Resources for User Interface Design

February 10, 2009

A close friend asks,

Can you recommend/lend a good book on software UI design? Managing a

redesign of UI? Rolling out new UI to existing users?

The Little Computer Scientist answers,


I’ve got:

  • Paper Prototyping by Carolyn Snyder: About designing and evaluating UIs using paper
  • The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman: High-level design principles
  • Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug: Specifically about designing web interfaces. Very short.
  • Human-Computer Interaction (textbook) by Dix, Finlay, Abowd & Beale: Fairly deep. More stuff on Ubiquitous/CSCW/Groupware-type stuff than most people care about. But good stuff about doing ethnographic studies.

I don’t own, but strongly recommend:

  • User Interface Design for Programmers by Joel Spolsky: Takes a “bare minimum you need to know” approach targeted at programmers. Partially available online ( The full version is worthwhile.
  • The entire archives of by Jakob Nielsen. Free, and easily digested in small chunks. I’m subscribed to the newsletter and read new articles as they come along.
  • GUI Bloopers by Jeff Johnson: Learn by (often hilarious) counter-example. Super-readable.

Honestly, I just don’t think UI design work is that hard. Learn a few foundations like Hick’s Law and Fitt’s Law, learn a handful of heuristics like seeking consistency and simplicity. Then just prototype alternatives and test, test, test on real people.

On managing a redesign of a UI and rolling it out, I don’t have much. Jensen Harris managed the Microsoft Office 2007 redesign and rollout. He documented a lot of thinking and decisions at That’s as real an experience as it gets.

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