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This book has been a long time coming. And a lot of people helped get it there. The idea started percolating four years ago, during lunch break brainstorming with Kristin Windbigler, then the Executive Producer of Webmonkey (and always my close friend and collaborator). Jeffrey Veen—friend, colleague, superstar—took the idea to his publisher, and The Unusually Useful Web Book got its start.


The content of this book has been shaped and re-shaped over the years, as my ideas about the web—and the web itself—evolved. The most important influences were the interviews with dozens of industry veterans—some friends, some strangers—who generously shared their insights with me.

They include Andrew Anker, Adam Berliant, Carrie Bickner, Hillary Billings, Doug Bowman, Rick Boyce, Martha Brockenbrough, Sheryl Cababa, Kris Carpenter, Jason Cook, Cate Corcoran, Greg Dotson, Esther Drill, Janice Fraser, Jim Frew, Jesse James Garrett, Margaret Gould-Stewart, Lara Hoyem, Mark Hurst, Luke Knowland, Mike Kuniavsky, Hunter Madsen, Matt Margolin, Lance McDaniel, Noah Mercer, Peter Merholz, Jim Morris, Steve Mulder, Peter Naylor, Wendy Owen, Derek Powazek, Josh Quittner, Nadav Savio, Randi Shade, Emily Simas, Srinija Srinivasan, Pamela Statz, Taylor, Evany Thomas, thau!, Michael Twidale, Beth Vanderslice, Jeffrey Veen, Omar Wasow, Kristin Windbigler, Jason Wishnow, Indi Young, Jeffrey Zeldman, and Tim Ziegler.

The interviews helped me solidify ideas and confirm (or reject) theories. They also expanded the scope of the book. For example, many people independently mentioned—without prompting—that pull-down menus are an absolute disaster as a navigation device. I didn’t know that, actually. But now I do. And you do, too. On a broader scale, I also heard—over and over again—that the real challenge of web development isn’t technology or design or bandwidth or funding. It’s people. People and their organizational politics. So I expanded the book to shed some light on workplace issues.

These experts are quoted throughout the book to highlight points, offer real-world examples, and bring the pages to life. However, I must emphasize that I interpreted and consolidated their ideas in accordance with my own editorial judgment and outlook on the industry. So responsibility for the content is ultimately mine.

editors and others

Many people have helped bring the book to life, but chief among them is my editor at New Riders, Jennifer Eberhardt, who pushed the book in all the right directions—inventing the idea of the “Take Action” worksheets and encouraging me to bring more to the book: More bullet points, more fill-in sections, more examples, more fun. More. She also had a terrible habit of innocently pointing out every place I’d gotten a bit lazy. I still haven’t forgiven her for it. But her humor and insight and whip-smarts—and her understanding of the role venti coffees play in a person’s life—were essential to making this book what it is.

Stephanie Wall, the associate publisher, forged the path for this book from my head to your hands. She has that rare ability to cut straight to the heart of the matter and focus on exactly those things that matter most. She made sure the message the book sent to the world was consistent with what lay in its pages. And she was also great fun to work with.

Technical Reviewer Steve Sanchez is the only person besides me who read every draft of this book, and his insightful suggestions helped push this book to become more visual, more engaging, and more complete. His influence is evident on every page, and I’m hoping to some day meet him in person.

I’m grateful to everyone at New Riders for their energy and enthusiasm. This book was truly a collaboration, and I couldn’t ask for better, nicer people to work with. Lori Lyons edited and managed this book from layout to delivery, and did so with patience, humor, and an expertise I so appreciate. Aren Howell expertly designed exactly the right cover (and helped also to finalize the interior design). Gloria Schurick composed the pages (no small feat!), while fine-tuning and improving the design. Jake McFarland copy-edited the text, and made it sing. David Dwyer lent his support and made me laugh, Chris Nelson gave great editorial advice and told great stories. And Karen Whitehouse gave this book its start.

Several trusted friends with sharp pencils and sharper minds read the book as it made its journey from draft to draft. Jeffrey Veen reviewed an earlier draft with an eye toward the latest trends. Kristin Windbigler cheerfully pointed out (among other things), the topics I’d been avoiding that I really should have covered. Martha Brockenbrough alternately cheered and challenged the content of the book and filled the margins with comments, jokes, and several tracings of her daughter’s feet. Guy Cohen read and edited large chunks of the manuscript, making the writing tighter and helping me to weed jargon out of the book. For example, when I casually used the word “iterative,” he wrote, “I don’t know what that means, and I went to college.” In the final stages, other friends reviewed individual sections. These generous souls included Jay Greenspan, Matt Margolin, Noah Mercer, Nadav Savio, and Tim Ziegler.

But for all the effort that went into the writing, it may be the cartoons that emerge most memorable. Alex Gregory’s pictures are each worth at least 1,000 of my words. Going through his file cabinet of cartoons was like finding buried treasure.

Outside of the book’s content, many people helped me through the process of writing a book. My lawyer, Mary Luria of Davis & Gilbert, LLP (www.dglaw.com), who knows her way around a contract, let me tell you. Liz Ferris (www.lizferris.com) expertly transcribed all the interviews for this book and managed to accurately record many nonsensical industry buzzwords like “monetizing eyeballs.”

Additional support came from all the neighborhood joints I rely on in New York: Visual Art Photo, Your Neighborhood Office, Basiques, Three Lives & Co., Grey Dog Coffee, and the Chocolate Bar.

And goodness, I feel like Julia Roberts at the Oscars, twirling my vintage Valentino and beaming at the camera so they won’t yank me offstage.... Because I’m not done thanking yet.


This book really began long before I sat down to write it. It’s a product of many years and many web sites. But mostly, it’s a product of conversations.

My first conversation about the web took place—as so many do—in a Palo Alto bar at 1 a.m. It was 1991, and we weren’t talking about the web per se, but about a multimedia publication we wanted to build.

Our napkin scribbles became a working product, and that never would have happened were it not for the initial spark and determined follow through of Scott Kirk, and the ingenuity, innovation, and infinite patience of Noah Mercer. I’m forever grateful to them and also to Martha Brockenbrough, Adam Block, and N’Gai Croal for breathing life into that project.

But almost everything I know about the web, I learned at HotWired. Mostly the hard way.

For six years, I had the very great fortune to work at HotWired, a think tank, media lab, and Internet start-up in San Francisco. Everyone at HotWired influenced my thinking, and many of them will see a bit of themselves in these pages. I’m grateful to everyone who worked there for shaping my ideas and helping to shape the web, really. But there are a few people, in particular, whose influence has been deep and long-lasting.

First off, the people who made Wired happen: Louis Rossetto, Jane Metcalfe, John Plunkett, and especially Barbara Kuhr, who’s been a mentor, inspiration, and friend, for many years.

Also Beth Vanderslice, who created opportunities for me and was always generous with her wisdom; Andrew Anker, who founded HotWired and never forgot to have fun; Cate Corcoran, with whom I learned just about everything I know about the web; George Shirk, who was full of surprises; Hunter Madsen, who taught me the phrase ’Dare to be obvious.’ And also to each of these remarkable people: Doug Bowman, Chip Bayers, Rick Boyce, Liz Chapin, Kevin Cooke, Susan Copeland, Eric Eaton, Todd Elliott, Jim Frew, James Glave, jillo, Luke Knowland, Matt Margolin, Anna McMillan, Sabine Messner, Laura Moorhead, Mary Murphy, Peter Naylor, Wendy Owen, Steven Petrow, David Pritchard, Ian Raikow, Nadav Savio, Pam Statz, Taylor, thau!, Evany Thomas, Joel Truher, Jeffrey Veen, Kristin Windbigler, Michael Winnick, and Gary Wolf.


I don’t actually know all the people who influenced this book. But I feel I should thank them, all the same. Like many people, I got a lot out of the web books written by Lynda Weinman (<designing web graphics">) and Steve Krug (Don’t Make Me Think). Thanks also to Max DePree (The Art of Leadership), Donald Norman (The Design of Everyday Things), and Scott McCloud (Understanding Comics).

I should also thank Johann Sebastian Bach, who wrote the music I write to, though I don’t suppose he’d be offended if I didn’t.

friends and family

Although they don’t necessarily know much about the web, the rest of these folks know a lot about friendship.

I don’t think I could have written this book if I didn’t have the very good fortune of living next door to such good friends. Thank you to Kate Gallimore (and Piers Davies, of course) for all the coffee breaks and cups of tea and font-buying sprees, and for literally being there for me throughout the writing of this book.

I also couldn’t have written it without my sister and my brothers—Robin, Guy, and Glenn—who are the best possible people to go through life with. They made me laugh, kept me company, and brought me Chinese take-out when I was too busy writing to leave my apartment. They’ve been great friends to me, and Guy would argue that they made me who I am by teaching me at an early age to persevere in the face of exhaustion and doubt. They taught me this in the form of “Training Camp,” a fun game we’d play that involved training me to do handstands and catch balls, and then having me run around the house each time I missed while they chanted “Training Camp. Training Camp.” Without that—and without them—I would surely be a different person, and I might never have finished this beast of a book.

My father, Richard, also did his share of character-building by encouraging me always to drink my coffee black, do my crosswords in pen, and face up to things that seem difficult. Thanks, Pop-Tart.

Thank you also to The Ladies for their endless support and late-night phone calls. Mady Wallen, Cathy Green, and Emily Simas listened patiently through a lot of very boring answers to the question, “How’s the book?” Jen Sey, Rae Meadows, Sarah Blanch, Martha Brockenbrough, and Kristin Windbigler were always willing to talk about the maddening creative process. Lance McDaniel made everything fun. And Tam Edwards was always ready with advice or an ear, even if she made me go to Mary’s Fish Camp to get them.

The final acknowledgement is saved for the first person in my life. My mother Shirlene: ballerina, actress, and Revlon girl turned nature photographer, mother, and muse. She played a big role in convincing me to write this book, and she encouraged me along the way with inspirational quotes in adorable emails like this one:

Dear Junie,

The heights by great men reached and kept
Were not attained by sudden flight,
But they, while their companions slept
Were toiling upward in the night.
(Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)


Tell Us What You Think

As the reader of this book, you are the most important critic and commentator. We value your opinion and want to know what we’re doing right, what we could do better, what areas you’d like to see us publish in, and any other words of wisdom you’re willing to pass our way.

As the Senior Development Editor for New Riders Publishing, I welcome your comments. You can fax, email, or write me directly to let me know what you did or didn’t like about this book—as well as what we can do to make our books stronger. When you write, please be sure to include this book’s title, ISBN, and author, as well as your name and phone or fax number. I will carefully review your comments and share them with the author and editors who worked on the book.

Please note that I cannot help you with technical problems related to the topic of this book, and that due to the high volume of email I receive, I might not be able to reply to every message.

Mail:Jennifer Eberhardt
Senior Development Editor
New Riders Publishing
201 West 103rd Street
Indianapolis, IN 46290 USA

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