How We Designed Our Ebook

We wrote a massive ebook about all the tools we use in our company: we covered a lot of processes in detail and illustrated everything with screenshots.

Here’s how we designed it and why it looks the way it does.

Rough design (2 days)

Before we could start creating the ebook, we needed a design. So we first designed it in broad strokes in Sketch. Once settled on a general direction and layout, we could continue refining the design in Scribus.

The ebook had three elements: tool description, basic info, and screenshots. We just need to find the right layout and a way to present them.

We tried 7 different variations on 3 layout ideas before finding the perfect one.

In the first draft, we’ve put everything on one page. But it was too crowded, there wasn’t enough room for more text, and you couldn’t see the screenshots well.

In the second draft, we tried a few different layouts, thinking “If we rearrange the elements in the right way, harmony will emerge”. It didn’t. Images clashed with text, each trying to hog our attention, and the page ended up too busy and unpleasant to read.

So we decided to give screenshots their own page — after all, they provided as much value as the text, if not more.

We experimented with a few different ways to combine and present basic information, and mulled over about what we like the most on each variation. In the end, we combined the best elements from each one.

We designed the ebook to be read like a real book, with the left and right page side-by-side. But if the reader views the ebook as a single page, we’ve put some signifiers to improve the coherence so they never have to think “where am I?” or “what’s this?”

Our main inspiration for the new layout was the Universal Principles of Design, and were also influenced by Google’s Material Design.

Layout and assets (10 days)

Now we had to create screenshots for each tool. We thought about what’s special about each tool and what the most representative screenshot would be.

Then we went into each app, took a screenshot or two, and added two visual cues in Sketch:

a title bar, so it looks like a window from a real app,
a drop-shadow, to add depth and define its relation to other elements.

We then created 122 pages in Scribus and 6 master templates, one for each tool category. We recreated the layout from Sketch: we put text and image frames, added placeholder text and screenshots, set page guidelines, and rearranged the images, depending on their number and relation:

For a logo of the each tool, we googled it and tried to find a iconic logo in a nice resolution. Not all apps had a logo that would fit into the little square space or transparency, so we had to edit them in GIMP. This taught us how important it is to have several variations of your logo:

Next, we defined custom styles for each type of text. This way, if we changed our mind, we could tweak the font size in one place (the style), and each piece of text with that style would be updated automatically.

We also decided to change the book’s initial cover. For the original cover, we used an image from the blog post (which we took from Unsplash) and made it more ebook-like.

After we created the ebook, we were no longer happy with the cover — it was plain, cheap, and a bit tacky. So we scoured the internet for inspiration (Dribbble, Amazon), created a few alternative designs, added a subheading, and chose the cover that aligned the most with our existing style.

For the full story - how we found the topic, designed and wrote the ebook, and what’ve done to promote it since — check out the full post.

You can also download the full ebook here.