Designing the User Interface

Designing the User Interface, 5th Edition
Ben Shneiderman and Catherine Plaisant, Addison-Wesley, 2009

Ben Shneiderman of the University of Maryland’s HCIL (Human-Computer Interaction Lab) contacted me recently to say that he and co-author Catherine Plaisant have recently revised their excellent book Designing the User Interface. This new edition, due to be released this month, has now been updated to address today’s latest interface challenges with the following additions:

  • Expanded coverage of social media & social networking
  • Strategies for enhancing quality of user-generated content
  • Strengthened commitment to universal usability, sustainable design, and societal transformation
  • Contemporary challenges of spam, privacy, and security
  • Guidance for designers to reduce frustration and alienation
  • Increased awareness of internationalization and customization of consumer electronics

In chapter 1, the authors write:

Successful designers go beyond vague notions of “user friendliness,” doing more than simply making checklists of subjective guidelines. They have a thorough understanding of the diverse community of users and the tasks that must be accomplished. They study evidence-based guidelines and pursue the research literature when necessary. Great designers are deeply committed to serving the users, which strengthens their resolve when they face difficult choices, time pressures, and tight budgets.

If this description fits the kind of designer you aspire to be, this book is for you. According to the publisher, Designing the User Interface “provides a comprehensive introduction to the dynamic field of human-computer interaction (HCI). An expanded author team brings unparalleled industry and academic experience to this latest edition. Practical techniques, research-supported design guidelines, and a multitude of current examples and figures illustrate good design principles and practices, effectively guiding readers through their first HCI design projects.”

Everyone involved in the development of products and systems that require interaction between people and computers should approach their work with an understanding of user interface design. Even if you’re a programmer who writes code based on specifications that are written by others, you should still know how to develop a system that will really work for humans.

Here’s the table of contents:

Part I: Introduction

Chapter 1 Usability of Interactive Systems
Chapter 2 Guidelines, Principles, and Theories

Part II: Development Processes

Chapter 3 Managing Design Processes
Chapter 4 Evaluating Interface Designs

Part III: Interaction Styles

Chapter 5 Direct Manipulation and Virtual Environments
Chapter 6 Menu Selection, Form Fill-in, and Dialog Boxes
Chapter 7 Command and Natural Languages
Chapter 8 Interaction Devices
Chapter 9 Collaboration and Social Media Participation

Part IV: Design Issues

Chapter 10 Quality of Service
Chapter 11 Balancing Function and Fashion
Chapter 12 User Documentation and Online Help
Chapter 13 Information Search
Chapter 14 Information Visualization

Afterword: Societal and Individual Impact of User Interfaces

At a list price of $95 ($76 from, this book isn’t cheap, but its 672 pages of practical guidance makes it worth every penny.

3 Comments on “Designing the User Interface”

By Hadley Wickham. March 4th, 2009 at 8:21 am

Does anyone else find it ironic that the “user interface” of the book cover is not very pleasant? That’s one nasty hodgepodge of stock photography.

By Stephen Few. March 4th, 2009 at 8:55 am


I agree that the cover doesn’t represent the fine contents and principles of the book. It is quite possible that Addison-Wesley didn’t give Ben and Catherine any say in the matter. When I worked with O’Reilly Media to publish my book Information Dashboard Design, I worked long and hard to negotiate a contract that gave me the right of approval over all aspects of the book’s design, including the cover.

During the production process, I rejected all of the graphic design team’s proposed covers and ended up designing it myself with their assistance to polish it up a bit. I’ve seen too many examples of an author’s fine work undermined by a publisher’s short-sighted decisions, often made to cut costs, such as printing a book about information visualization in black and white rather that full color. To their credit, O’Reilly Media understood my concerns and was willing to allow a contract that supported them. Many publishers will not.

By Hadley Wickham. March 4th, 2009 at 11:45 am

This seems to be a really unfortunate trend in many of the academic books in this field. Another good example is “Readings in Information Visualization: Using Vision to Think (Interactive Technologies)” by Stuart K. Card, Jock Mackinlay and Ben Shneiderman. Great content, but horrendous presentation!
With the availability of cheap high-quality print on demand (e.g., it’s time for visualisation academics to fight for high quality full-colour books.