Understanding UI Design Guidelines (Book Review)

Book coverA review of
Designing with the Mind in Mind: Simple Guide to Understanding User Interface Design Guideline
by Jeff Johnson
Morgan Kauffman, 2nd edition

Have you ever needed to defend a design decision or been asked to explain why a design pattern does or does not work? If so, the second edition of Jeff Johnson’s book Designing with the Mind in Mind likely contains an explanation based on human psychology as well as relevant references.

This fourteen chapter book relates topics in psychology (such as perception), vision, attention, and memory to their corresponding human-computer interaction applications. For example, Chapter 6 “Reading is Unnatural,” addresses the role our visual system and pattern recognition play in reading. Johnson details the implications for interface design and how they relate to decisions about fonts, visual hierarchy, terminology, and the amount of text used on interfaces.

Armed with this chapter alone, a user experience professional could easily make the case for design choices such as increasing or decreasing text size or changing the style of text and background graphics.

In fact, a major strength of the book is that each chapter follows the same structure. Each describes an aspect of human psychology, relates it to human-computer interaction, and then details the associated design implications.

The references to existing user-interface design guidelines are another strength; a total of fourteen sources are listed in the “Introduction” and the “Appendix,” including the source as well as full guidelines for six of these sources. For those seeking to do follow-up research on guidelines, Designing with the Mind in Mind provides a great starting point.

In the Introduction, Johnson writes that the intended audience is

  1. software design and development professionals
  2. interaction design and human-computer interaction students, and
  3. software development managers.

In truth, this book would make a good everyday reference for any user experience professional. The clear writing style, comprehensive coverage of common design decisions, and the reference to human psychology that provide the theoretical support for these decisions make it a solid addition to your personal or professional library.

Campbell, K. (2014). Understanding UI Design Guidelines (Book Review). User Experience Magazine, ().
Retrieved from http://uxpamagazine.org/understanding-ui-design-guidelines/

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