Designing Interfaces (Book review)

With more and more applications that would have been pure desktop applications a few years ago moving to the Web, an increasing number of web designers and developers are becoming application designers or developers. That can be a real challenge since interaction design for a traditional "read-only" website is quite different from the much higher level of interactivity involved in a Web application.

Web professionals who find themselves in that situation will need to learn more about interaction design and GUI design in order to make the Web applications they build usable and not just pretty and/or functional. One way of learning more about those subjects is to read Jenifer Tidwell's excellent book Designing Interfaces.

Some books about usability or the design of user interfaces contain a lot of theoretical discussion and research. This book is different in that it is not as much about theory as it is about practical examples taken from real-world websites and applications, online and offline.

These examples, which make up most of the book, consist of design patterns, which are practical solutions to common interface design problems. This makes it Designing Interfaces work not just as a book to read from cover to cover, but also as a handy reference to turn to when you run into a certain problem.

The patterns are organised into different categories depending on their function. Some examples of the categories are content organisation, navigation, page layout, actions and commands, and forms.

Within each category, every pattern is described with at least one example in the form of a screenshot, and has advice on when, why, and how to use it. Any problems users might have interacting with that particular design pattern are also mentioned.

I find it very refreshing that a book that could have been completely focused on usability for the average user mentions accessibility issues repeatedly. Some of the patterns can easily lead to designers unfamiliar with accessibility creating something that is unusable for people with vision impairment, colour blindness or motor impairments, so it's great to see potential problems with the patterns mentioned along with ways of making them accessible.

I think this is a really great book for anyone who works with designing and/or developing websites, Web applications, desktop applications – just about anything that includes a graphical user interface.

Designing Interfaces
Author: Jenifer Tidwell
ISBN-10: 0596008031
ISBN-13: 978-0596008031

Posted on September 26, 2007 in Reviews, Usability