Designing with the Mind in Mind

2nd Edition

Simple Guide to Understanding User Interface Design Guidelines

Authors: Jeff Johnson
Paperback ISBN: 9780124079144
eBook ISBN: 9780124115569
Imprint: Morgan Kaufmann
Published Date: 7th February 2014
Page Count: 250
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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




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 Tar


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Morgan Kaufmann
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About the Author

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, at UI Wizards, Inc.


"The clear writing style, comprehensive coverage of common design decisions, and the reference to human psychology that provide the theoretical support for these decisions make it a solid addition to your personal or professional library."--User Experience Magazine, 2014

“Even if you are working for many years in the field of UX, it is worth reading this book…you learn a lot of interesting background information that can help one to question existing rules, to consider their own experiences and to establish well-founded decisions.”, July 10, 2014.

"...easy and captivating reading, something not commonly encountered in a nonfiction work on an important subject…software developers and anyone else who may be concerned with designing good user interfaces should read this book.", Aug 28, 2014.

"…the authors provide an excellent selection of topics and examples that constitutes necessary knowledge for everyone involved in designing user interfaces, and perhaps even all software engineers…The book is easy to read for novice audiences, students and particularly practitioners. It is well illustrated with plenty of examples."--HCI International News, May 2014

"…guide to user interface design based on the science of human perception and memory. Each chapter focus on a particular limiting aspect of the human mind, including priming or experience bias in our perceptions, looking for visual structure, poor quality of color and peripheral vision, the high cognitive load of reading…", April 2014

"What's really good about the book is that Johnson provides ample details about the topic, but doesn't reduce it to so just a set of rules or mind-numbing (and thusly unreadable) checklists. His synopsis of the topics provides the reader with a broad understanding