GUI Bloopers: Don'ts and Do's for Software Developers and Web Designers Paperback – Mar 31 2000
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In GUI Bloopers, consultant Jeff Johnson uses 550+ pages to illustrate common pitfalls in user interface design, the all-important iceberg tip that end users confuse with applications and that developers confuse with end users. Reporting on 82 incidents of bad design, Johnson manages to cover the essential point of his message: software designers should think of their user interfaces from the user's point of view. Not profound, but profoundly overlooked in most low-end to mid-range development efforts. His codification of GUI design in eight predictable principles will help GUI newbies realize that the customer must be pleased with the product. Of course, the customer doesn't always understand what he or she wants. Hence, GUI development is iterative. When the customer is not at hand, a surrogate will do, so usability testing is essential.
The bloopers include mistakes in window design, labeling consistency, visual/grammatical parallel construction, coherence of look and feel, and clarity. Most perceptively, Johnson observes that CPU speed in the development group hides many design mistakes. Moreover, context-scoping, already a subtle problem in software design, must be implemented in GUI design. Input error handling is the most psychologically sensitive of all GUI design characteristics. User error messages can easily be too vague or too specific, and diagnostic error messages should be user-manageable, if not actually user-interpretable.
Like the Hollywood outtakes that gave us the "blooper," the entertainment quotient here is measured in mistakes, not successes. Teaching by counter example rather than by example at an estimated ratio of three to one, Johnson panders to our invertebrate instinct to measure our own successes by someone else's failure. To his credit, he recognizes that user interfaces include pedestrian texts (like his) as well as graphical interfaces for computer applications. His self-referential style gives the book an egocentric slant, but he is both priest and practitioner: he submitted a draft to usability testers and reports the results in an appendix. One criticism was that there were too many negative examples. Hmmm.
Thanks to other tester comments, GUI Bloopers is a browsable book, allowing the few nuggets of wisdom to be located. For the most part, the book's value can be captured by reading the seven-page table of contents carefully. --Peter Leopold
From Library Journal
GUI stands for graphical user interface. Bloopers are incredibly dumb designs created over the past ten years such as error messages, unreadable fonts, hidden functionality, installation nightmares, back buttons that don't go back, and untimely feedback. Highlighting those and other (82 total) examples of bad design, Johnson, president and primary consultant at UI a Wizards Inc., believes software designers should design from the user's point of view. Readers will find his chapter on good design principles useful; recommended for university and large public libraries.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top Customer Reviews
Like most other readers, I was disappointed in the rather dry writing style (which the cover of the book suggests otherwise). It's bad not because it's dry, it's because this topic really *can* be written in more enjoyable style (and less lengthy).
The other bad thing is that this book can be used more efficiently if the illustration and its explanation were combined (with arrows and textbox to point out what's wrong).
I found that while I spent the past two days skimming through the text, in the process I marked each picture in the book so that later on I can use them as a list to check my own apps. I understand that the author might need to put in days/weeks/months to fix this "bug" but it'll save all of its readers' time and make this book worth more than $30 (that's what I value it, with the "bug" fixed, $40)
BTW, I found that it's not the UI mistake that's hard to correct. Rather, the problem in GUI development is social one.
If you tell your fellow programmers that something should be done this way and explain all the rational behind it (even he understands it afterwards), he'll still be rather reluctant to correct it because that implies he did it wrong in the first place (or he is not knowledgeable in UI design).
The point that the author raises is very valid, that programmers, in the average, are lousy designers and amateurs in preparing presentation and layout.
In summary this is definitely an educational book in UI design.Read more ›
Johnson gives us a widget-by-widget tour of labels, text fields, buttons, radio buttons, check boxes, and overall layout management. But he doesn't stop there. The notion of usability also extends into issues like consistency. Even more important is responsiveness, the chapter on which is worth the price of the book alone.
What makes this book so enjoyable is the multitude of case studies. These aren't meant to make you laugh out loud like Lucille-Ball-botching-her-line bloopers, but rather to get you to concentrate on the bigger picture of usability. The longer case studies of Johnson's experience as a consultant on a set-top-box design project and a game interface project are interesting if you're thinking about working with or becoming an interface design consultant yourself.
Another benefit of the book is that it takes you through common and common sensical design strategies starting from needs analysis to paper prototyping to early focus group testing and refinement. The references to deeper studies in many of these areas are plentiful.
This book is more focused on GUIs than books like Ben Schneiderman's _Designing the User Interface_, which is a useful, thoughtful survey, but reads like a Ph.D. thesis compared to _GUI Bloopers_.Read more ›
I am very disappointed by the poor design of the book. In particular, I completely agree with another reviewer that this book _itself_ is a GUI Blooper: there is practically no caption to all illustrations except "Figure X.Y" with a thumb-up or thumb-down icon to indicate whether the example UI is good or bad. True, the illustrations are all referenced in the rather _dense_ text; but if you look at the illustrations, it is not very instructive as they require you to read the text carefully to know why something is good or bad. (Did I say the text dense?) The author should have added a couple sentences to the captions to summerize his idea.
As for UI design books for programmers, I recommend reading User Interface Design for Programmers by Joel Spolsky first. Then read this one when you have extra time.
The introduction states explicitly that the book is not intending to discuss either UI examples that are the most flagrantly hilarious, or examples that are the worst. Rather, the book critiques UI examples that are some of the most common. The examples are good, and described in depth, with specific reasons given for their classification as mistakes. There are also suggestions in some cases for how the designers could have avoided the blooper.
As a visual designer working primarily on the Web, I found this book as a good place to start learning more about the basics of an analytical approach to User Interface design. Even though the book focusses mostly on stand-alone application design, the principles can still be applied to UI issues on the Web, certainly in Web design using forms or heavy information structure. Some examples are hard to apply to the Web, for instance, the bloopers dealing with application menubar design issues are not widely applicable to Web pages. However, this book provides a great overview of the philosophy and process of UI design.
The worst thing I can say about this book, is that it isn't any fun to read, despite the impression given by the title. Since I come from a less analytical perspective on the topic, it definitely takes some determination to read this, although it is written in a straightforward and accessible manner. The most annoying aspect of the writing is that Jeff Johnson has apparently developed some bitterness towards everyone who is not a UI professional, and he rants constantly about developers, designers, marketing, and management.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Overall I liked this book. It has many practical guidelines, that you can apply immediately. My only problem was there were many trivial bloopers and many bloopers which may not... Read morePublished on July 7 2004 by James B. Pogue
I read this book knowing really nothing about gui design. It is a very methodical book and was extremely helpful to me. Read morePublished on Nov. 21 2003 by Eric Ibsen
I've been a developer over the paste 13 years so I am, as one said, the main target for cryptichism (from the author's point of view) in this book. Read morePublished on May 26 2002 by Julio Nobre
This book is an essential read for anyone developing GUI applications. The style of writing and the huge number of examples is very well suited to the GUI software developer. Read morePublished on April 3 2002 by eoin
This book is well worth reading. It has hundreds of useful ideas.
For usability issues Steve Krugs "Don't make me think" I still consider the best. Read more
Since reading this, I've run across several UI bloopers on a project and was able to speak with authority about them. As the book predicts, the programmer resisted fixing them. Read morePublished on Jan. 9 2002 by Dan Keller
After completing only 2 GUI projects, I wish that I had read this book first. I would have saved hundreds of work hours. Read morePublished on Nov. 15 2001 by Clyde
I would recommend to read this book to all UI developers, especially to those who never did UI programming before (I mean who been assigned to do UI programming without previous UI... Read morePublished on July 23 2001 by Serge Shimanovsky
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