Universal Principles of Design, Revised and Updated

William Lidwell, Kritina Holden, Jill Butler

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A cross-disciplinary reference of design. Pairs common design concepts with examples that illustrate them in practice.

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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?

We're in the middle of an ongoing discussion about the number of elements in a form and how a high number of elements may deter completion of the form.

The sales department wants the user to enter as many details as possible, so they can call the customer based upon entered information. My opinion is that the number of form elements should be kept at a minimum so we get the most submissions with potential sales leads - considering the fact that I myself absolutely detest filling out forms.

Are there any statistics, research, or similar on this matter that can show the relation between forms with many elements and low conversion rates?

I suggest two sources:

  • "Universal Principles of Design" by Lidwell et al., which contains several design principles that address UI clutter vs. user performance issues. This is light reading but contains references to academic material.
  • "Interaction Design" by Sharp et al., which (as its title suggests) focusses on user interaction and gives a comprehensive framework for understanding what might be making people perform poorly with a given UI design. This is an academic book.

Hope his helps.

I'm looking to find any articles/books on usability. I'd like to get a handle on best practices when designing a UI, this can be anything from which user controls are more intuitive to a new user, to how to phrase text that is displayed to the user to avoid confusing dialogs. I mainly do Windows desktop applications, but most usability standards, I assume, would stand true regardless of the platform.

As an example, here's an MSDN article about the Windows User Experience Guidelines: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa511258.aspx

The Design of Everyday Things by Donald A. Norman is a standard book on general usability considerations that can be applied to just about everything in day-to-day life. It's not specifically about software, but it's worth it to read it.

Universal Principles of Design is a recommended textbook for my university's Engineering Methods of Software Usability course. Myself, and others who have taken this course, have found this book to be more useful than the required textbook. There appears to be an updated version, called Universal Principles of Design, Revised and Updated: 125 Ways to Enhance Usability, Influence Perception, Increase Appeal, Make Better Design Decisions, and Teach through Design, but I can't speak about that one.

Designing Visual Interfaces by Mullet and Sano provides a great foundation for different layout-related issues. Not a book on usability per se but still relevant, I'd say.

As for web resources, try:

For book inspiration, see Suggested Readings in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), User Interface (UI) Development, & Human Factors (HF) (and all the great answers in this thread).

Well, a long-standing favorite specifically for user interface design is Alan Cooper's About Face. It should touch most important topics when designing Windows desktop applications.

Then there are also various UX patterns which are well-presented in Quince (needs Silverlight).

Jef Raskin's The Humane Interface is also rather good, but very radical in his ideas. Still, this book points out many fallacies in modern UI design. If you need to stick to the WIMP world, then following his suggestions might be a little hard as he tends to suggest to overthrow everything we're used to. But well-written and good for provoking thoughts, even if you don't follow all his advice.

As for books/articles on usability in general or on slightly different topics:

  • Jakob Nielsen's website useit.com. While not particularly fancy-designed it is a trove of thoughts and advice on usability in general.
  • Steve Krug's Don't Make Me Think. Web usability, but also a very good read.
  • Donald Norman's The Design of Everyday Things. Usability in general and has many pointers on how to think about usability without going into specific technologies. It's applicable to desktop application usability anyway, though.

Try reading this book: Don't Make Me Think. While it's focused on web usability it is applicable to all facets of UI design.

As a front-end developer, I would like to develop nice and good usability web applications. However, normally developers are good at coding. So, I would ask how to get started with learning some UI design knowledge? What's your recommended books or courses for a newbie to learn? Basically for graphic design, fonts and colors etc etc.

  1. Build on the shoulders of those who have gone before. To be a great developer, you have to know your stuff. In the same way, to be a good designer requires understanding of some basic foundational guidelines. Some of it may seem pretty simple and tedious, but understanding the proper principles of typography, color theory, grid systems and so on can help you a lot. A few resources to get you going are:

    That list should generate it's own follow-on books / websites reading list for you.

  2. Ask questions. Find some designers you really like and ask questions. Try to understand why they made the decisions they did. Most people are pretty willing to talk about their own work. Asking questions helps you to understand why designers use (or don't use) certain design principles in their work.

  3. Actually design (and seek out constructive criticism.) Like anything you do in life, reading and learning can only take you so far. At some point, you have to start practicing. Find a small circle / community of more senior designers who can review your designers and give you some brutal, but constructive criticism. Your stuff will suck at first. Everyone's work does. Designers spend hours upon hours honing their talents and skills. Don't get discouraged by it. Just like anything you can gain mastery in, it takes time. Having people in your life who can give constructive feedback is a huge help.