Over the years I have found that my web design students are often interested in learning about the web designers and web developers that I most admire, as well as those who are generally regarded as experts in the web design industry.
I decided to put together an archive of individuals who in my mind are the top web designers and web developers, or ‘web design gurus’.
These are the web designers and web developers that have had the biggest influence on my web design work. They are all brilliant and inspiring people who have shared their knowledge, tools, and tricks of trade.
In 2012 Trent Walton published the article Fluid Type, which I can honestly say rocked my world at the time, and forced me to reconsider everything I thought I knew about web design until that point. I think this article reflected the beginning of a general paradigm shift in web design, when the web first started becoming more truly ‘graphically designed’, similar say to graphic and layout design in existing print based media. These days it’s hard to remember the era when website text was always small and hard to read and when websites tended to have the same generic layouts and styles, using system fonts only. I think that Trent also kicked things off with his projects like Lost World Fairs. We take this for granted now but at the time these were very cool early demonstrations of what had just become possible with web fonts, CSS, and responsive website layouts.
It is relatively recently that Jon Yablonski’s work, particularly his sites Laws of UX and Human by Design have made a big impression on the web, and to me Jon Yablonski is a master of his craft. These sites are also brilliant sources of information for anyone interested in web, UI and UX design. I really appreciate the subtleties of Jon’s work, his approach to optimisation, colour and layout, his code, and his application of the very same UI principles that he writes about.
Curiously, these days I find that most (but not all) award winning websites as featured in places like Awwwards don’t tend to appeal to me at all. I find that more often than not these sites are saturated with effects that actually make them quite disorientating and unusable. Perhaps it is a bit of a case of industry patting itself on the back for its cleverness but I think that in reality the average person would be completely put off by many of these sites.
In contrast I think that Jon’s work and his articles bring things back to core fundamentals of things like design theory, content, usability, and functionality. I think his work is also evidence that you can still incorporate style, effects, and clever use of the latest code and technology without losing track of the fundamentals.
Over the years I have referred to Chris Coyier’s CSS Tricks website many, many times to find answers to coding conundrums. Over the years the CSS Tricks community has also expanded to become a network synonymous with web design knowledge. On the CSS Tricks website you will find articles contributed by some of the web industry’s heaviest hitters and the community too contributes so much knowledge and wisdom to this space. Chris Coyier is also one of the founders of Codepen which is an amazing app / network / tool that I have found to be incredibly inspiring as well as useful. I would say that Chris Coyier is a very influential and central figure in the world of web design and development. Chris also contributes to a weekly podcast about web design – the ShopTalk Show.
It’s hard to imagine a web without ‘masonry’ layouts and things like ‘Infinite Scroll’. At some point I stumbled across David Desandro’s Flickity and at the time it struck me as the first / most elegant touch-friendly carousel I had come across. I ended up buying a licence for it and using it on many websites. I even made a cool WordPress block out of it which was really easy for my clients to work with. Under the banner of Metafizzy I think David Desandros inventions like Masonry, Isotope and Infinite scroll have opened up some options for web layouts that have had a very big influence on the web design landscape.
Viljami Salminen originally caught my attention many years ago with his Responsive Nav project. You can find this and a lot of his earlier articles and projects on the Viljamis Design website however please see his personal website Viljamis.com for more recent articles. I have always admired Viljami’s design work for its typography, layout, and general elegance, and I think he is another master of this craft. I love the way he uses the classic Garamond font on his site. I also find Viljamis’ articles consistently thoughtful and insightful and I think his living style guide is a cool reference that I enjoy showing my students.
As a multimedia guy / ex Flash developer and someone who has closely followed the evolution of the web for over 20 years I’m really, really into three.js and anything web 3D. If you haven’t already you might want to check my article about three.js and webGL games for example. With three.js Mr Doob (AKA Ricardo Cabello) has literally breathed a third dimension into the web landscape and I think this space is only going to get bigger and bigger. If you haven’t already you must check out the three.js showcase and the three.js documentation examples.
If you’re interested in speed performance and developing progressive web applications (AKA PWAs) then Jake Archibald is the man. You can find him in various places on the net delivering some excellent talks on these subjects. I have referred to Jake’s knowledge many times when learning about PWAs, how they work, and how they are best optimised for the fastest possible loading.
If you’re into things like SVGs, CSS, UX, design systems, and accessibility, Sara Souedian is a powerhouse of knowledge on these subjects and more. There have been times when I have been trying to achieve some relatively complex CSS animations (eg. this one) and I have found Sara’s knowledge and code references extremely useful. Sara’s website includes many excellent articles and useful code examples.
With his Oimo.js, Ammo.lab and other projects on github, I think Lo-th is creating some of the most interesting, creative, and inspiring 3D work on the web. If you’re into web 3D I encourage you to take the time to explore lo-th’s work. Very cool and refreshingly unusual.
Otherwise, there are of course many more web designers and developers out there that I refer to and I am constantly stumbling across great articles and new techniques. If you know of any other great web design gurus or sources of web design knowledge please don’t hesitate to get in touch via social media or email at email@example.com. If this article was useful for you might want to check out some of my other web design and development articles or web tutorials.
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