Wednesday, February 17, 2010

book review: designing visual interfaces

Designing Visual Interfaces: Communication Oriented Techniques

This book gives (what I can only assume is) a thorough treatment of the design of visual interfaces, with a focus on computer interfaces. I can only assume it is thorough because I skipped or stumbled over several sections with dense and confusing wording. For example:

The triadic structure of the sign permits the sign process (semiosis) to be considered at three levels. Syntactics addresses the internal structure of the representamen itself, particularly in terms of the relationships among its parts. Semantics addresses the tacit relation between representamen and sign object (that is, the intended meaning of the sign). Pragmatics considers the effect of the syntactic and semantic aspects in relation to a particular interpreter in their personal psychological context.

There were plenty of gems in this book, and the way illustrations (and screenshosts) were employed to explain the different concepts was very useful. However, the style of the writing often made it unpleasant to read, and I came away feeling like I had missed as much as I had learned.

The thoughts I came away with:

  • be consistent with the surroundings (OS, app, form, controls, etc)
  • align elements along vertical horizontal grid lines
  • use the same (or multiples of) height and width for all controls
  • make clear visual representations of grouping and hierarchy

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