Designing Interfaces

Jenifer Tidwell

Mentioned 9

Provides information on designing easy-to-use interfaces.

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Mentioned in questions and answers.

I am making the distinction between User Interaction Experience and pure User Interface (UI) design here, even though there is often a correspondence. You can have great user interaction even with a ‘boring’ grey interface, (note that a boring interface is not a requirement!).

My bookshelf contains the following:

What other books or resources would you add to this list?

Where do you turn when creating user interface? I am a programmer, not a designer. Any ideas? My "UI" is usually terrible, as I just want to make it work, what do you do?

If you're writing desktop applications, simply following the UI guidelines for your chosen platform will take you a long way.

If it's on the web then you're broadly screwed, you just need a designer.

That said, don't get fooled into thinking that UI design is all about the the visual appearance. Having the right interaction model is probably more important. A graphic designer isn't going to help you with that. If you don't have access to a UI specialist then try starting with User Interface Design for Programmers.

Google User Experience and The laws of simplicity are very good starts.

I was always bad at design, but after reading a lot about usability, simplicity, design and starting to analyse google's design and other designs based on simplicity, my UIs started to suck less.

I usually do it all myself - just because my budget is quite limited.

However there are some books that might be worth reading:

And it's always a good thing to look what other sites do that you like :)

The best book I've ever read on Usability/Interaction Design, and one of the best books I've read period, is a book called About Face 3: The Essentials of Interaction Design by Alan Cooper.

It's a fantastic book because it talks about a lot of fundamental concepts behind interface design for any type of interface, not just on the web. Understanding these concepts will help you make better creative decisions, especially when designing something that hasn't been design yet (like a new product or type of social website), not just help you copy what's already been done.

I'm current a computer science student with a minor in psychology. I have the programming down when it comes to software design, but not so much the design of UI. What are some good books/websites/blogs for learning design principles for user interfaces and/or websites?

The consummate book on UI design is Don't Make Me Think. Additionally, The Design of Everyday Things is enlightening though it is not specifically about UI design.

That said, my experience with UI design has been primarily focused on web applications. I have found the work by Dan Cederholm to be the most enlightening in designing excellent user interfaces for the web. One of the most important aspects of web design is ensuring semantically correct accessible sites and Cederholm does an excellent job describing how to do that in Web Standards Solutions which was followed by the also excellent Bulletproof Web Design.

Though the CSS Zen Garden may not be explicitly about UI design it is an outstanding example of what can be accomplished visually through CSS-based design.

Finally, an often overlooked part of UI design is delivering effective error messages. While, Defensive Design for the Web emphasizes web error design much of what is described is applicable to other mediums. Those responsible for the book 37Signals maintain an excellent blog Signal vs. Noise.

Designing Interfaces by Jenifer Tidwell is a good one.

A must read: Don't Make Me Think

I am interesting in creating a better User Experience (UX). There are a lot of books out there, what are some that would be useful to a software engineer?

I would also recommend The Humane Interface: New Directions for Designing Interactive Systems by Jef Raskin. Has some really inspiring ideas.

My favorites:

At some point in your career, you may enjoy this wonderful book that draws parallels across multiple fields of design. (For example, the "confirmation" technique occurs both in software design and nuclear launch control.)

Being mostly a software developer I find that the hardest thing for me is to produce usable user-interface.

I did read some books, including The Smashing Book and Web Design For Developers. But those are mostly concentrated on the Design rather than on building more complex interfaces (like allocating many-to-many items with search with different options on both sides, grouping using different fields and so on).

Are there any books, articles that target building more (logically) complex UIs for the web?

Based on the other answer on the SO the Designing Web Interfaces book looks good


As with any topic, get your hands on as many resources as possible.

My most recent addition to my pile of books is Designing Interfaces Patterns for Effective Interaction Design by Jenifer Tidwell. Links: Official website and Amazon.

I highly recommend it: it describes user interfaces in patterns (something that we are familiar with).

A few titles from my book shelf:

I could list more titles, however the above will get you started.


Possibly a bit Off-topic, however I cannot resist as this is an area that I know.

If you have the opportunity, talk with your users (or even better sit down with them as they work). It is the best research you can do when trying to improve usability of your software.

If you want to measure your usability check out running System Usability Scale test (commonly referred to as SUS scores). Link 1 and Link 2 (PDF)



I also like this one:

The Design Of Sites - second edition

Jenifer Tidwells book Designing Interfaces: Patterns for Effective Interaction Design is a good one.

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  1. The user and the task.
  2. Organizing content
  3. Navigation
  4. Organizing the page
  5. Actions and commands
  6. Complex data
  7. Input
  8. Buildes and editors
  9. Making it look nice

Anyone know of a good book on

Game Interface Design (not game play mechanics; the actual UI).

I'm particular interested in theories of cognition, and how game interfaces are designed to allow the enduser efficient communication with the game (whether it in FPS, RTS, or so on).

In a modern game, the amount of information conveyed to the user, the amount of choices the user can make; and the support for the user to make said decisions is simply astounding (think UIs for Starcraft II / WoW).

Any insights into this would be greatly appreciated.

Unfortunally, there are not much info on that... What I did myself, was study regular books about interface, or user interaction.

But you need to remember something: Altough the player should not ever be "challenged" by the interface, the interface must NOT make the challenge of of the game easier.

Several Game Design books, has some chapters dedicated to interface (I know that this is too little, but is the best we have for now).

I can recommend those:

Francois Dominic Laramee, Game Design Perspectives. Charles River Media, 2002. ISBN 1584500905.

Andrew Rollings and Ernest Adams, Andrew Rollings and Ernest Adams on Game Design. "Creating the User Experience" and each of the genre-specific chapters: New Riders, 2003. ISBN 1592730019.

Editor: Marc Saltzman, Game Design: Secrets of the Sages. "Chapter 12, The All-Important User Interface (UI) and Game Control," and "Chapter 15: Testing." 2 ed. Bradygames, USA, 2000. ISBN 1566869870

Some generic user interface books:

Wilbert O. Galitz, The Essential Guide to User Interface Design. 2 ed. Wiley 2002. ISBN 0471084646.

Doug A. Bowman, Ernst Kruijff, Joseph J. LaViola, Ivan Poupyrev. 3D User Interfaces: Theory and Practice. Addison-Wesley Professional, 2004. ISBN 0201758679.

Game Development Essentials: Game Interface Design:

Cool links:

David Krieger, "Designing a Good Interface."

Zhan Ye. "Designing User Interfaces for Games"

Note: I did not read all those stuff completly, I used parts of them to study at university....


I think that this is it.