Designing with the Mind in Mind

Jeff Johnson

Published by

Morgan Kaufmann





Reviewed by

Nick de Voil MBCS


10 out of 10

Mind in MindThere are plenty of books about user interface design for the interested reader to choose from. The subtitle of this one, ‘Simple Guide to Understanding User Interface Design Rules’, hints at the author’s predilection for conveying insights in the form of a list of heuristics or rules of thumb.

Jeff Johnson is the writer who brought us two other excellent and very popular titles via the same publisher - GUI Bloopers and Web Bloopers, both of which are catalogues of anti-patterns in user interface design. The first chapter of GUI Bloopers contains a list of eight admirable principles of interface design, such as ‘focus on the users and their tasks, not the technology’.

The focus of this book is different. Rather than simply presenting another list of rules, it discusses the cognitive psychology research findings which underpin the principles identified previously by the author and others. In other words, this is a book about people, and what we know about them as users of interactive systems.

As anyone who has taken a course in human-computer interaction (HCI) will attest, cognitive science textbooks tend towards the drier end of the literary spectrum. The achievement of this book in making the material easily accessible is therefore nothing short of magnificent. It discusses the relevant scientific findings without any lack of scholarship, but always with an eye to how those findings can be put to practical use.

It is quite a short book - quite a feat in itself, given the complexity of the research on which it is based - and very well crafted. Each chapter encapsulates its main point in a concise title, such as ‘Our Vision is Optimized to See Structure’, summarises the relevant points succinctly with excellent use of illustrations, and concludes with specific advice on the design implications, again using pertinent illustrations.

Johnson identifies his primary and secondary audiences as software development professionals and their managers respectively. I would suggest that any software professional, whatever their job title, could benefit from reading this book. Doing so will not make undue demands on either their time or their wallet.

Further Information: Morgan Kaufmann

November 2010