Some Favorite Books: User Interface Design


Here is a list of favorite books in the field of User Interface Design. It is derived from a bibliography which I give graduate students who take an advanced course in the subject. There are some books which I consider to be the best or pivotal in the field. But is not comprehensive and is by no means exhaustive.


Harry E. Blanchard, Ph.D.

Rumson, NJ -- June 14, 2004




D. A. Norman (2002). The Design of Everyday Things. Basic Books. ISBN: 0465067107. Originally published as The Psychology of Everyday Things in 1988 - Excellent book for understanding and absorbing the attitude of designing for users, a quick read; one of the most widely cited books in the field. Other Don Norman mass-appeal books (e.g. Things that Make Us Smart) cover pretty much the same ground, but are redundant.


Petroski, H. (1982). To Engineer is Human: The Role of Failure in Successful Design. St. Martin’s. Republished in facsimile by Barnes & Noble in 1994 as ISBN 1-56619-502-0 - A must read for any engineer of any stripe. (Note: no specific content concerning human factors.) Maybe you can find it in B&N’s bargain rack up front, if the original is not in the library.


D. Gentner and A. L. Stevens (Eds.) (1983). Mental Models. Englewood Cliffs: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. The applicability of the theory of mental models to device design cannot be understated - here's a pivotal early book which propelled interest in mental models in psychology.


A. Chapanis (1965). Man-Machine Engineering. Wadsworth Publishing Co., Inc. - A brief and authoritative survey of ‘knobs and dials’ human factors, a good book to read for background in HCI – if you lack classic HF background -- it gives you just enough in a brief and highly readable format. Unfortunately, it is somewhat dated (particularly the title) and out of print, however, copies can be found at libraries and on Otherwise, there is Sanders & McCormick ...


B. Laurel (Ed.) (1990). The Art of Human-Computer Interface Design.  Addison-Wesley. ISBN: 0201517973 - HCI design is more than just engineering and psychology.


J. Nielsen (1994). Usability Engineering. Morgan Kaufman. ISBN 0-12-518406-9 There are several books on design process, might as well cite Nielsen.


J. Nielsen (2000). Designing Web Usability. New Riders. ISBN 1-56205-810-X. A number of books on web design from a usability point of view are appearing gradually ... Jakob Nielsen's is the best so far.


D. A. Norman (1999). The Invisible Computer. MIT Press. ISBN: 0262640414. - The material about marketing and design is at least as good as the information appliance content.


S. Krug (2000). Don't Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability. New Riders. ISBN: 0789723107 - Short and readable, pithy practical advice, but, most of all, great title.


S. Draper & D. A. Norman (1986). User Centered System Design. Erlbaum ISBN: 0898598729 - Old moldy classic. The title gave name to a movement.


S. K. Card, T. P. Moran, and A. Newell (1983). The Psychology of Human-Computer Interaction. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum - Basic, classic, one of the original threads that really started HCI going, contains early GOMS material.


H. Petroski (2003). Small Things Considered: Why There Is No Perfect Design. Knopf. ISBN 1-4000-4050-7. - Everything Petroski writes is golden and reads like a novel. This book just came out very recently, and is a wonderful compliment to the content of his first book, cited above. Unlike the earlier book, here Petroski does discuss human factors. His several books between 1982 & 2003 are also highly recommended.  (Contrary reviews at


Cooper (1999). The Inmates Are Running the Asylum. ISBN: 0672316498 - Something of a diatribe by the author of Visual Basic, which argues that programmers have too much control over software design, an interesting read, but also perhaps not the whole story.


L. A. Suchman (1987). Plans and Situated Actions: The Problem of Human-Machine Communication. Cambridge ISBN: 0521337399. - An important idea, difficult reading


S. Casey (1993). Set Phasers on Stun. Aegean. ISBN 0-9636178-7-7. -- A favorite book of some colleages, but my major beef with it is that it both does not discuss solutions to problems and it often does not point the design problems, it's more of a set of accident stories with not enough analysis.


R. G. Bias & D. J. Mayhew (1994). Cost-Justifying Usability. Academic. ISBN: 0-12-095810-4. Something of great interest to those not in academics.


M. M. Gardiner & B. Christie (Eds.) (1987). Applying cognitive psychology to user-interface design. Wiley. - Out of print, promising title but only moderately successful.


J. Karat (Ed.) (1991). Taking Software Design Seriously: Practical Techniques for Human-Computer Interaction Design. Academic. ISBN: 0-12-397710-X - I like chapter 4 on design scenarios.


M. B. Rosson & J. M. Carroll (2002). Usability Engineering: Scenario-Based Development of Human-Computer Interaction. Morgan-Kaufmann ISBN: 1-55860-712-9. - A good choice of textbook book for advanced course on user interface design; although it emphasizes usability methods to the near exclusion of other topics. Good source for student learning about usability centered design methods.


D. K. Smith & R. C. Alexander (1999) Fumbling the Future: How Xerox Invented, Then Ignored, the First Personal Computer   ISBN: 1583482660 - You'll find something about the beginnings of contemporary computer user interfaces here, but I love the greater lesson of the book: innovation does not fare too well in big corporations, even in the wonderful environment of Xerox PARC, whose existence was modeled after the original Bell Labs.


D. J. Mayhew (1992) Principles and Guidelines in Software User Interface Design. Prentice-Hall. ISBN 0-13-721929-6.


B. Shneiderman (1998). Designing the User Interface. 3rd ed. Addison-Wesley.


K. Norman (1991). The Psychology of Menu Selection. Ablex. ISBN: 0-89391-553-X

- One of the best examples of research reviews focussed on practical advice for designers -- and almost everything is a menu, so it's highly relevant to everyone, too bad it's becoming dated. Available in its entirety at


Gardner-Bonneau, D. (Ed.) (1999). Human Factors and Voice Interactive Systems. Kluwer. ISBN: 0-7923-8467-9. The only theoretical and research-based book in this field.


B. Reeves & C. Nass (1996). The Media Equation: How People Treat Computers, Television, and New Media Like Real People and Places. Cambridge. ISBN: 1-57586-052-X. An early salvo in what will be / is a hot topic: anthropomorphism and computer user interfaces.


K. E. Finn, A. J. Sellen, & S. B. Wilbur (Eds.) (1997). Video-Mediated Communication. Erlbaum. ISBN: 0-8058-2288-7.