent JavaScript

Probably one of the best free resources for JavaScript information, this is an excellent breakdown that will teach you how to fully utilize and implement Java to any web format. It was originally written in 2007, but has been lovingly maintained and updated, with the last update on January 25, 2012.

Web Design Reference Guide

Written and updated by 11 different columnists who are experts in the field, this is a great place to find information for quick reference that has to do with web design. From layouts to servers, the topics covered are easily accessed through the table of contents.

Just Ask: Integrating Accessibility Throughout Design

Written by Shawn Lawton and sponsored by a number of well-known companies such as HP and Adobe, Just Ask has both an online and print version available. Out of date but still useful, it is one of the commonly recommended books on the topic of web design, and one of the most popular, on accessibility, you can find.

Introduction to Good Usability

Peter Conradie, also known as Peter Pixel, wrote a number of articles on usability on his blog. He gathered some of his more popular posts together, added some new content and put it in an ebook for anyone to download for free. Although already a few years old, it is a good read.

The Design Funnel: A Manifesto For Meaningful Design

This manifesto is a creative way of approaching the design dilemma. Interesting, well written and still relevant, it is a great web design whitepaper you will be sure to enjoy, especially with Stephen Hay’s years of experience thrown in the mix.

Why Design?

A series of chapters written not just on the technical aspects of web design, but also the more elaborate issues like the place of design in society. A fascinating read.

Time Management For Creative People

Creative people are some of the most easily distracted around. Don’t try to deny it, we all know it is true. This ebook was written for people in the web design business who are having trouble managing their time properly.

HTML 5 Quick Learning Guide

HTML5 is the latest update in this line of primary coding techniques. This is a quick guide to help you through it, especially if you have experience with past HTML use.

Type Classification

Typography isn’t an area that has changed much over time. This classification ebook will help you keep up with the basics and learn the ins and outs of type class.

A Concise Guide to Archiving For Designers

Have you been looking for a simple ebook on archiving that doesn’t drone on and on? This one was written for just that purpose, with all you need to know in just 13 pages.

The Woork Handbook

Antonio Lupetti of the website Woork wrote this rather well-done collection of posts and other content for web designers back in 2009. It is still a great read, even in 2012.

The Elements of Typographic Style Applied To The Web

Many people have read the classic ‘The Elements of Style’. Imagine that book rewritten with a focus on typography and its place in web design. This book is a must have.

Practicing Ruby

Gregory Brown started writing this in early 2010, releasing a chapter a week on his site. Now the entire book can be downloaded for free.


And there you have it, 30 ebooks and whitepapers you can access for free, any time, to help you learn more about web design and the elements surrounding it. Have any to add? Let us know in the comments, and be sure to provide a link!