3 User Interface Books Worth Reading

I have finally gotten the jump on myself and thwarted my forgetfulness. As I was about the books this week, I remembered to watch for inspiration as to what topic to recommend books for this time. I was in luck. As I left the science fiction section, I happened upon a stand of user interface books. They were ghastly, immense beasts with pretentious covers that had nothing to do with anything. They were dry, voluminous tomes talking in intricate detail about every aspect of a specific system, programming language or functional design theory.

They definitely told you everything you needed to know, but so will a dictionary, but who wants to sit and read one? I now apologize to the national dictionary readers’ club for my insensitive joke at their expense. Moving on, though, I really was bothered by how these books were designed. So, I decided to do some research into alternative user interface books that are a bit less expensive and more of a casual source of learning.

Lucky for us all, my research did not disappoint.

Tog on Interface (Bruce “Tog” Tognazzini)

This is a humorous if dated romp through demystification of user interface from an expert in the field. The book is from 1992, but as I’ve said in the past, much of GUI logic hasn’t really changed much, just had more layers built upon it. So, when you want to get started with the basics, Tog’s writing is a pleasant place to start. He’s a fan of Mac, so you’ll have to grin and bear his use of Mac design examples, and I personally find Mac to have some of the weaker user interface. Still, it must work well enough to keep Apple in business.

GUI Bloopers 2.0: Common User Interface Don’ts and Do’s (Jeff Johnson)

Now, this is what I’m talking about. This is diametrically different from a text book, with his open, rapport writing style reminding me much of a good satirical columnist.
Johnson takes you through a wide array of examples of interface ideas that work, and why, as well as some total train wrecks that, mixed with his comedic writing style, makes for light but insightful reading.

Human-Computer Interface Design: Success Stories, Emerging Methods and Real-World Context (Marianne Rudisill, Clayton Lewis, Peter G. Polson)

This is basically an informal collection of case studies put together by consultants and professionals in the user interface and UX fields. This one’s a little more formal than the previous two titles, but still, it’s far from a text book. What I find useful about this is that it’s no nonsense real world examples of how to do user interface right, and it demonstrates why these rules work the way they do.

Learning is constructive when it has real world grounding, which these user interface books all have. They’re informal, and they’re engaging. If you want a design bible, the tomes I saw at the store are fine, but if you want to be educated from point A to point B, they’re the wrong path to take. There are many more, so if these are too informal for you, there are levels of formality between these and the text books I criticized earlier.

Here you will be able to find Graphical User Interface examples.