UI is Communication book cover

UI is Communication

How to Design Intuitive, User Centered Interfaces by Focusing on Effective Communication

User interface design is a challenging, multi-disciplinary activity that requires understanding a wide range of concepts and techniques that are often subjective and even conflicting. Imagine how much it would help if there were a single perspective that you could use to simplify these complex issues down to a small set of objective principles.

In UI is Communication, Everett McKay explains how to design intuitive user interfaces by focusing on effective human communication. A user interface is ultimately a conversation between users and technology. Well-designed user interfaces use the language of UI to communicate to users efficiently and naturally. They also recognize that there is an emotional human being at the other end of the interaction, so good user interfaces strive to make an emotional connection.

Applying what you learn from UI is Communication will remove much of the mystic, subjectiveness, and complexity from user interface design, and help you make better design decisions with confidence. It’s the perfect introduction to user interface design.


Primary: non-designer software professionals, especially software developers, managers, and business analysts.

Secondary: Designers interested in usability, as well as college students taking courses on UX design. 

Paperback, 378 Pages

Published: June 2013

Imprint: Morgan Kaufmann

ISBN: 978-0-12-396980-4


  • "Here [McKay] offers a guide to designing user interfaces by drawing on principles and common-sense insight about communication. There are no prerequisites, he says, no assumptions about the reader's field or level of experience."--Reference & Research Book News, October 2013
    "The best teammate a designer can have is a communication specialist to look over your shoulder. Having Everett's book is the next best thing to having him on your team."--Bert Keely, Architect of Windows Pen and Touch
    "McKay practices what he preaches - UI is Communication is relevant, readable, entertaining, and chock full of useful examples."--Carolyn Snyder, Snyder Consulting


  • Introduction

    Chapter 1: Communication Design Principles

    1. Imagine this typical UI design situation
    2. Core principles of UI is Communication
    3. Effective communication
    4. Intuitive UI
    5. Necessary (and unnecessary) consistency
    6. Strategically unintuitive UI
    7. Levels of intuitiveness
    8. Inductive UI
    9. Strategically deductive UI
    10. Asking intuitive questions
    11. A model for users
    12. Summary
    13. Exercises

    Chapter 2: Interaction Design

    1. Interactions
    2. Controls (words)
    3. Commands (verbs)
    4. Labels and instructions
    5. Feedback
    6. Grouping (sentences)
    7. Task steps (paragraphs, monologues, and dialogues)
    8. Task navigation
    9. Surfaces (documents)
    10. Errors, warnings, confirmations, and notifications (interruptions)
    11. Dynamic elements
    12. Summary
    13. Exercises

    Chapter 3: Visual Design

    1. The importance of effective visual design
    2. Working with graphic designers
    3. Layout
    4. Designing for scanning
    5. Typography and text
    6. Color
    7. Affordances
    8. Icons and glyphs
    9. Animations and transitions
    10. Demanding attention
    11. Summary
    12. Exercises

    Chapter 4: Communicating to People

    1. The importance of making an emotional connection
    2. Having a personality
    3. Personality attributes
    4. Having a good tone
    5. Motivating users by providing obvious value
    6. Minimizing effort
    7. Having forgiveness
    8. Building trustworthiness
    9. Being smart without looking stupid
    10. Not being annoying
    11. Using courageous design
    12. Why be dull? Make it fun!
    13. Summary
    14. Exercises

    Chapter 5: A Communication-driven Design Process

    1. A communication-driven design process
    2. Don’t design like a programmer
    3. What exactly is design?
    4. A basic design process
    5. The classic process mistakes
    6. The planning phase
    7. The design phase
    8. The refinement phase
    9. Giving and receiving feedback
    10. What about Agile development?
    11. Summary
    12. Exercises

    Chapter 6: UI Design Case Studies

    1. An overview of common alternative design approaches
    2. Design challenge 1: An airline travel desktop site
    3. Design challenge 2: An airline travel mobile app
    4. Summary
    5. Exercises



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