This article was originally published in the August
2009 issue (Vol 14, No. 3)
About the Author
Bob Strohmeyer has more than 10 years of experience in technical writing, web content development,
and website usability. Through his current employer, he has recently moved into structured authoring using
DITA and Arbortext. Bob has been an STC member for the last 4 1/2 years and belongs to three SIGs. Areas
of interest include knowledge management and enterprise collaboration technologies.
STC UUX Community Newsletter
Review of Designing the User Interface: Strategies for Effective Human-Computer Interaction (5th Edition)
By Bob Strohmeyer
Ben Shneiderman & Catherine Plaisant. 2009. Addison Wesley.
$88.35 USD (hardcover).]
When I began reading "Designing the User Interface"
by Ben Schneiderman and Catherine Plaisant, I expected that they
would provide the elusive How… questions that plague so
many budding user interface designers. How do I figure
out what the users want? How do I resolve the conflicts
that arise between what users want and what they really need? How
do I formulate designs, work with developers, perform user testing,
and on, and on.
That, however, is not what I found. In many respects, what I did
find was even better. What this book provides is the foundation
for the incredibly broad spectrum of User Interface Design. It focuses
more on the what and the why, using a rich collection
of insights, observations, experiences, and advice. All of this
is backed up by research in all matters of user analysis and interface
design. Each chapter contains references to this research, as well
as references to the most complete list of User Interface Design
knowledge I have ever seen. In a nutshell, while the book does not
provide the How…, it will point you to it.
This is obviously a textbook intended to provide beginning designers
with a basis on which to learn, explore, and discover their niche
in the interface design world. While it's true that many experienced
designers will not be able to get past the "duh" factor,
I believe they could find a great deal of value in it as well, as
it provides the why that most business and IT executives
don't understand. Anyone who has tried to explain to management
why they need to spend extra money and extend their project scope
to accommodate user analysis and testing knows what I mean. In essence,
within its pages, designers can find the business case for the analysis,
design, and testing activities that can be so difficult to get across
to those whose only concerns are budgets and schedules.
That said, don't expect to walk away from this book knowing all
there is to know about interface design. This is a huge topic that
reaches into a wide array of social, psychological, and technical
disciplines. However, the book does provide the necessary references
to delve deeper into your particular areas of interest. Be prepared
for study into psychology, anthropology, sociology, and just about
any other -ology you can think of, because they all are
involved in the study of users.
One of the areas that the book expands upon in the fifth edition is the discussion of collaboration
and social media. Honestly, I was rather disappointed with this as I found it to be little more than
an explanation of what blogs, wikis, and such are, rather than a detailed look at the special considerations
these environments bring to designers. I would like to see this section expanded further in future editions.
Overall, I do like this book. I'm certain that it will serve me well as a valuable reference that I
can add to my other user analysis and interface design tools. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go
brush up on my sociobiology!