Chris McLay.

Interaction designer and user experience consultant.

Posts Tagged ‘books’

More recent reading…

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2005

The following four books – Apple Human Interface Guidelines, The Art of Human Computer Interface Design, Design Research, The Origins of Creativity – have also provided interesting reading over recent months, though perhaps not as through provoking as others read recently…


Designing the User Interface, Ben Schneiderman & Catherine Plaisant

Sunday, May 1st, 2005

designingtheuserinterface-coversmallShneiderman, Ben., and Catherine Plaisant. Designing the User Interface, Fourth Edition: Strategies for Effective Human Computer Interaction, Boston: Pearson Addison Wesley, 2005

When I first picked up this book, I had the feeling I was onto a good thing. It’s a brand new 2005 fourth edition (over 19 years), it’s heavy with a well-packed 650 pages, all printed in full colour, and flicking through the book, it is obvious the authors have applied the subject matter of the book to it’s design and layout.

I have to admit at this stage that I have not tried to read the entire book, that said I have read several sections and it does appear to deliver everything my initial anticipation suggested. The book is well structured and aimed at practitioners, researchers and students in the field. It covers a broad range of subject matter, from basic theories and guidelines, through design processes, interface evaluations, detailed discussions and examples of various interaction styles, and specific design issues. Each section provides substantial further reading guides, and solid summaries of the content covered.

Overall this book is a combination text and working reference. It is comprehensive, well balanced and up to date. Every student, researcher or worker involved in the production and development of software or hardware that interacts with users should have a copy and be familiar with this book.


The Humane Interface, Jef Raskin

Saturday, April 30th, 2005

thehumaneinterface-coversmaRaskin, Jef. The Humane Interface: new directions for designing interactive systems. Stoughton: Addison Wesley, 2000

By many, Jef Raskin, is believed to be the creator or inventor of the Macintosh computer, and while he did father the project inside Apple, he left a long time prior to it’s eventual release and has been a heavy critic and opponent of Apple and their products ever since. It seems to be one of the longest love-hate relationships in the industry, and it comes across as very personal. Even in this text, which was written at least 15 years later, Jef shows a strong personal antagonism towards Apple and it’s products.

It is this constant personal critique, which is almost whinging in places, which in my mind really lets this book down. Especially when the few positive critiques are almost exclusively for Jef’s other products such as the Cannon Cat. I don’t really have an issue with the use of projects which Jef has been involved in, but there is little or no distance shown in this book and this makes many of the ideas and concepts presented difficult to take seriously.

If you can get past this then the book has some excellent coverage of the issues facing computer users, and the designers of such systems. I feel this is where the book is most valuable. The solutions and interfaces presented by Jef to get around these issues, feel clunky and too focused on avoiding one or two key issues raised. I’m not convinced they are always significantly better than some existing solutions, but they certainly make interesting reading and are cause for considerable thought.


Leonardo’s Laptop, Ben Shneiderman

Monday, April 25th, 2005

Leonardo’s LaptopShneiderman, Ben. Leonardo’s Laptop: Human Needs and the New Computing Technologies, Cambridge: MIT Press, 2002

“The old computing is about what computers could do; the new computing is about what users can do.” (p. 2) So opens Ben Shneiderman’s book on the future possibilities for human computer interaction. Leonardo’s Laptop is a cast into the not to distant future to inspire both users and developers to improve the functionality of our computer systems and bring them more into line with what users are actually seeking to do in their lives.

When I started reading this book I was looking for a much stronger level of practice from the book, especially as it is loosely based around the works and practices of Leonardo da Vinci. However I found the book much more philosophical and inspirational in it’s overall tone. Where the book does venture into practice I didn’t find the leaps and bounds I expected, but did find solid well considered examples of how computers could (and probably already should) operate with us in our every day lives. As the first book I read in starting this unit I think this was actually a very good thing, as it refreshed my existing knowledge of the area, and opened up my mind to different ways of thinking and different perspectives without getting bogged down in practical theory and whether or not I thought the theory could be applied directly today.


The Fractal Universe, Benoit Mandelbrot

Tuesday, April 5th, 2005

Mandelbrot B., The Fractal Universe , from The Origins of Creativity , ed. Pfenninger K. & Shubik V., pp. 191-212, Oxford University Press, 2001

Mandelbrot starts his article with a quick outline of his education which, for a variety of small accidents, was highly visual in nature. He goes on to explain that during his “killer” entrance exams he was unable to answer many questions involving language and symbolic manipulation, but easily solved some of the hardest questions, “which no human can find algebraically in three hours under exam conditions,” by reasoning directly from the visual and sensory images that came to mind as he was posed the questions.

He goes on to discuss the shift of mathematical language from one of shapes and illustrations to one of written languages and formulas. One French high school mathematics text argued that “the artistic and sensual character of pictures would delude the reader,” so the text contains no illustrations at all.