User Interface Design 101
February 22, 2011 5:01 PM   Subscribe

Calling all UI designers: What are your favorite books/resources? What is "required reading"? Where should I start?

I am now officially the User Interface Designer for a growing web company. The company already has a solid user base (1 million visits/month), so I don't have the luxury of learning and banging my shins without anyone noticing.

What should I start reading/doing right now in order to be successful? What are your favorite books/blogs/communities that will help me? Anything that I ABSOLUTELY should know or read before I start?

This is a dream opportunity for me. Help me not screw it up, mefi.
posted by eleyna to Computers & Internet (18 answers total) 75 users marked this as a favorite
Don't Make Me Think is a classic book.
posted by dfriedman at 5:20 PM on February 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

Designing Interfaces by Jenifer Tidwell is quite straightforward.

and of course the father of UI design, Jakob Nielsen:

But be warned, Nielsen eschews aesthetics for pure functionality.
posted by pakoothefakoo at 5:36 PM on February 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

A good blog to check out is UIE Brain Sparks; many of the articles are by Jared Spool, one of the bigwigs in the UI design field.
posted by Anima Mundi at 6:01 PM on February 22, 2011

UX Booth is a decent place to start, and they have a good list of recommendations. I found this list helpful too. (I was in a similar must-learn-about-interface-design-now situation not too long ago.)

A List Apart is a classic resource. Smashing Magazine is less consistent but still has good things in there.

Also I've found Safari Bookshelf invaluable for giving me access to lots of tech/design books without having to spend tons of money buying them--they have lots of the above listed books.
posted by firefleet at 6:05 PM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Congrats on the job. Pattern Tap is more of a gallery of elements, but it might be helpful.
posted by backwards guitar at 6:42 PM on February 22, 2011

I'm not a UI\UX person, but found The Design of Everyday Things to be a good read.
posted by sanko at 6:50 PM on February 22, 2011

The Yale guidelines are a functionally useful and classic place to start.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:05 PM on February 22, 2011

Seconding and thirding a lot of the resources mentioned already (particularly "Don't Make Me Think" and "The Elements of User Experience.")

I'm also fond of Webpages That Suck--it had a lot more fodder in the days where every site had Mystery Meat Navigation but there are some very valuable tips here.

One thing that may also help is know when something you're doing has worked. That's where an analytics guru like Avinash Kaushik can come in handy. As he would put it, learn to fail faster.

And personally, point one of the Cult of Done Manifesto is always good to internalize.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 8:17 PM on February 22, 2011

Jesse James Garrett's "Elements of User Experience"
Stewart Brand's "How Buildings Learn"
Scott McCloud's "Understanding Conics"
Edward Tufte's "Envisioning Information"
posted by anildash at 9:43 PM on February 22, 2011

Oh, and Boxes & Arrows, of course.
posted by anildash at 9:44 PM on February 22, 2011

Edward Tufte. Good UI should not end with the framing interface -- you also need to pay attention to how content is formatted. His books are a must-read if you deal regularly with charts, tables, graphs, and other displays of information. But there is also a lot of good information to be applied to typical web UI design.
posted by Wossname at 9:53 PM on February 22, 2011

Interface design encompasses a few different disciplines, so you'll want to get to know a bit from these different fields:

Interface design - I highly recommend Designing Interfaces by Jenifer Tidwell. It's an overview of all the common interface design patterns along with strengths and weaknesses of each - essentially your construction kit.

Information design - as mentioned, Tufte is your man. Envisioning Information is a useful book, and a beautiful one too. One for the coffee table as much as the office.

Usability - there are traditionally two gurus to turn to. Jakob Nielsen is deadly dull but there's a lot to learn about user behaviour from him and the science behind studying it. On the other hand, Donald Norman's The Design of Everyday Things is entertaining as well as being a classic. Alternatively you might prefer his more recent Emotional Design.

Information architecture - if you only read one book on IA, I guess it should still be Morville & Rosenfeld's Information Architecture for the World Wide Web (AKA "The Polar Bear Book") - it's getting on a bit now but still covers everything you need to know.

I'm a user experience architect myself, give me a shout by PM if you have any questions.
posted by iivix at 3:06 AM on February 23, 2011

Response by poster: These are great suggestions. So many to choose from--thank you so much!
posted by eleyna at 6:11 AM on February 23, 2011

Not a book, but a tool that you should know about, but you may already:
posted by allelopath at 9:01 AM on February 23, 2011

Some lists of resources you might find useful:
Society of Technical Communication - Usability SIG (check out their book recommendations)
Usability Processionals Association
The HCI bibliography

Web Accessibility is important, as are evaluation methods. There are also specific resources for different types of sites/services (such as education, health, e-commerce, etc.)
posted by neutralmojo at 9:59 AM on February 23, 2011

Books I'd add:

Sketching User Interfaces
About Face 3

Bonus advice:

Be a sponge. Keep learning. Keep exploring. It's easy to spot a designer who read a few books and got stuck in his ways.

If you can hold on to the attitude you have right now, even in ten years, it will serve you well. And you'll have more fun at work.
posted by jragon at 8:23 AM on February 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Designing Visual Interfaces: Communication Oriented Techniques

A lot of the books above are great if you're interaction / information architect, but if you're focusing on design I would read this and the Tildwell, which I haven't read but looks good.
posted by xammerboy at 3:20 PM on February 27, 2011

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