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Usability and Interface Design Books


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.

Images are, as always, clickable and lead to the sites which have more information about the books.

10 Usability and Interaction Design Books Link

1. About Face 3. The Essentials of Interaction Design1 by Alan Cooper, Robert Reimann and David Cronin
ISBN: 978-0470084113

About Face 3. The Essentials of Interaction Design2

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 Usability3 by Jakob Nielsen, Hoa Loranger
ISBN: 978-0321350312

Prioritizing Web Usability4

Jakob Nielsen, the maestro of Web usability, has been writing5 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 Design6 by Robert Hoekman, Jr.
ISBN: 978-0321453457

Designing the Obvious. A Common Sense Approach to Web Application Design7

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 Usability8 by Steve Krug
ISBN: 978-0321344755

Don't Make Me Think. A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability9

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 Sites10 by Douglas Van Duyne, James Landay, Jason Hong.
ISBN: 978-0131345553

The Design of Sites. Patterns for Creating Winning Web Sites11

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 Things12 by Donald A. Norman
ISBN: 978-0465067107

The Design of Everyday Things13

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 Design14 by Jenifer Tidwell
ISBN: 978-0596008031

Designing Interfaces: Patterns for Effective Interaction Design15

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 Devices16 by Dan Saffer
ISBN: 978-0321432063

Designing for Interaction: Creating Smart Applications and Clever Devices17

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 Interactions18 by Bill Moggridge
ISBN: 978-0262134743

Designing Interactions19

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 Information20 by Edward R. Tufte
ISBN: 978-0961392116

Envisioning Information21

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 Brion22 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 Blog23.

Editor’s Pick Link

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 Interaction24 by Jenny Preece, Yvonne Rogers and Helen Shar
ISBN: 978-0471492788

Interaction Design: Beyond Human-Computer Interaction25

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 Systems26 by Jef Raskin
ISBN: 978-0201379372

The Humane Interface: New Directions for Designing Interactive Systems27

“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 Interaction28 by Ben Shneiderman, Catherine Plaisant
ISBN: 978-0321269782

Designing the User Interface: Strategies for Effective Human-Computer Interaction29

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 Technology30 by Jonas Löwgren, Erik Stolterman
ISBN: 78-0262122719

Interaction Design: Beyond Human-Computer Interaction31

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.

Footnotes Link

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  1. 1

    Wonderful collections!
    But do the lists above have any sort of sequences for us to follow alone?
    Thank you.

  2. 2

    This is a great list! I haven’t heard of “Thoughtful Interaction Design: A Design Perspective on Information Technology” before, and will definitely check that one out. We constantly refer to Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think as we refine our own approach to web development and design. Back in 2003, we even wrote a review of our own here. I also referred to it recently in a blog post about the dreaded “fold,” which you can read here. Krug’s latest update to the book added some needed expansion, and I look forward to a 2008/2009 version…

  3. 3

    great list, hope you do more book lists for diff. subjects like this in the future.

    can never stop learning!

  4. 4

    It’s good to have a quick reference to that kind of books. As usual you wrote a great and useful article!
    As viggy Q, I am confused – is this unsorted list of good books?

  5. 5

    Wow! Thank you so much for putting together such a comprehensive list of recommendations. I look forward to checking-out some of these books.

  6. 6

    Great list! There are a few of these that appear to just be good to have while others look like they’ come in handy while writing my dissertation!

  7. 7

    Thanks. Some interesting reading there.

    Jakob Nielsen sure does have a lot of practical advice – just dont forget to take some of it with a pinch of salt!

  8. 8

    Thank you for the list.

    Bill Buxton’s “Sketching User Experiences” is on the top of my list as one of the most important interaction design books of today. This the 1st book in a long time that I was able to read (all the way through) and extract great nuggets for the strategy and practice of design.

  9. 9

    Assual great collection ! would like to see a list of e-books aswell….
    like to try “Envisioning Information”

  10. 10

    i have at least 4 of those books

  11. 12

    I have never thought such books exist. I usually outsource my design. I should get one and read. Thanks for sharing the list with us.

  12. 13

    @ Viggy and others: thanks for the comments. I guess this is an unsorted list, although you might notice that some have more theory than others that contain more practical examples. It’s your choice :)

  13. 14

    oh, thanks mates….. now i’ll be reading for the next decade….

  14. 15

    Vitaly Friedman & Sven Lennartz

    January 24, 2008 2:30 pm

    Just for clarification: this list is indeed unordered.

  15. 16

    Note that at present the link for #13 (Shneiderman’s book) is using the URL for #1 (Cooper)

  16. 17

    I’ve read “Don’t make me think” and loved it. It’s a nice short book that has some very good perceptions of how people use the web. Some of the stuff seems obvious while reading, but at the same time I found myself realizing that I’ve ignored the obvious on occasion in order to make a site the way I wanted to, disregarding the view. BAD IDEA! So I definately recommend that book.

    Can’t wait to check out some of the others.


  17. 18

    You guys always creep me out by posting articles that match what I’m currently researching… :P

    another great one!

  18. 19

    I correct two ISBNs:

    13. Designing the User Interface: Strategies for Effective Human-Computer Interaction by Ben Shneiderman, Catherine Plaisant
    The ISBN in Amazon: 978-0321197863


    14. Thoughtful Interaction Design: A Design Perspective on Information Technology by Jonas Löwgren, Erik Stolterman
    The ISBN in Amazon: 978-0262622097

    Great compilation! Thanks!!!

  19. 20

    Digital Revolutions

    January 24, 2008 9:14 pm

    Nice list of some pretty darn good books. Thanks!

  20. 21

    Thanks for this. I was looking for such books in market and you solved my problem.

  21. 22

    great post!

  22. 23

    I read the book “The Design of Everyday Things by Donald A. Norman” when I was in highschool…it was one of the books we had to buy back then. While it doesn’t really focus on webdesign or interface design, it gives you some clear understanding of … well , like the title says… everyday things.

    Nice list there, I’ll be sure to read some of the other books mentioned here!

  23. 24

    Great list guys, keep up the good work. While most of the books are available here at the office, i certainly did not read all of them.


  24. 25

    wow, great article, I found an interesting comment that disagrees with it in a way,

  25. 26

    @mTp – Thanks for the Bill Buxton link.
    But how can someone write abook about “Sketching User Experiences” and then use MS Word to create a web site to promote this? The site looks crappy in Firefox and Safari on Mac OS, only IE renders well. But IE then again refuses to show the link to Amazon correctly… a good example of a bad example.

  26. 27

    Good List, but sometimes there is too less time for so many good books…

    Some of my Favorites:

    It is german, old and hard to read, but I like it:
    Michael Herczeg: Software-Ergonomie. Grundlagen der Mensch-Computer-Kommunikation, Bonn: Addison-Wesley, 1994, ISBN 3-89319-615-3

    Something to get the basics of usability:
    Cognitive Psychology a student handbook
    Michael W. Eysenck and Mark T. Keane:
    2005 Psychology Press, ISBN: 978-1-84169-359-0

  27. 28

    what is “books”?

  28. 29

    “Optimization takes place in the mind, not on the page.”

    “I am trying to use elements on the page to influence the visitors sequence of thought.”

    “Intuition is not enough. It is not a substitute for testing. Intuition is a valuable aid in the testing process. It allows you to test valid treatments. Learning to develop the treatment to test however, is a bit of art.”
    Dr. Flynt McLaughlin is a genius.
    This guy takes you a step back and looks at the bigger picture. You should def check him out.

  29. 30

    Robert Hoekman, Jr.

    January 25, 2008 9:38 am

    It’s an honor to have Designing the Obvious included in such a great list of books. Thanks very much for the support!

  30. 31

    Great list!

    I have read many of these and agree that #4 Don’t Make Me Think is a must read for beginners and veterans alike.


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