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Designing from Both Sides of the Screen: How Designers and Engineers Can Collaborate to Build Cooperative Technology Paperback – December 10, 2001


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Sams (December 10, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0672321513
  • ISBN-13: 978-0672321511
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 7 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #894,691 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Designing from Both Sides of the Screen: How Designers and Engineers Can Collaborate to Build Cooperative Technology is a must-have book for anyone developing user interfaces (UI). The authors define a seemingly simple goal, the Cooperative Principle for Technology: "[T]hose who are designing, building, or managing the development of technology should teach their products to follow the same basic rules of cooperation that people use with each other."

In the first section, they show lots of good and bad UI examples from different devices (PC, PDA, photocopier, even a dashboard). Bad examples include confusing pop-ups, crowded menus, and hilarious error messages like this one from Yahoo! Messenger: "You are not currently connected. Please click on Login and then Login to login again."

The book gives succinct design principles like, "Treat clicks as sacred." A violation of this would be those dreaded "Do you really mean it?" pop-ups. Using a butler as an analogy, they point out that he'd soon be out of a job if he questioned, "Madam, are you sure you want me to answer the door?" A design guideline says, "If you have an Undo feature, there is no need to break the users' flow to ask them whether they really want the program to do what they just asked it to do." Design guidelines like this appear in the margins throughout the book for easy reference and are gathered in a handy appendix.

The second section goes into detail on the creation of the authors' own project, Hubbub, a multidevice instant-messaging application. Whenever a step in the process reflects the application of a design principle, it's called out in purple in the text. Thus, the book itself is an example of a cooperative UI that helps readers keep ideas organized as they read along.

Even if you're not developing user interfaces, you'll enjoy this book. There are many moments of recognition when you see just how flawed your favorite, or most hated, everyday application/operating system/Web site is, and how easily it could have been improved. And you may even find the principles of Cooperative Technology informing nontechnological areas of your life. The authors make politeness and the anticipation of the needs of others seem logical, feasible, and elegant. --Angelynn Grant

From the Back Cover

Written from the perspectives of both a user interface designer and a software engineer, this book demonstrates rather than just describes how to build technology that cooperates with people. It begins with a set of interaction design principles that apply to a broad range of technology, illustrating with examples from the Web, desktop software, cell phones, PDAs, cameras, voice menus, interactive TV, and more. It goes on to show how these principles are applied in practice during the development process -- when the ideal design can conflict with other engineering goals.

The authors demonstrate how their team built a full-featured instant messenger application for the wireless Palm and PC. Through this realistic example, they describe the many subtle tradeoffs that arise between design and engineering goals. Through simulated conversations, they show how they came to understand each other's goals and constraints and found solutions that addressed both of their needs -- and ultimately the needs of users who just want their technology to work.


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Customer Reviews

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There are excellent examples all over the book, too.
G. Drapeau
It feels as if you joined their small development team and were privy to each obstacle they encountered in a highly iterative path.
calmly
The writing is casual, which made it amazingly easy to read.
Eric Berglund

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Jacky Kwok on April 16, 2002
Format: Paperback
First let me tell you this is an interaction design (or user interface design) book, since the title of the book doesn't do this job well.
This is one of the books that have great impact on me. I agree with the review written by Kevin Mullet (printed on the book's back cover) that the ideas presented in this book are a bit "dangerous". It is dangerous because they are not the common practice yet. If people want to follow these ideas, they need to have changes. Changes are always dangerous to many people.
Those "dangerous" ideas include:
- Build fewer features but build them well. (The current practice is to build as many features as possible so that marketers can list those features for promotion. Is a product easy to use? Everyone can claim that since there are no criteria for such a claim.)
- User interface design should drive the system architecture, not the other way around. (Modifying system architecture is always hard. If we want to support a certain interaction afterwards, the architecture will probably can't support cleanly, if at all.)
- Technology should be used for user needs, but not for technology's own sake. (Visual design should also be treated the same.)

Last but not least, this book shows that user interface design is actually science but not art. We don't need a graphic design degree to be an interaction designer.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Robert Lockstone on December 29, 2001
Format: Paperback
I have been a software engineer for over a decade. In all that time, one of my least favorite engineering activities has been GUI design and programming. Part of the problem for me has always been the disconnect between what the UI designer or customer envisions and what the programmer can realistically deliver. This book can help tremendously in bridging that gap.
It is written by a UI Designer and a Software Engineer, and takes into account both of their viewpoints. After an initial introductory section to the basic concepts of good UI design, which is very thorough, as any butler should be (read the book to understand), the authors then relate a real-world example in which they collaborated on the design and implementation of a real product. Along the way, they provide some excellent ideas and techniques for how to go about producing a user-friendly user interface that won't take 5 major releases to get right. The product, an Instant Messaging application called Hubbub, is real and can be downloaded for free and installed on any Windows machine or Palm OS handheld. Although not as mature as other IM's out there, it is eminently usable and has some nifty UI features that the current crop don't offer. But it's not necessary to be a Hubbub user to read the book. It's just a nice side benefit for those who would like to give it a whirl.
In keeping with their overall ideas about good UI design, the book is very well organized, easy to read, and has several nice "GUI" features itself. You can tell that the authors themselves probably had a hand in how the book was put together. It is not overly long (about 300 pages), so it doesn't take several weeks to read. Nor is it written in a typical "computer textbook" style.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By XiMiX on February 4, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book has many examples of good and bad web pages and also consumer products. What it covers is seemingly obvious, but apparently not realized by many. It shows how users and designers can work together for optimal result. It should be a required reading for anyone doing user-interface designs. It is good that they actually have a good free product, HUBBUB ... .that was created using this design philosophy.
I didn't give it a 5-star only because, to me, the section of their HUBBUB experience and the conclusion was too long and could have been made more concise. Also, it was disappointing to see their product not following their own design goals well enough, which seemed to make the book less effective.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Eric Berglund on January 24, 2002
Format: Paperback
I'm not an expert in either Interface Design or Programming Methodology, and I've only read a little bit in these areas. As I read this book, I found myself thinking: "You mean this approach isn't standard practice already?"
After reading Ellen and Alan's description of how a UI Designer and a Developer should interact with each other, it just seems so obvious that everyone should work this way. User needs should affect architecture, and technology constrains design--how hard can it be to understand that? But the implications--design and development are iterative, and ongoing user testing is critical to the iterative process--could change the way some people think about programming projects. (The old Specify, Design, Program, Test, Release process seems somewhat naive in retrospect.)
The book has a kind of fun and lively feel to it. It's clear that the authors were having fun telling their various stories, and were excited about illustrating their points. The writing is casual, which made it amazingly easy to read.
On the other hand, once the informal style sold me on the overall approach, I almost immediately wanted a more rigorous treatment. I'd have loved an Appendix that summarized the formats of the various documents, for instance, and perhaps one that reviews the process flow diagram used at the beginning of the later chapters. (As a former academic, I found myself wondering as well about the independence and completeness of the Design Guidelines, too, but that's my quirk. It's probably not an issue most readers would care about.)
I think this book could become one of those that inspires a sort of religious commitment to its vision, and that that would probably be a very good thing.
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