I'm going to make my monthly trip to the bookstore soon and I'm kind of interested in learning some user interface and/or design stuff - mostly web related, what are some good books I should look at? One that I've seen come up frequently in the past is Don't Make Me Think, which looks promising.
I'm aware of the fact that programmers often don't make great designers, and as such this is more of a potential hobby thing than a move to be a professional designer.
I'm also looking for any good web resources on this topic. I subscribed to Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox newsletter, for instance, although it seems to come only once a month or so.
Somewhat related questions:
This is not directly related to GUI design or programming, but The Psychology of Everyday Things is a good book to read.
It is a general look at how things are designed and how they fail. The concepts in this book, although not directly applicable to GUI's, do apply. In fact you could say they apply to all instances of user centered design.
The design of everyday things ? An "old" classic, but useful if you plan anything that requires human interaction.
Although completely independent of web and programming, The Design of Everyday Things by Donald Norman taught me a lot!
For a less in-depth, more cook-book approach (if you don't want to think), try Robin Williams' The Non-Designer's Design Book: Design and Typographic Principles for the Visual Novice.
Presonally I much prefer The Design of Everyday Things.
"Don't Make Me Think" is great. After sitting in on several usability studies I can safely say that several of his biggest points are the kinds of things drilled in your head over and over.
Joel Spolsky's book on user interfaces is also decent.
What are the characteristics of a good UI designer? How much does one have to have graphical design abilities these days as opposed to interaction design abilities. I see this of growing importance with the advent of WPF and Silverlight.
I personally consider myself good at interaction design, but would like to strengthen my skills in the graphical design area. Is it even possible to learn these skills or are you born with them? Can anybody recommend any good books or resources that would help?
Try the Non-designer's design book.
In my experience, interface design is a skill all in itself. Graphic designers are good at making wonderfully beautiful but completely confusing and unusable interfaces.
I have a few tricks I use but they mostly involve stealing design elements from well designed apps and websites.
(1) I started using PHP. I also want to learn Ruby with Rails. Can I learn both side-by-side?
(2) What type of sample projects I can develop to learn well these technologies? I just have in mind to make a web log, that it.
(3) I am using Aptana Studio 2009. It is very good but not the best IDE. Which other IDE can speed up my design time? Any tool that separates the design with business logic automatically?
(4) What other things I must learn to bring myself to the front in web technologies?
1) Yes. But it is advisable to pick one technology/web framework and master it. It is easy to get caught in the technology rat race.
2) Think of a problem you have been facing say at workplace. Perhaps there is some routine work that can be done better using a web application. Use that as a project.
4) Read up on basic design principles like layout, color etc. The Non-Designer's design book is a good place to start.
I've recently had an upswing in the number of people looking for web applications that look good too. I'm not much of a design guy though.
I need a tool that isn't as complex as Photoshop or Stylevision but will still help me to create a nice clean web UI (like stackoverflow for example) that can be then be integrated into a ASP.NET master page etc. So no inline css; resources need to be separate.
All of the customers are looking for something web 2.0 style so that would be the target. Flash etc is not required. Canned themes would probably be okay too.
Anyone else doing the one man army thing?
UPDATE: Good suggestions below for raw material but what tools are people using? Expressions, an Adobe product? This there a good free editor?
I think this really starts with your research and experience. There's nothing quite like learning good UI design by first creating bad UIs. I mean the UIs that make perfect sense to you when you design and test them and that your users keep screwing up or calling you every day to be re-trained. I've been personally responsible for some user interfaces that I think are terrible now but I look back on them as valuable lessons of what mistakes not to make.
If you listen to the early stackoverflow podcasts Jeff talks a lot about what inspired the UI here. Effectively it came from inspiration from other websites, both good and bad ones.