One of the books I used to dream of writing was “a pattern language for the web.” Well, now I don’t have to: The Design of Sites: Patterns, Principles, and Processes for Crafting a Customer-Centered Web Experience is that book.
As I first sat down to read it, I didn’t care for it. But sitting down and reading it not the right use for it– instead leave it on your desk and as you approach any standard web element, from log-in box to global navigation bar, crack it open. The authors have done a masterful job of listing the key problems each element addresses, and shows examples from several “best practices” websites. It’s like having a competive analysis on your desk for almost everything. Esoteric issues, like my current interest (entire-web search) are not addressed, but pretty much all the common ones are, and insightfully. An excellent tool for any IA, Interface or Interaction Designer.