Five Simple Steps

Designing the Invisible

By Robert Mills

From how to apply colour to tell the right story, through to using the right words, this book details the basics of building great web experiences.

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About this book

It's not enough to design a website that looks nice. What's the story? Why is that header green? Why is that icon shaped like a fish? Designing for the web is not just about fancy layouts, the latest CSS3 or HTML5 or UX technique. Great web experiences tell a great story, and Designing the Invisible will give you the tools to help you do it.

From how to apply colour to tell the right story, through to using the right words, this book details the basics of building great web experiences. If you're starting out in web design then this book will give you some valuable tools in your design toolkit.

Who should read this book?

This book is for design beginners. If you're not a designer but sometimes are asked to do design, then this book is for you. If you've just started out in design, or are at college or university, then this book is for you, too. If you're an experienced designer, then this book probably isn't your thing, maybe you'd like to buy this book instead?

You won't find any code in this book, and you don't need to know your way around HTML5 or the latest CSS3 updates. Lucky you.


"I continue to recommend Designing The Invisible to anyone who'll listen. This book is beautifully organised, and Robert's style is warm and open. Using familiar examples and thoughtful case studies, he lifts the lid on how subtle and invisible design can help improve our dialogue with audiences, and help them make sense of complexity."

~ Simon Collison

"Designing the Invisible was quite simply my favourite read of 2011. Robert clearly shows how we can communicate information, stories and user journeys with our design and language choices. A refreshing and enlightening read!"

~ Jon Hicks

Topics include:

Part 1: Invisible communication

Invisible communication describes the way we can convey message, moods and values using more than just words and images. A variety of these methods exist in the design world that can help us tell our stories more effectively and efficiently. When we talk about the story in the context of invisible communication, we mean the whole package that's being communicated. In the case of a website, all of the page elements – copy, colour, imagery, icons, and tone of voice – contribute to one story, a shared message being communicated.

Part 2: Following the right signs

Signs help us navigate, communicate danger and explain what we can and cannot do. The web is full of signs: text, icons, images, symbols and website navigation help create a well-understood signage system that can incorporate colour, hierarchy and pointers. We need to understand some fundamental definitions and systems to investigate the importance and significance of signs on the web in the context of invisible communication.

Part 3: Using the right palette

Colour is an important element in design. Each colour brings with it psychological associations, cultural significance, and an influence that can affect our mood. This section focuses on the messages and values that colours can communicate subliminally through design, explaining how there's more to colour than just the shades we perceive.

Part 4: Using the correct language

How can language be invisible? When we talk to someone in person, our words are supported by body language, tone of voice, pitch, volume, accent, expression and cues – all forms of invisible communication. When writing for the web, we can still communicate invisibly through the tone of our writing voice, the look of our words, and the overall design of our website.

Part 5: Telling the best story

From the day we are born we hear stories. At first they are simple nursery rhymes and fairytales. Aas we mature so too do the stories we hear, bringing with them added meaning, hidden messages and subliminal communication. We can apply traditional storytelling techniques to the web, but we need to adapt them for the new parameters that online storytelling brings with it.

About Robert Mills

Rob Mills is a writer and studio manager from Cardiff in the UK, helping clients tell their stories effectively to their target audience. Rob has written for .Net, Smashing Magazine and 24 ways and has spoken at several web conferences.

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