Usability and interaction design are fields that are becoming more and more important for every design. Both fields consider the interactions between the user and a system; accordingly, it also applies to the interaction between users and web-sites. A product has more chances to be successful if it’s design makes emphasis on usability. Making a website easy to use and easy to understand has direct economical impact as, for example, it guides the users across the sites, helps user to successfully sign up for a service or to complete a checkout process.
We have selected excellent books about usability and interaction design, some provide the theory of user interface design, others have a number of precise examples of how the theory can be used in practice. All these books are prestigious, well-known and recommended by experts. They include the origins of user-friendly products, creation of personas, goal-directed design, information on how to conduct usability tests and much more.
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10 Usability and Interaction Design Books
1. About Face 3. The Essentials of Interaction Design by Alan Cooper, Robert Reimann and David Cronin
Alan Cooper is a professional designer, specialized on software design, and all his knowledge is represented in this book. He makes emphasis on Goal-Directed Design, meaning that goals, not features, are the key to the product success. This technique is based on the use of personas and scenarios to conduct user research. Goals are explained in three categories, experience goals, end goals and life goals. This master piece has mostly theory but it also includes very good examples.
2. Prioritizing Web Usability by Jakob Nielsen, Hoa Loranger
Jakob Nielsen, the maestro of Web usability, has been writing about usability since 1995. Nielsen and Loranger work at the Nielsen Norman Group. The book presents a good combination of theory and practical examples. It has clear, useful tips and well-documented “Dos & Don’ts”. As the title indicates, this book has been written considering the Usability from the practical point of view.
3. Designing the Obvious. A Common Sense Approach to Web Application Design by Robert Hoekman, Jr.
This is a small guide focused on web-site usability and web-based application usability. The entire book consists of precise concepts and examples. This heavily graphical and illustrated book could be a first introduction for web developers who are interested in this topic. Among covered subjects are building only whats necessary, preventing and handling errors, and designing for the activity. Supporting the user mental model is one of the most interesting concepts where the author proposes to consider designs from the user-centric point of view.
4. Don’t Make Me Think. A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability by Steve Krug
Don’t Make Me Think is already the must-read book when it comes to Web usability. It has a number of colorful and humorous examples, including nice cartoons that deliver the message and bring the important observation from real life in the foreground. This relatively small book has the necessary basics, being a recommended first usability read for web designers. Steve Krug does a great work explaining his Laws of Usability, for example to “get rid of half the words on each page, then get rid of half of what’s left”.
5. The Design of Sites. Patterns for Creating Winning Web Sites by Douglas Van Duyne, James Landay, Jason Hong.
The Design of Sites is a toolbox for every web-designer that wants to inspect and study usability and interaction design patterns. It is basically an excellent reference book with very good concise examples. The authors have divided the book in a collection of design patterns, giving clear hints and examples on how and when to use each of them.
6. The Design of Everyday Things by Donald A. Norman
Published many years ago, this book is already a usability legend. Norman writes about the importance of the user-centered design and how this concept can be applied to design of everything. Memorable chapters include “Design for Error”, “Simplify the Structure of Tasks” and “When All Else Fails, Standardize”. Donald Norman is one of the founders of the well known Nielsen Norman Group, pioneers in usability and user-centered design.
7. Designing Interfaces: Patterns for Effective Interaction Design by Jenifer Tidwell
Designing Interfaces delivers what a book from O’Reilly usually offers, good content and quality printing. This book has well-illustrated examples on web applications, desktop software and mobile devices organized according to user interface patterns, each containing practical advices. A kind of “read it from beginning to end”, this book provides solutions for each problem a user interface could have.
8. Designing for Interaction: Creating Smart Applications and Clever Devices by Dan Saffer
Designing for Interaction provides examples, patterns and guidelines for interaction design on the Web as well as suggestions for software applications and different electronic devices. Dan Saffer himself was working as a creative leader and interaction designer which is clearly illustrated in the way this book is written. Particular and unique are the short and clear real design case studies and the interviews with professional designers.
9. Designing Interactions by Bill Moggridge
This book describes the origins of interaction design. Every chapter introduces the creation and development of successfully designed products, for example the mouse, the Mac, The Sims and the iPod. Interviews include the founders of Google, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, and Doug Engelbart and Bill Atkinson, involved in the creation of the mouse and desktop. Designing Interactions comes with a DVD containing interviews worth watching.
10. Envisioning Information by Edward R. Tufte
Tufte’s books, and specially Envisioning Information, are the essential reads for every person trying to get a better understanding of usability and interaction design. In this book, the author explores different ways of visualizing data. The book has many colorful examples of good and bad data visualization with graphs, maps and charts. The book itself is beautifully printed and comfortable to read. Although it does not provide any examples on website design this book represents the basis of this science.
Alexis Brion is an interaction designer specialized in usability for the Web. He is the director of Design vs Art Design Agency and writes on usability, interaction and web design at the Design vs Art Blog.
There are few more books we’ve come across over the last years. The ones listed below turned out to be life-savers and provided useful insights into the field of user interface design. The bottleneck is, however, that some of them aren’t that easy to read and require both patience and some prior knowledge in the field of HCI.
11. Interaction Design: Beyond Human-Computer Interaction by Jenny Preece, Yvonne Rogers and Helen Shar
Interaction Design from the academic point of view. This book comprises 15 densely packed chapters that integrate all of the various cognitive, social, and other issues that are germane to interaction design. The book provides a comprehensive look at the entire set of requirements involved with design. The authors show that there is much more to systems design than end-user requirements and CGI scripts. Effective HCI is a multi-disciplinary area including psychology, sociology, anthropology, information systems, and computer science. Highly recommendable for more advanced and sophisticated insights into the area of interaction design.
12. The Humane Interface: New Directions for Designing Interactive Systems by Jef Raskin
“The book that explains why you really hate computers.” This book is sometimes quite hard to read and not that easy to understand as the author literally dives in into the cognitive nature of human beings. However the book is very appealing and thought-provoking. Falling somewhere between Norman’s The Psychology of Everyday Things and Shneiderman’s Designing the User Interface, Raskin’s book covers ergonomics as well as quantification, evaluation, and navigation. Raskin was the original creator of the Apple Macintosh project before Steve Jobs took over and has a background in technology and art, which gives him a unique perspective on usability.
13. Designing the User Interface: Strategies for Effective Human-Computer Interaction by Ben Shneiderman, Catherine Plaisant
This book, which is often considered as “the bible of UI”, provides a comprehensive introduction to the field of human-computer interaction. Struggling through sometimes rather complex choice of words, you learn practical principles and guidelines needed to develop high quality interface designs — ones that users can understand, predict, and control. It covers theoretical foundations, and design processes such as expert reviews and usability testing.
The book contains numerous examples of direct manipulation, menu selection, and form fill-in: chapters have examples from cell phones, consumer electronics, desktop displays, and Web interfaces.
14. Thoughtful Interaction Design: A Design Perspective on Information Technology by Jonas Löwgren, Erik Stolterman
The authors of Thoughtful Interaction Design go beyond the usual technical concerns of usability and usefulness to consider interaction design from a design perspective. The shaping of digital artifacts is a design process that influences the form and functions of workplaces, schools, communication, and culture; the successful interaction designer must use both ethical and aesthetic judgment to create designs that are appropriate to a given environment. This book is not a how-to manual, but a collection of tools for thought about interaction design.