Found in 22 comments on Hacker News
jayshua · 2019-01-29 · Original thread
I was in your boat about five or six years ago. Programming was fine, CSS was kinda-not-really ok, and design was just non-existent. Over time though, it really is something you can learn.

I started by cloning designs in CSS that I liked. Same way I write programs just to learn. Pick a design and try to reproduce it. (Here's a good simple one that could probably be finished in a single sitting. [1]) Eventually I was able to clone an entire website while only referencing the internet for CSS details, not core concepts. It'll take time just like learning any language, but the theory behind CSS does make sense if you can peel back the layers of features built on top of it. (Like Git, the core model is beautiful - the CLI not so much.) Reading about the "cascade" part of "cascading style sheets" would be a good place to start if you get the basic syntax already. Then study the selector operators. All of them, there aren't that many.

Then read books on design. Info about CSS the language is readily available online. Info about design, not as much. Design for Hackers [2] is targeted at programmers and explains not just the what but also the why certain designs work. The way our brains interpret color and how that causes certain colors to work well together. How people process information and how to leverage that to make designs that "make sense." Visual Grammar [3] is a design reference book I refer to. It's like a SQL reference book - won't teach you the language (of design) but explains the options you have and when they could be useful. Things like "these types of alignments will produce this type of result."

Just remember that it takes time to learn a skill. And design is definitely that - a skill that can be learned.

[1] [2] [3]

aicioara · 2018-11-10 · Original thread
As a hacker with no design background, reading Design for Hackers [1] was life changing. I finally understood that design is just a set of rules and that really modelled well on my engineering mindset.

Add to that frameworks such as Bootstrap CSS and opinionated website builders such as Weebly and I finally overcame a major limitation in my skillset. I could now actually build what I wanted to build, knowing that it looks decent and I can focus on what is under the hood.

If the web all looks the same, it is probably because it is built by people like me who need a rigid framework to work within.


dpeck · 2018-06-26 · Original thread
Its honestly not that hard to get to the novice level at design and be able to have conversations with experts in the field. Like other things in its basics you're learning vocabulary and the rudimentary understanding of "why" certain patterns are used. If you're not looking at doing the design yourself you can bootstrap this up inside of a year.

I found to be a good basic overview of a lot of elements.

jorgeleo · 2017-11-01 · Original thread
If your ideas REALLY solve an expensive problem, then the UI, what the heck, not even stability, matters.

There are 2 types of ideas where this is true:

* I can make a lot of money using your software that it would be near impossible to make otherwise.

* I can save a lot of money using your software that it would be near impossible to save otherwise.

Any other idea is just a bias guess that needs to be market tested, were UI/UX may or may not be of any importance.

If you are really sold on the Importance Of UI (tm). Read this book: Design for Hackers ( It will not make you a designer, but it will make your UIs not fugly.

And finally, please consider on coding the software thinking it has no UI, or that the current UI is only one of many ways to use your software. It will help you to structure it so you can fix the UI later when it is actually profitable.

pythonbull · 2016-10-16 · Original thread
Some great books- immerse in it for rapid learning

Don't Make Me Think, Revisited: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability (3rd Edition) -

Design for Hackers: Reverse Engineering Beauty -

UX Design and Usability Mentor Book : With Best Practice Business Analysis and User Interface Design Tips and Techniques -

harryf · 2016-10-14 · Original thread
Design for Hackers is a pretty good book -

Meanwhile is Hackernews for designers

siquick · 2016-05-23 · Original thread
Most definitely, this book has been a god-send for me.

faet · 2016-03-02 · Original thread
I picked up Design for hackers[0] a few years ago. It goes over color/fonts and other design patterns. It's been pretty useful for projects I've done. It goes over when to use certain colors (ie, target uses red because you'll buy more.) and some color pallets that work well together. I got it because I didn't want to learn full color theory and whatnot, just the basics.


rankam · 2015-09-19 · Original thread
In my opinion, the "for hackers" title is in reference to multiple books that have been released with the "X for hackers" that targets people with hacking skills but do not have a formal background in X.

Machine Learning for Hackers

Design for Hackers

Bayesian Methods for Hackers

EDIT: I'm not the author, but you can find Bayesian Methods for Hackers (free, released by the author) at the link below. I think it's a great resource for anyone wanting to explore Bayesian methods using Python.

adamnemecek · 2014-09-21 · Original thread
This book is pretty good

Also, the other day I came across this pretty exhaustive blog post

creature · 2014-08-15 · Original thread
There's a book, Design for Hackers:

The author also produced a free 12 week email course:

titlex · 2013-06-26 · Original thread
You can try out or read Design for Hackers: Reverse Engineering Beauty[1]. There are plenty of other sources out there, but these are a good start.


merlinsbrain · 2013-03-01 · Original thread
I'm in the same place you are, and this book is helping me out: Design for Hackers: Reverse Engineering Beauty[1].

I'm mostly interesting in typography and color and this is a great read that covers all that and more.


I'm in the same boat. I'm not very good but I'm starting to get better at design. Here are some tips, which might be useful. None of these are affiliate links and I'm not associated with any of them, if that matters.

- It's cliche, but read "The Design of Everyday Things" by Donald Norman [1]. It gives you a good sense of design's place in the greater world. The best design principles are as at home in a product development firm as they are in the software world.

- I own "Design for Hackers" by David Kadavy and I think it's pretty good. The content may or may not be "obvious" depending on your skill level, but he phrases things in a way that is understandable and reassuring to the engineering set. [2]

- There's a guy on HN (Jarrod Drysdale) who produced an eBook called "Bootstrapping Design". I haven't pulled the trigger on a purchase yet, but I need to. I've read his sample chapter and am subscribed to his newsletter and I think he's an excellent coach. [3]

- I keep a bookmark folder called "design inspiration" and when I find really cool sites or apps I save them here. You might also want to keep a clipping diary or something where you can keep notes for yourself about what you like and don't like about certain things.

- There's nothing wrong with imitation, within reason. EVERYONE stands on the shoulders of giants and the guy who designed that awesome site or app probably started by shamelessly copying existing stuff. In fact, I recommend that you spend some time trying to EXACTLY copy things you like. You'll start to get a feel for how to accomplish certain affects and, in general, you'll get design a little more "in the fingers".


- Have a project. Have a project. HAVE A PROJECT. It's very difficult to just "learn design", just as it's very difficult to just "learn programming". Unless you're just a natural autodidact, you can read all the tutorials and books and whatever but, when it comes time to do something on your own, you'll just be sitting there staring at a blinking cursor (or an empty Photoshop document) unless you have some place to start.

I hope this all helps, and don't be afraid to share stuff on HN with us. There are plenty of folks who would love to give you positive criticism and feedback.




robbiea · 2012-12-27 · Original thread
I would check out design for hackers by @kadavy He talks a lot about white space
s_o · 2012-02-25 · Original thread
I'm just like you in that I'm more of a hacker that has trouble figuring out how to make things look good. Try this book (I've read 3/4 of it--excellent book):

It was made just for people like us!

bmelton · 2012-01-20 · Original thread
You might also check out "Design for Hackers"[1] by David Kadavy.

[1] -

rigatoni1 · 2011-12-22 · Original thread
Try out this book:

I went to one his book tour events and it was quite insightful!

not out yet, but i like the approach of this book (i got some good tips from the mailing list)

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