Some Useful Books for Web Site QA

The books on this page run the gammut from technical to philosophical. I value all of these books for what they can teach; your mileage may vary.

The Basics

  1. A dictionary for whichever language you are writing in. Really. Invest in a good dictionary and keep it handy.
  2. HTML & XHTML : The Definitive Guide by Chuck Musciano and Bill Kennedy (O'Reilly). I work around books, and I've lost track of how many different approaches to explaining and documenting HTML I've seen. This is the best book on HTML, and it's the only one I keep on my bookshelves.
  3. Webmaster in a Nutshell Deluxe (O'Reilly). I'm not a webmaster, but I spend a lot of time researching errors and problems, so I have a bunch of webmaster books around in case I need to research some funky server-client bug. This book has almost all of the answers I need; the server error message listings are especially good.

Site Design Issues

  1. Information Architecture for the World Wide Web by Louis Rosenfeld and Peter Morville (O'Reilly). This important reference forces you to examine the basic concepts behind the presentation and ordering of information on the web.
  2. Envisioning Information by Edward R. Tufte. This is one of the classic references on information presentation. If you want to make the most of your information you must learn how to architect your site; this is the one of the books you should read.
  3. Web Navigation: Designing the User Experience by Jennifer Fleming (O'Reilly). Another excellent book from O'Reilly, this time focusing on navigation schemes.
  4. Wired Style: Principles of English Usage in the Digital Age from the Editors of Wired, edited by Constance Hale. A good example of a style guide from a major voice of the web culture, and a good source for definitions of "geek" terms. I also like their explanations behind Wired's decisions on certain points of style, such as handling the hyphens common in new technological terms. This is not a guide for design, but rather a sample of a well-thought-out application of editorial choices and design strategies.
  5. Metaphors We Live By by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson. An essential book for anyone who designs or tests interfaces.
  6. More Than Cool Reason: A Field Guide to Poetic Metaphor by George Lakoff and Mark Turner. This book continues the treatment of metaphors started in Metaphors We Live By, focusing specifically on the use of metaphors in poetry. This book is useful because it applies Lakoff's (et al) theories to a particular domain of implementation.

Software Quality Issues

  1. Constructing Superior Software edited by Paul C. Clements, and written by too many people to list here. This is the first book in the Software Quality Institute Series. The contributors are all experts in their areas of interest; this book is well worth reading for a good grounding in software quality and test project management.
  2. Software for Use: A Practical Guide to the Models and Methods of Usage-Centered Design by Larry L. Constantine and Lucy A. D. Lockwood. This book from ACM Press describes the authors' philosophy of usage-centered design -- as distinct from user-centered design. The authors feel that the design focus should be on the tasks, not on the user, because after all, the user tries to accomplish tasks. An interesting book with good explanations of both schools of thought.

Testing Issues

  1. Managing the Testing Process by Rex Black. The best book I have seen on managing the testing process. Mr. Black provides detailed explanations on everything having to do with the process of testing software as well as examples of the various kinds of essential test documentation. I'm amazed with how his suggestions dovetail with work I'm doing and seem to match report formats and testing structures. If you are a test manager, you can't do better than this book.
  2. Testing Computer Software, 2nd Edition by Cem Kaner, Jack Falk, and Hung Quoc Nguyen. This is the classic resource on software testing. Detailed, comprehensive, and well-organized information.

Usability Issues

  1. Designing Web Usability by Jakob Nielsen. Dr. Nielsen's latest book, is a gorgeous book -- great production values with this glossy book -- dense with information. This will quickly become a classic in this field.
  2. Usability Engineering by Jakob Nielsen. Very good book on usability issues, including rationales for usability engineering and useful testing methodology.
  3. Web Site Usability: a Designer's Guide by Jared Spool et al. Another very good book, covering usability issues for web sites.

Understanding People

  1. Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language by David Crystal. A top-notch linguisics and general language reference work. Well-written and approachable essays on the widest range of topics. You may never find yourself reading this book from cover to cover, but you will find yourself following a path from one essay to the next along a chain of interest unique to you.
  2. The Language Instinct by Steven Pinker. Excellent book on language and the human mind. You don't have to be a trained linguist to understand and appreciate this work.
  3. How the Mind Works by Steven Pinker. Pinker's done it again with this excellent book on how the human mind works. The mind may not be a computer, but it does compute; Pinker describes the computational theory of the mind.