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Menus with Beauty and Brains as a Book : Production Graphics with Wendy Peck at

Menus with Beauty and Brains as a Book: Ta! Da!



A series from this column, Menus with Beauty and Brains, spawned my book, Web Menus with Beauty and Brains, published by Hungry Minds.


In earlier columns, I have mentioned that the series, Menus with Beauty and Brains, born right here, has grown to a book. Now you can take a peek at the Table of Contents, and read a sample chapter from the book. I'm especially proud to be featuring this article at the same time that will be featuring Web Menus with Beauty and Brains in a special promotion for graphic design customers.

The focus on Web menus for the columns, and then the book, is a direct result of requests from my readers. Many of you have written to me over my time at WebReference, asking for easy-to-follow directions to create effective menus. I originally sat down to write one article to answer all the questions. One article grew to two, and then to three. By the time the third article was done, I had only touched on the basics for creating effective menus.

Web Menus with Beauty and Brains is designed to be a primer for creating effective site menus. I pulled apart and documented the entire process I use, from initial client contact, through to a fully functional site. This book starts well before most instructions on menus, with identifying site goals and purpose, products and visitor groups. This stage of the process is closer to marketing than Web design training, but it is the foundation for every successful site. Worksheets are included to help you define what you require for your site.


Menus of all types are covered in Web Menus with Beauty and Brains, including menus for wireless devices.


Browser display differences are highlighted through the book.

Customized forms for page consistency and ... well, fun.


You then move to creating a site map and producing the comprehensive proofs (comps) for your site. Should you do text or graphic menus? There are sections devoted to each, and a full discussion, with examples, of the strengths and weaknesses for each choice. Typography, CSS and SSI are featured for text, and there is a section devoted to designing menus to be used by wireless devices.

Graphically speaking, get ready for some basic design principles. I picked my way through many classic design topics, choosing the most relevant issues for creating balanced and beautiful Web pages. Topics include balance and contrast as well as the power of color, with the overall focus on directing your visitors to the information they seek. Optimizing images and accessibility are featured, as is liquid design. Tiny type even makes an appearance in the graphic section.

Finally, we get to the action stage, where you will find rollovers, image maps, Flash and DHTML. The book features discussions on implementation and testing, as well as browser oddities. I have devoted a full chapter to pulling everything together, and another to automating your construction process. Finally, even common sense Wendy plays occasionally, and there is some fun stuff.

I wrote this book as a practical guide to creating menus, not as a discussion about usability or theory on the Web. There are many excellent books with that focus on the market. Instead, this book is the one that provides the "meat and potatoes" map to build a successful navigation system for any site.

It was a tough book to write. In the initial planning stages, I mentioned to my editor that I was surprised this book had never been written. Halfway through the book, I claimed that I knew exactly why the book had not been written: all the other authors are smarter than me. I said that only partly in jest. Every chapter or two I was switching to an entirely different focus. That's a lot of direction change for one brain.

However, that is exactly why navigation can be tough. Although a completed menu may look very simple, the number of topics that must be considered to create that menu can be overwhelming. Now that the work of the book is done, and the challenge is past, I am very pleased with the end result. I judge my own writing by how much that topic would have helped me when I was starting to learn about Web design. This one would have shot me ahead immeasurably.


Images and text for this article © Hungry Minds, Inc.

Wendy Peck is a working Web designer and writer living in NW Ontario, Canada.


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Menus with Beauty and Brains as a Book: Tutorial Index

Table of Contents
Chapter 13
Chapter 13 (con't)
Chapter 13 Exercise

Front Page2345

Created by Wendy Peck,
Created: March 8, 2002
Revised: March 8, 2002