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Book Review

User Interface Design for Programmers
by Joel Spolsky

ISBN: 1893115941
Publisher: Apress
Pages: 159

Earlier this year I started to work on a project involving different user interfaces (previously my main occupations have been in the field of embedded software). The programming itself was never a problem, but I soon realized that developing a professional user interface requires a very different skill set than pure programming does. I decided to start developing these skills and to use this book as an introduction. And what an introduction it was!

I have come to expect very high quality writing from Joel Spolsky and this book is no exception. In his unmistakable way, Joel engages the reader in his discussions and provides many amusing anecdotes. The book contains a lot of screenshots of both good and disastrous designs. These serve as excellent illustrations of the points made in the text. I had some real aha experiences while reading. For example, Joel's comparison of mile-high menus on the Mac with the traditional small Windows menu is a brilliant example on the difference the details make.

With its 159 pages this book is by no means a complete reference on UI design. It's really more like an introduction collecting good practice and giving practical advices grouped under classic Joel-on-software-style headings like "People can't read" and "People can't control the mouse". It's an easy and entertaining read. For me, this book served its purpose perfectly by teaching the fundamentals and creating the motivation for further studies. The best thing is that you can determine if the book will work for you too as much of the material is available as an online book.

Reviewed November 2005

©2005 Adam Petersen