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User Interface Design for Programmers Paperback – January 23, 2006

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Editorial Reviews


From the reviews:

"He picks apart commercial products from big companies, showing their UI mistakes. I love that."
Dr. Dobb's Journal

"The author of a popular independent website gives you a book about what programmers need to know about user interface design. Spolsky concentrates especially on the common mistakes that too many programs exhibit. Most programmers dislike user interface programming, but this book makes it easy, straightforward, and fun. It is written with an audience of programmers in mind, but does not assume any prior programming knowledge nor any specific programming language." (, April, 2001)

"This book offers many useful pointers on designing user interfaces which even experienced programmers should need. The 18 chapters cover topics ranging from effective use of colour to metaphors and usability testing. Underlined throughout is the most fundamental principle that ‘a user interface is well designed when the program behaves how the user thought it would’. The style is informal, humorous and anecdotal. There are numerous examples of design at its worst, each with an explanation of why the design is poor." (Richard Avery, The Computer Bulletin, March, 2002)

About the Author

Joel Spolsky is a globally recognized expert on the software development process. His web site Joel on Software ( is popular with software developers around the world and has been translated into over 30 languages. As the founder of Fog Creek Software in New York City, he created FogBugz, a popular project management system for software teams. Joel has worked at Microsoft, where he designed Visual Basic for Applications as a member of the Excel team, and at Juno Online Services, developing an Internet client used by millions. He has written two books: User Interface Design for Programmers (Apress, 2001) and Joel on Software (Apress, 2004). Joel holds a bachelor's of science degree in computer science from Yale University. Before college, he served in the Israeli Defense Forces as a paratrooper, and he was one of the founders of Kibbutz Hanaton.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 159 pages
  • Publisher: Apress; 1st ed. 2001. Corr. 2nd printing 2006 edition (January 23, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1893115941
  • ISBN-13: 978-1893115941
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 0.4 x 10.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #174,269 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

49 of 57 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Otwell on July 29, 2001
Format: Paperback
Joel is a good writer who happens to be a programmer. That alone is enough to reccommend this one-of-a-kind book. His website contains tons of insightful, opinionated essays, and most of the time he's right, whether his topic is design, business stragegy, HR, or coding techniques. He's an ex-Microsoft employee who's saavy enough to know what MS does right and what they don't.
In this book, much of which is available at his site, he's taking an approach that I don't think anyone else has: why UI design matters to programmers. He's not talking to experienced visual desingers, or HCI people, or interaction desingers or what have you. He's talking to programmers, the folks who will actually write lines of code. This book, in a quick 150 pages, shows programmers why interaction designers will spend, say, two days worrying about a couple of words or the placement of two buttons.
Like Steve Krug's book "Don't Make Me Think", it's a somewhat lightweight treatment of the topic for an experienced UI desinger, but you'd be foolish to pass it up for that reason. This, along with Krug would be a great book for Project Managers or senior staff wondering what all the fuss about "usability" really means. Where Jakob Nielsen's preachy fussiness can bore you to tears, Joel and Krug will make you eager to put their ideas into practice.
Any company that can get its programmers, managers, and designers on the same page about the still under-appreciated value of UI design (and the analysis that goes into it) will find they can make better products faster.
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34 of 40 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 11, 2002
Format: Paperback
As a programmer, I fit the stereotype and know very little about UI design. Although I was only looking to gain a basic understanding of design, I still found the book's coverage overly generic. The content can be summed up as follows: use tabs, do what Microsoft does, heuristics are overdone in many apps, test designs incrementally, don't overuse colors, and avoid all the fluff in web page design.
Critical design issues such as color combinations, UI standards, and best controls for particular jobs were not covered. The author glossed over these by telling the reader to find out what metaphor the user expects and design the application in that context. Despite these failings, the book is well written and can be read rapidly.
This book rates about two stars for content and four for readability. Overall, this book rates approximately three stars.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Kent Anderson on October 4, 2002
Format: Paperback
It was a pleasure to read this book. Joel has an amazing writing style that is friendly, upbeat, funny, and insightful. While he clearly isn't the world's definitive expert on UI design, his years of real world experience and wealth of examples make this book both valuable and enjoyable. This has to be one of my favorite technical books.
Joel's irreverent, tell-it-like-it-is, approach is part of the charm of this book. For example, chapter 10 is titled, "People Can't Control the Mouse" and chapter 13 is titled, "Those Pesky Usability Tests". From my years of software development in the games industry, many of his points on UI design hit home in a big way. I was actually shocked at how applicable the entire book was to game development. As a professional programmer, I felt the book was talking my language and completely in agreement with my own experiences.
The truth is that there are so many boring and questionable technical books out there, it's refreshing to read something that is so honest and dead-on right.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Keith Platfoot on July 12, 2001
Format: Paperback
UI Design for Programmers is an excellent guide to creating intuitive, usable software interfaces for the real world. The light tone and frequent anecdotes make it a pleasure to read, I finished the book the day after it arrived. Very refreshing compared to the dry, technical style of most other computer books. I would highly recommend it to anyone who designs interfaces for any type of software or web-based application.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Jeff Staddon on May 3, 2006
Format: Paperback
One of the first question I always notice about books: Is the title honest? For this book I can unabashedly say, Yes. This book is for programmers.

I've been a full time developer for just over 5 years. Making technology work is my game, but when it comes to designing UIs, it's more like random dart throwing and voodoo. But, considering some of the stuff I've seen other people put out. . . my stuff is not too bad! Still, I like doing a professional job and users expect programmers like us to know UI design-in spite of the fact most of us can't even draw decent stick figures!

The best thing about this book is Joel speaks my language. He makes art comprehensible to the techny. Not an easy accomplishment, but Joel is no ordinary guy either. He runs his own ISV in New York City and hosts one of the most popular software development blog sites around. ( To survive financially in a place like NYC says something of his abilities. This book like his other writings bear that out: great concepts, great illustrations and well packaged thought.

One note, this book is about principles of design. It is not a quick how-to book. If you need some templates for a GUI project you are starting tomorrow, or need to know the ins/outs of a particular OS graphical system, this book isn't for you. But, if like me you've struggled with every new UI and are searching for guiding principles, this book is great!
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