Don't Make Me Think! A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability
i think it's a rather popular question here:
And if you haven't read it yet, do read Don't make me think and Non designer's design book for good page layout design.
Yes. It is certainly possible, I assume you have been developing most Desktop Application and native Software using Java and so would advise to take up some JSP and Servlets knowledge to dive into web development.
Try to browse through web-development tags as you will find very useful suggestions there.
I suggest that you read Don't Make me Think. Don't think that engaging UIs are not efficient. I would suggest the opposite.
Actually this answer has many useful links.
I'm a big fan of one of the methods Steve Krug suggests in his book Don't Make Me Think, which is to ask for the minimum now, and for details later. So ask for an email address and a password (which seems to be missing from your example) only.
You'll lower the threshold for the user to become a register member at your site, and it's easier to have your visitor fill out more information once he's "inside" and sees the value of providing you with the extra information.
However, I think it's bad form to leave out a submit button of some sort. (It doesn't necessarily have to be an input of type "submit", could be "button" or an image you click.) It's just a standard to have forms that people fill out submitt via a button, and you're taking that away, which could confuse many users who are used to a button. It definitely violates the principles of Don't Make Me Think by presenting an alternate form to the norm.
IMHO, i would say depends on your role, are you a designer or you're the coder guy who have to put functionality into the site?
if you're into the design, then i would say css and good website designs are necessary.
in that case i would recommend don't make me think and erik meyers css book.
and finally nothing beats putting theory into practice, so you can either search around and view source and learn from good sites, or start creating your own :)
Everything from there has been sort of copies. I find it more interesting to dig into the human brain and related books. Ie. cognitive psychology and how our brain perceives things. The difference between cultures etc. That's where you really learn the WHY and HOW.
Here are the resources I drilled out of the threads I came across: