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.

Key Features

  • Approachable, practical communication-based guide to interaction and visual design that you can immediately apply to projects to make solid design decisions quickly and confidently
  • Includes design makeovers so you can see the concepts in practice with real examples
  • Communication-based design process ties everything from interaction to visual design together


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. 

Table of Contents


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 a


No. of pages:
© 2013
Morgan Kaufmann
eBook ISBN:
Print ISBN:

About the author

Everett McKay

Everett McKay is Principal of UX Design Edge (, a user experience design training and consulting company for mobile, web, and desktop applications based in Vermont. Everett’s specialty is UX design training for software professionals who aren’t experienced designers through onsite and public courses and workshops. He also runs, a web-based UX design consulting service. Previously, Everett was a Senior Program Manager at Microsoft Corporation on the Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows Server teams. While there, he was responsible for the writing of and consulting on the Windows User Experience Interaction Guidelines. While at Microsoft, he was also responsible for teaching their in-house introductory UI design course. Before joining Microsoft, Everett was a programmer, specializing in designing and developing Windows and Macintosh user interfaces. He holds master’s and bachelor’s degrees in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from MIT.

Affiliations and Expertise

is principal of UX Design Edge, a user experience design training and consulting firm specializing in helping non-designers, based in St. Albans, Vermont.


"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