Designing Interfaces
Patterns for Effective Interaction Design
Publisher: O'Reilly Media
Final Release Date: November 2005
Pages: 352

Designing a good interface isn't easy. Users demand software that is well-behaved, good-looking, and easy to use. Your clients or managers demand originality and a short time to market. Your UI technology -- web applications, desktop software, even mobile devices -- may give you the tools you need, but little guidance on how to use them well.

UI designers over the years have refined the art of interface design, evolving many best practices and reusable ideas. If you learn these, and understand why the best user interfaces work so well, you too can design engaging and usable interfaces with less guesswork and more confidence.

Designing Interfaces captures those best practices as design patterns -- solutions to common design problems, tailored to the situation at hand. Each pattern contains practical advice that you can put to use immediately, plus a variety of examples illustrated in full color. You'll get recommendations, design alternatives, and warningson when not to use them.

Each chapter's introduction describes key design concepts that are often misunderstood, such as affordances, visual hierarchy, navigational distance, and the use of color. These give you a deeper understanding of why the patterns work, and how to apply them with more insight.

A book can't design an interface for you -- no foolproof design process is given here -- but Designing Interfaces does give you concrete ideas that you can mix and recombine as you see fit. Experienced designers can use it as a sourcebook of ideas. Novice designers will find a roadmap to the world of interface and interaction design, with enough guidance to start using these patterns immediately.

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oreillyDesigning Interfaces

(based on 6 reviews)

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(1 of 1 customers found this review helpful)


Look for the 2nd ed. released Dec 2010

By Tony the TechCom

from Vancouver

Verified Reviewer

Comments about oreilly Designing Interfaces:

Look for the second edition of this well-researched book here:


Great Disappointment

By Humanist Nerd

from Barcelona, Spain

About Me Content worker

Verified Reviewer


  • Accurate
  • Concise
  • Easy to understand


  • Outdated
  • Too basic

Best Uses

  • Novice

Comments about oreilly Designing Interfaces:

This is perhaps the first time I feel like asking a book publisher for a refund. It's a real disappointment, especially from O'Reilly. The author goes to some pains to say the book is not for beginners, then goes on to explain the most basic ideas about UI and patterns. She seems unsure of what she really wants to do with this book.

Also, I would have expected a book copyrighted in 2009 to be updated at least with patters for multitouch (Apple products) and fewer examples of green monochrome Palm OS screens.

Of course, principles remain the same, but I don't see a lot of discussion of tactile interfaces, nor of modern patterns that favour direct data manipulation.

The author's approach to patterns is interesting, but in itself is not sufficient to excite my interest or attention.

(1 of 1 customers found this review helpful)


Great interface component reference

By Anonymous

from Undisclosed

Comments about oreilly Designing Interfaces:

For many years now, I have been coding web sites and applications. Through all that time, nothing has ever been as tough for me as coming up with a design that I am truly happy with. Attempting to create an optimized and stable algorithm or coming up with the answer to a problem that requires non-conventional coding practices; these are always challenges, but ones that are most often eventually solved. Creating that mythical eye catching never-been-done-before layout is something that I have attempted and, sadly to say, usually fell short on. I suppose you'd consider this a case of a programmer wanting an application to not look like a programmer designed it. This was my reason for picking up the Designing Interfaces book.

The first chapter talks about how users think. However, as I finished the chapter introduction, I realized that the author and I are definitely coming from two very different places. In my experience, I get very little hands-on with the user base, or the client that the application is being built for. Even if I do talk to the client directly, instead of going through the levels of proper channels, they usually have a set design in mind, limiting my choices. That's not to say, however, that a good designer couldn't be creative given these design constraints. On the other hand, the author mentions that building a user profile is something that eats up a lot of time though it is always worth it, and while I agree whole-heartedly, sometimes a deadline approaches too quickly or it's just not in the budget to give this the time it truly needs. Past this quibble and reading on, the patterns of human behavior in the first chapter give an almost checklist of things to keep in mind when designing, and even though you read and probably think, "common sense", it is very helpful to have in one place.

As the chapters passed one by one, I found the same patterns in my reading emerge. Read the introduction to the chapters the first time you pick up the book to get an idea behind why that particular chapter is important, or, at the very least, for posterity. After that, just skip to the section in each chapter marked as "Patterns" when you need them. These patterns are where the book really shines. Each of the patterns are laid out in a similar way letting you quickly see what it is, when you would use it, why it is used (as in why it is beneficial to your user), how you create the pattern, and then some examples of its use. Considering that there are nine chapters, each with about ten different patterns, this book contains a wealth of information.

I was originally hoping for more of a design lesson; color theory, placement with a hint of golden ratios, maybe a small college art class packed into 331 pages. Though I did not get much of that, at least until the last chapter or two, I definitely found an excellent reference to keep by my side. For example, if I'm building a layout, I'll open the book right up to chapter 4 to see what the common options are; for showing hierarchical data, I'm opening up to chapter 6 to see when and for what reason I might want to go with a tree map over a normal tree. I couldn't recommend it more to someone wanting a helpful component pocket guide of sorts for interfaces, but if you are looking for theory, I'd go with something more geared in that direction.

(1 of 3 customers found this review helpful)


Web designers should read this too

By cicerone

from Undisclosed

Comments about oreilly Designing Interfaces:

From the title, you might think this is geared at software GUI designers and to a certain extent, it is (it's about a 50/50 split between desktop and Web examples). However, this is a false dichotomy because in a nutshell, what is Web design? It's a (branded) software interface for Web content.

This book will teach you interface design patterns that are very relevant for the Web and as the Web becomes an application platform in of itself, it's even more imperative to have a grasp of these idioms beyond "Home" and "About Us"

(1 of 1 customers found this review helpful)


Just Excellent

By Steve Stanicki

from Undisclosed

Comments about oreilly Designing Interfaces:

Designing Interfaces: Patterns for Effective Interaction Design by

Jenifer Tidwell.

I have taken a more than a couple programming language classes during

my IT career,

and not until discovering this book did I realize that something was

missing from

them: Interface Design. It usually got about two sentences per

semester, and it

was usually something like "make sure your prompts and input controls

line up".

This book is a remedy for those who want to develop professional

looking applications,

but need help organizing the information and user controls on a screen.

The format

reminds me of a college textbook: many color illustrations, diagrams,

and bullet points.

It uses examples (screenshots) of how well known applications organize

and present data

for the user. These include dialog boxes for desktop applications, menu

items for hand

held devices, and web applications using real life examples. The

examples shown are from

familiar applications and web sites to include but not limited include

Excel, Photoshop,

blogs, and many many more.

The first chapter deals with getting to know what your users expect (a

bit of analysis).

Chapter 2 discusses dividing up the information to be presented. After

that the book is

divided into Navigation, Page Layout, User Actions and Commands,

Showing Complex Data,

Form Design, as well as Builders and Editors (Word, Paintshop etc...).

The last chapter

covers style and aesthetics: typography, color, imgages, and even the

use of angles and


The real strength of this book is that the design solutions are

organized by What to use,

When to Use It, Why you would use it, and How to use it. These ideas

are reinforced with

screen shots of well known commercial applications

I have to give this book 5 of 5 stars for these reasons.

1. Clarity - the author follows her own advice in format, organization

and content.

If you don't know what a Closeable panel is, look on page 111,

there's a picture.

2. The what's, why's, when's, and how's of each type of design idiom

for user interfaces.

It's to the point.

3. Tons of real world examples in graphic representation.

4. Covers a broad scope, but provides ample details for each subject.

5. Interfaces such as maps, graphs, charts, user input, and page

navigation are included.

There's something for everyone.

6. Applies to both desktop and web applications. (I see plenty of web

design books,

but little or nothing on the subject of interfaces in general).


excellent pattern catalog

By Jeanne Boyarsky

from Undisclosed

Comments about oreilly Designing Interfaces:

"Designing Interfaces" does for UIs what the Gang of Four did for code. Each chapter starts with a detailed overview of a UI topic with examples of good and bad design. The bulk of the chapter goes into many idioms/patterns that apply to that part of UI design. For example, form design, data presentation and editors are covered in chapter form. There is even a chapter on the emotional effect of pages. The emphasis on user interaction and not just design, distinguishes this book from others.

While there are many books on website design, this one also covers desktop and mobile interfaces. Many principles are the same and differences are highlighted. The author culls some ideas from the website design and usability classics; always making a reference. Other ideas are standards and yet more are original.

The main point of the book is to create a catalog and common language for discussing interface design. At this, the author succeeds fabulously. Each idiom or pattern is given a distinctive name, described with the what/when/why/how and provides examples. Just like Gang of Four, the patterns are appropriately cross referenced. This book is both a great read and a great reference. If you design or make GUI recommendations, you should buy it today!

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