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Mike Riley

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Designing Interfaces, Second Edition Book Review

January 19, 2011

Any developer who has written a GUI-based application knows the challenges of turning a functional interface into elegant one. Some may admit defeat by hiding behind the "left brain" argument, but a determined developer knows that they have to learn all aspects of design, not just the writing code. Designing Interfaces is written for that audience. Does its well meaning intentions succeed? Read on to find out.The book is organized into 11 chapters, beginning with "What Users Do" which talks about "common behavior and usage patterns supported by good interfaces." Chapters 2 through 4 on Organizing the Content, Getting Around and Organizing the Page delve into different organizational (ex: employing the use of 'wizards'), navigational models (ex: hub and spoke, stepwise, pyramid, etc.) and page layout (ex: proximity, similarity, continuity and closure Gestalt principles, etc.) patterns. Chapters 5 and 6 cover twelve list patterns and eleven action verb/command patterns. Chapters 7 and 8 recommend ways to display complex data (tables, charts, info-graphics, etc.) and user input patterns. New chapters on social media and mobile application design patterns are followed by a final chapter on putting the look-and-feel polish on an established user interface. Patterns presented throughout the book follow a What, Use when, Why, How, Examples and In other libraries format that make referencing them much easier.

Having reviewed the Ebook edition (I rarely read print-based materials anymore), the first welcome sight for an O'Reilly electronic title is its full color illustrations throughout the book. And many of the example screenshots, web pages and info-graphics selected by the author help stress a pattern are just incredible looking. Seeing such imagery without color would be like watching the Beatles Magical Mystery Tour on Boxing Day circa 1967. Obviously this was a requirement for a book on design, but it's an enhancement that I hope all future O'Reilly Ebook titles will practice from now on.

For those fortunate to have previously read the first edition, a number of additions and changes have been made in this release. Along with the aforementioned new chapters on social media and mobile design that update the book for the beginning of this decade, a number of chapters have been reorganized with new/renamed/removed patterns. For those who haven't read the first edition, these second edition alterations are transparent. I never felt the flow and coverage of relevant information presented in the new edition was interrupted as a result of such modifications.

Because the author relies so heavily on design patterns, most developers should feel at home reading the book; just as a code pattern can be applied in a certain architecture, so too can visual design patterns. I also discovered after reading the book how easy it was to spot some of the more prevalent design patterns resident in other web and mobile applications. This knowledge also will make it easier to classify and discuss user interface design ideas with others. I can also attest that after reading the book, I gained a much deeper appreciation for the amount of hard work that talented user interface designers infuse into their craft. Such principles and patterns will unquestionably be put to good use in future attempts at better UI's for the applications I write.

Title: Designing Interfaces: Patterns for Effective Interaction Design (2nd Edition) Author: Jenifer Tidwell Publisher: O'Reilly Media ISBN: 978-1-4493-7970-4 Pages: 576 Price: $39.99 (Ebook), $49.99 (Print)

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