Refactoring UI


“I know this looks terrible, but I have no idea why.”

Hi! I’m Adam Wathan, a full stack developer who used to suck at design.

I’ve been friends with Steve Schoger for years and we’ve worked on a bunch of side projects together — him handling the UI design and me taking care of development.

Like a lot of developers, I always wished I could make my ideas look awesome without relying on a designer, but any time I tried to design something myself I would always get frustrated and give up.

I always chalked it up to a left brain/right brain sort of thing — I’m logical and analytical so I’m good at programming, people like Steve are intuitive and creative so he’s good at design.

But after working closely with Steve I started picking up little tricks. Tricks that didn’t require any artistic talent, but made things look better instantly for reasons that made sense to me as a developer.

Design with tactics, not talent.

Here’s a concrete design tactic I bet you see applied every day but haven’t explicitly noticed:

Use fewer borders.

Borders are a great way to distinguish two elements from one another, but using too many of them can make your design feel busy and cluttered.

Instead, try adding a box shadow, using contrasting background colors, or simply adding more space between elements:


It doesn’t take any talent to make changes like this — once you know the tactic you just need to notice the problem and apply the solution.

Most design courses are missing the mark.

They focus so much on high level principles like color theory and typography which, while important, never helped me make instant improvements like the actionable, specific tactics I was picking up from Steve.

Working together, we knew we could create something better.

Over the last few years, we’ve helped thousands of developers get better at design through quick tips, in-depth articles, and video tutorials.

What we’ve put together

It’s not just a book — it’s everything you need to start producing better designs today.

When we first started working on this project, our ambitions were pretty modest — take all of the tips and tricks we’ve shared on Twitter, bundle them up into one resource, and put it out into the world.

But the more time we put into planning it, the more we realized that we had an opportunity to create something better than that. Something that wasn’t just a book, but more like a complete survival kit for designing for the web.

Here’s what we ended up with…

The Book

A beautiful PDF containing 50 incredibly visual chapters spread across 200+ painstakingly typeset pages.

This book contains literally everything we know about web design, distilled into short, easy to read chapters.

You can check out the full table of contents here:

Check out the full table of contents

Every chapter is designed to be as independent as possible, so you can read them in almost any order. And if you want to sit down and read the whole thing at once, you’ll have no trouble getting through it in just a couple of hours.

We hate books that repeat the same ideas over and over just to fill out the page count. This book is written a lot like our blog posts — every sentence is highlight-worthy.

Video Tutorials

The book will teach you a ton, but there are some things best learned by watching an expert do it themselves.

We’ve put together three in-depth video tutorials that walk through how to take all of the ideas in the book and apply them to three common UI design scenarios:

  1. Designing a complex form interface
  2. Building a data-focused dashboard
  3. Styling a text-focused landing page

Each video is tightly edited and just the right pace, so there’s no wasted time watching me “hmm” and “uhh” my way around the design.

The Component Gallery

How many times have you found yourself looking at other apps to get ideas for things like button styles, form layouts, or navigation treatments? This has always been a huge pain point for us with our own work, so we built the component gallery to solve it.

The component gallery is a huge resource of 20+ component/layout categories, and 200+ individual component styles.

It includes medium-fidelity mockups of every idea we could think of, for every component we could think of, including things like:

  • Button styles
  • Login page layouts
  • Marketing page sections
  • Card layouts
  • Table styles
  • Navigation layouts

…and much, much more.

You’ll never have to browse another site for layout inspiration again.

Color Palettes

If you’ve ever used an online color palette generator, you know that the five swatches they end up giving you are never enough to build out a real interface.

We set out to solve this by handcrafting over a dozen comprehensive color palettes that include 10 shades for each included color, as well as an example UI showing how those colors are intended to be used:

We’ve also put together a huge library of individual color scales that you can use to curate your own palettes, without handpicking every single shade yourself.

Font Recommendations

Trying to pick the perfect font for a project is a nightmare. There are thousands of fonts to choose from, and trying to make an informed decision without seeing a particular font in the right context takes forever.

We’ve put together a list of over 30 fonts we absolutely love, and broken it down across three categories: UI, headlines, and article copy.

Each font is shown in an example UI for that category, so you can get a feel for exactly how it’s going to look where you intend to use it, without having to try each font yourself.

If you’ve ever felt uneasy trying to choose a typeface, this is going to save you a ton of time.

Custom illustrated icons

Refactoring UI also includes a set of 200 beautifully illustrated SVG icons:

The SVGs are pre-optimized, and the colors can easily be customized to fit your branding with just CSS — no design tool knowledge required.

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