As early as 1996 Mike Slocombe was revered as a man in the know in the fledgling world of Web design, so it’s surprising it’s taken him this long to come up with a book on the subject.
Of course, in those intervening years Slocombe’s been busy creating the kind of sites that would give him the authority to write such a book convincingly, working for the likes of the BBC and Virgin Radio, as well as maintaining a constantly innovative personal site, at urban75.com.
So has it paid off? Definitely. Slocombe puts all those years of expertise to hugely effective use in Max Hits. Subtitled ‘building and promoting successful websites’, this latest addition to the Web books canon hardly visits new territory, but delivers its message in one of the most stylish, accessible and no-nonsense ways I’ve yet seen.
From the outset, Slocombe’s tone and take on the subject is light, but laden with lots of common sense. He offers an assured and assuring guide to website creation that makes it seem well, if not easy, at least penetrable.
The book covers every aspect of creating and promoting a website, and some you’d never have thought of, like checking whether your colours will work for the 8 per cent of the UK population’s colour-blind users.
Slocombe is obviously passionate about accessibility for all; it’s a consideration that runs throughout the book and even crops up in little things like assuming that not every reader is a PC user, and distinguishing between the two in tutorials and tips.
But don’t let that fool you into thinking this is simply a ‘how to’ manual stuffed full with ‘press this, then type in this and hit return’ and so on. Instruction is balanced with enough information, links, advice and tips to make this a practical manual for the beginner, but also to act as a good reminder of what a website should do and be, for all those designers, clients and marketers who’ve obviously forgotten those essential basics (if indeed they ever knew them).
This isn’t to say the book’s perfect. I would have liked, for instance, namechecks for the many creators of the sites shown here as examples of both good and bad design/authoring/content/functionality and so on. I would have liked a good glossary, and the links liberally scattered throughout the book gathered together with one-line descriptors. And I might have ditched the generally unenlightening interviews in favour of more words of wisdom from Slocombe himself, but they’re minor quibbles.
A friend browsing through Max Hits said ‘it’s full of the kind of stuff I tell my team at work and it feels like common sense.’ To someone who’s been working on the Web for five years it might well be, to anyone else it’s an absolute godsend, because common sense is too uncommon in the world of the Web.
Max Hits by Mike Slocombe is published by RotoVision on 24 January, priced £29.50