I've been an avid follower and buyer of the books at A Book Apart for a while now, but a title that I've recently been excited about is not a text on how do write better markup or CSS, but rather the aspects of operating better as a freelancer or business. I'm of course talking about Design is a Job.
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="800"] Design Is a Job by Mike Monteiro[/caption]
Books published by A Book Apart are meant to be short concise reads, that get to the point without waffling on about how something came to be in the first place. You're in a situation and are reading a book to help you move forward, so I for one appreciate the lack of waffle and the "straight to the point" nature of the books.
As a commuter travelling from Colchester to London and back every day, I bought the eBook version of Design is a Job and read it on my Kindle (plus I like trees and prefer to read off a device that weighs less than most books anyway). From start to finish, there are topics covering the aspects of general service providing such as getting comfortable talking about money (I personally believe some people simply do not think they are worth what they truly are, and charge less that what they deserve as a result), but the main points to take away form this book are learning (and not being afraid to) say "no" and that research is paramount. I'll talk about these in turn.
In the world of widely (and instantly) available information, customer service is ever more important. Customer reviews spread like wildfire, and bad reviews quicker still. To that end, I feel that as an industry, there is still far too much "yes sir, yes sir" going on. If a client asks something, we should be confident enough to challenge it, if we feel it should be challenged. If a client asks for a colour of an information box to be changed, challenge the "why" behind the request. If it's just because the clients favourite colour is green, that isn't a business need, and certainly isn't an answer driven by customer research and testing. I personally like the colour green though (something about nature an calm I'm sure).
Second point is the importance of research. I will refuse to take on any project if there isn't provision for doing research. Answering questions on why does the business need or want to re-design their site? What benefits will it give them? Who are their audience? How do their audience use the web? How will a business message get across? What message should get across? How does the business brand get to the customer in the most effective way?
All in all a great read, and I'd thoroughly recommend anyone that provides a service (not necessarily in the web arena) give it a go.