As a developer who finds design really hard, I was very much looking forward to the release of Steve Schoger and Adam Wathan’s “Refactoring UI” book and kit of resources. Here’s some thoughts on it.
Note: I’m writing my thoughts in the order I had them. The positive stuff comes later!
I heard the quote recently that “If people complain about the price, you’re doing it right”, and I confess, I complained about the price, so maybe they did price it right. I’d prepared myself for it to be 3 or 4 times the cost of an expensive book. But they priced it at $249 for the digital version of the book (not a physical book!) with all the resources! Yes, there’s a launch discount of 50%, but even so, this half-priced version was expensive.
Yes, I get the arguments that a lot of experience and knowledge is in here, and a lot of work has been put in to make it a thing. And I get the argument that this will save me time, and it only has to save me a few hours to pay for itself. But actually, I think owning this book won’t save me time; it will make me do better design work and spend longer on it! Which is fine. As long as someone wants that and is paying me for it!
I also can’t help thinking that if this was half the price then they’d sell twice as many copies, make just as much money and share their knowledge more widely. And isn’t this the point of making such a resource: to share your knowledge with people?
A could of years back I’d been disappointed by Adam’s “Refactoring to Collections” book which I thought wasn’t worth the money, and the provided videos in particular weren’t useful at all. So I was skeptical that this book’s extra resources would be helpful too – maybe I should just buy the basic package with the book?
But persuaded by the Full Stack Radio podcast that detailed exactly what was in it, I eventually bit and bought the full Refactoring UI kit.
Aside from it being a digital-only book, it was PDF format. And I get that they’ve spent time laying it out and typesetting it, but PDF’s are still not my favourite eBook format.
They’re also selling it on Gumroad and the Gumroad reader seems to display PDFs at low quality. I’ve seen complaints on Twitter about the PDF quality and if you download it and open it locally it’s fine.
More annoying though is that the component library, colour schemes and font selections are all also in PDF form. Which is annoying because the ability to copy/paste stuff out of here, see the code, and tinker with it in the browser would have been great.
OK, so here’s the good stuff. Because I’m not a designer, I can’t see visual stuff in my head or produce “nice looking stuff” out of thin air, I’m pretty dependent on rules and copying other people’s ideas to make things I make for the web look nice.
And the book here really delivers. Strategic, rule-based design tips that really suit someone like me. It’s presented in a really easily digestible format, and has LOADS of very-well-put-together real-life examples.
You can see the amount of work that has gone into this in creating the fictional-but-real-looking designs that illustrate the points being made. They’re done a really great job.
It’s great stuff, well presented, and reading it WILL change my work for the better.
I want exercises!
Finally, as well as wanting the component library and things in code, I think it would really benefit from some exercises.
The videos are great at explaining the concepts and showing how to transform a bad design into a good one. But I really want to have a go at this myself.
Reading and watching is all well and good, but I’m only going to build up the skills and get them into my “muscle memory” if I actually DO then.
I love this kit. It’s expensive, but it’s an amazing tool for me. But it does also feel lacking/incomplete in its current form.
My hope is that Adam and Steve have made so much cash now that they don’t have to work for a year, and that now the book is out, they can spend some time producing some additional resources for those who have purchased it.