Best UI Books You Must Read

I’ve been getting a lot of requests lately to talk about more books, especially UI books, which I touched on partially once before. It brings joy to my heart to see people so interested once more in literature as a solid and viable source of learning and research in an age of Wikipedia articles being mislabeled as inclusive.

So, UI books are evidently a hot topic among UX people, and you know what? I’m not surprised. UI sounds like a down to earth science or art, depending on your perspective, but there are a lot of subtle nuances to it. Add to this the fact that from one demographic and purpose to another, conventions change drastically, and of course there’s multiple platforms each a world of their own as well.

On top of all this, there are two groups of people who approach UI during development – programmers and designers. Sometimes these are the same people, but in a big project, they often are not. So, it’s hard to find a definitive guide to UI that’s inclusive of all roles and all demographics/purposes. This means that yeah, you need to do some reading. Add to this the fact that, as a programmer, you should understand it from the designer’s perspective and vice versa, so your teams can work together solidly. That said, I’d like to recommend three books to both design and programming teams that I think will make the process run more smoothly for all involved.

#1 – User Interface Design for Programmers (Joel Spolsky)
This is a book that seems to address the issue I spent a minute talking about oddly enough. While it talks about design from a programming perspective (which will help a design person see how a programmer approaches UI), it also helps programmers have more of a sense of composition in their approach to design as well. This is a paperback book, so it’s not one of the “definitive” tomes that you see on the shelves in an IT office, and really, you won’t see me recommending those for anything but reference anyhow. Spolsky’s writing is very fluid, unassuming and clear, and I think both sides of the UI debate can gain some common ground – and inspiration – from this work.

#2 – Designing with the Mind in Mind (Jeff Johnson)

Aside from the author’s name being very fun to say repeatedly, this actually brings quite a bit of wisdom for both sides to benefit from. Johnson has a very keep sense of sociology as well as aesthetics and demographics from a design approach. This is an important factor in UI, or any aspect of UX from either side of the fence, so everyone can stand to benefit from continued enlightenment about this. Johnson’s a good writer, and very professional. He has a way about his words that just … commands experience and attentiveness without being imposing. 

#3 – Designing Interfaces (Jenifer Tidwell)

This is the grassroots book of the list, as I always feel the need to include something down to earth and basic. Tidwell talks about the most standard and reaching tenets of interface design, independent of programmer or designer perspective. Through this, not only can you learn a massive amount about UI design in itself, but both the programmers and designers can find a lot of common ground and realize just how many goals they strongly share. UI books are a dime a dozen, but these are the must-reads I’d name in a pinch.