Designing with the Mind in Mind

Designing with the Mind in Mind

Simple Guide to Understanding User Interface Design Guidelines

2nd Edition - December 17, 2013

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  • Author: Jeff Johnson
  • eBook ISBN: 9780124115569

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In this completely updated and revised edition of Designing with the Mind in Mind, Jeff Johnson provides you with just enough background in perceptual and cognitive psychology that user interface (UI) design guidelines make intuitive sense rather than being just a list or rules to follow. Early UI practitioners were trained in cognitive psychology, and developed UI design rules based on it. But as the field has evolved since the first edition of this book, designers enter the field from many disciplines. Practitioners today have enough experience in UI design that they have been exposed to design rules, but it is essential that they understand the psychology behind the rules in order to effectively apply them. In this new edition, you'll find new chapters on human choice and decision making, hand-eye coordination and attention, as well as new examples, figures, and explanations throughout.

Key Features

  • Provides an essential source for user interface design rules and how, when, and why to apply them
  • Arms designers with the science behind each design rule, allowing them to make informed decisions in projects, and to explain those decisions to others
  • Equips readers with the knowledge to make educated tradeoffs between competing rules, project deadlines, and budget pressures
  • Completely updated and revised, including additional coverage on human choice and decision making, hand-eye coordination and attention, and new mobile and touch-screen examples throughout


Interface designers and developers, software designers, web designers, web application designers, interaction designers, appliance designers and developers, information architects, usability engineers, usability evaluators and development managers, students and teachers in computer science, graphic design, HCI, and usability.

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments



    User-Interface Design Rules: Where do they come from and how can they be used Effectively?

    User-Interface Design and Evaluation Requires Understanding and Experience

    Comparing User-Interface Design Guidelines

    Where do Design Guidelines come from?

    Intended Audience of this Book

    Chapter 1. Our Perception is Biased


    Perception Biased by Experience

    Perception Biased by Current Context

    Perception Biased by Goals

    Taking Biased Perception into Account When Designing

    Chapter 2. Our Vision is Optimized to See Structure


    Gestalt Principle: Proximity

    Gestalt Principle: Similarity

    Gestalt Principle: Continuity

    Gestalt Principle: Closure

    Gestalt Principle: Symmetry

    Gestalt Principle: Figure/Ground

    Gestalt Principle: Common Fate

    Gestalt Principles: Combined

    Chapter 3. We Seek and Use Visual Structure


    Structure Enhances People’s Ability to Scan Long Numbers

    Data-Specific Controls Provide Even More Structure

    Visual Hierarchy Lets People Focus on the Relevant Information

    Chapter 4. Our Color Vision is Limited


    How Color Vision Works

    Vision is Optimized for Contrast, Not Brightness

    The Ability to Discriminate Colors Depends on How Colors are Presented


    External Factors that Influence the Ability to Distinguish Colors

    Guidelines for Using Color

    Chapter 5. Our Peripheral Vision is Poor


    Resolution of the Fovea Compared to the Periphery

    Is the Visual Periphery Good for Anything?

    Examples from Computer User Interfaces

    Common Methods of Making Messages Visible

    Heavy Artillery for Making Users Notice Messages

    Visual Search is Linear Unless Targets “Pop” in the Periphery

    Chapter 6. Reading is Unnatural


    We’re Wired for Language, but not for Reading

    Is Reading Feature-Driven or Context-Driven?

    Skilled and Unskilled Reading use Different Parts of the Brain

    Poor Information Design can Disrupt Reading

    Much of the Reading Required by Software is Unnecessary

    Test on Real Users

    Chapter 7. Our Attention is Limited; Our Memory is Imperfect


    Short- Versus Long-Term Memory

    A Modern View of Memory

    Characteristics of Attention and Working Memory

    Implications of Working Memory Characteristics for User-Interface Design

    Characteristics of Long-Term Memory

    Implications of Long-Term Memory Characteristics for User-Interface Design

    Chapter 8. Limits on Attention Shape Our Thought and Action


    We Focus on Our Goals and Pay Little Attention to Our Tools

    We Notice Things More When they are Related to Our Goals

    We Use External Aids to Keep Track of What we are Doing

    We Follow the Information “Scent” Toward Our Goal

    We Prefer Familiar Paths

    Our Thought Cycle: Goal, Execute, Evaluate

    After We Achieve a task’s Primary Goal, We Often Forget Cleanup Steps

    Chapter 9. Recognition is Easy; Recall is Hard


    Recognition is Easy

    Recall is Hard

    Recognition Versus Recall: Implications for User-Interface Design

    Chapter 10. Learning from Experience and Performing Learned Actions are Easy; Novel Actions, Problem Solving, and Calculation are Hard


    We have Three Brains

    We have Two Minds

    Learning from Experience is (Usually) Easy

    Performing Learned Actions is Easy

    Performing Novel Actions is Hard

    Problem Solving and Calculation are Hard

    Implications for User-Interface Design

    Answers to Puzzles

    Chapter 11. Many Factors Affect Learning


    We Learn Faster when Practice is Frequent, Regular, and Precise

    We Learn Faster when Operation is Task Focused, Simple, and Consistent

    We Learn Faster when Vocabulary is Task Focused, Familiar, and Consistent

    When Risk is Low, we Explore More and Learn More

    Chapter 12. Human Decision Making is Rarely Rational


    People are Often Irrational

    Losses Mean More to us Than Gains

    We are Biased by how Choices are Worded

    We are Biased by Our Vivid Imaginations and Memories

    Exploiting Strengths and Weaknesses of Human Cognition

    Chapter 13. Our Hand–Eye Coordination Follows Laws


    Fitts’ Law: Pointing at Displayed Targets

    Steering Law: Moving Pointers Along Constrained Paths

    Chapter 14. We Have Time Requirements


    Responsiveness Defined

    The Many Time Constants of the Human Brain

    Engineering Approximations of time Constants: Orders of Magnitude

    Designing to Meet Real-Time Human Interaction Deadlines

    Additional Guidelines for Achieving Responsive Interactive Systems

    Achieving Responsiveness is Important




    Appendix. Well-known User-Interface Design Rules

    Norman (1983a)

    Shneiderman (1987); Shneiderman and Plaisant (2009)

    Nielsen and Molich (1990)

    Nielsen and Mack (1994)

    Stone et al. (2005)

    Johnson (2007)



Product details

  • No. of pages: 250
  • Language: English
  • Copyright: © Morgan Kaufmann 2014
  • Published: December 17, 2013
  • Imprint: Morgan Kaufmann
  • eBook ISBN: 9780124115569

About the Author

Jeff Johnson

Jeff Johnson
Jeff Johnson is an Assistant Professor of Computer Science at the University of San Francisco. He is also a principal at Wiser Usability, a consultancy focused on elder usability. After earning B.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Yale and Stanford, he worked as a UI designer, implementer, manager, usability tester, and researcher at Cromemco, Xerox, US West, Hewlett-Packard, and Sun. He has taught at Stanford, Mills, and the University of Canterbury. He is a member of the ACM SIGCHI Academy and a recipient of SIGCHI's Lifetime Achievement in Practice Award. He has authored articles on a variety of topics in HCI, as well as the books GUI Bloopers (1st and 2nd eds.), Web Bloopers, Designing with the Mind in Mind (1st and 2nd eds.), Conceptual Models: Core to Good Design (with Austin Henderson), and Designing User Interfaces for an Aging Population (with Kate Finn).

Affiliations and Expertise

President and Principal Consultant, UI Wizards, Inc.

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