This is a critique of the third edition of Ben Shneiderman’s book,
Designing the User Interface: Strategies for Effective Human-Computer Interaction.


Shneiderman explains and presents a broad spectrum of guidelines, strategies and issues of interface design. I believe he offers too many guidelines to discuss in this brief paper. But, I believe his book offers a novice of interface design, a look at where the field has gone and where it is headed. Shneiderman talks about human factors of interactive software, theories, principles and guidelines. Also, he offers an in-depth discussion of managing the design processes and, in addition, discusses expert reviews, usability testing, surveys, and how to continue assessments. He discusses software tools, direct manipulation and virtual environments. Additionally, Shneiderman elaborates on and discusses menus selection, form fillin, and dialog boxes along with command and natural languages. Furthermore, he discusses interaction devices, response time and display rate, presentation styles: balancing function and fashion, along with discussions about printed manuals, online help and tutorials. Also, he discusses multiple-window strategies, computer-supported cooperative work, and information search and visualization. I consider Dr. Shneiderman’s delivery on hypermedia and the World Wide Web by far one of the most interesting topics. Lastly, he projects the future of societal and individual impacts of user interfaces.

Strengths of the Book

I believe the Shneiderman book is strong in the areas of theoretical and empirical research; its historical perspective has great value and it has up to date information. For theoretical research, Shneiderman discusses cognitive and perceptual abilities. He references the journal Ergonomics’ abstracts and its classification of human cognitive processes and the set of factors affecting perceptual and motor performance. I believe the author reaches the forefront of human-computer interaction. This book seems to be a cumulative and historical presentation on human-computer interaction. I believe this book is current because it offers guidelines and suggestions for developers of World Wide Web applications. It discusses not only web site development guidelines, but discusses and offers suggestions and guidelines for improvement of search engines.

Weaknesses of the Book

However, I believe this book has several weaknesses, which include the discussion of the Object Actions Interface (OAI) model and the authors presentation for designing interfaces as metaphors. I believe these topics are one of the same. I believe it may be a shortcoming on my part, but I am having difficulty in understanding and accepting this process of decomposing objects and actions from metaphors.

Lessons to be Applied to User Interface Design

I believe Dr. Ben Shneiderman has much to offer on interface design. The numerous guidelines he offers are practical and make sense. In his book, he offers eight golden rules of interface design. The golden rules are strive for consistency, enable frequent users to use shortcuts, offer informative feedback, design dialogs to yield closure, offer error prevention and simple error handling, permit easy reversal of actions, support internal locus of control and reduce short-term memory load. I believe that validation and refinement of these golden rules would be advantageous.

Recommendations to Others

This book, Designing the User Interface: Strategies for Effective Human-Computer Interaction would be a great addition to any student of interface design library. Also, this book is a good reference tool. The references in Chapter 1 of the Research Agenda are excellent. This book is worth its price just for the references alone.


Shneiderman, B. (1998). Designing the User Interface: Strategies for Effective Human-Computer Interaction. (3rd ed. ed.). Menlo Park, CA: Addison Wesley.

For Comments/Suggestions:

Jaami Dawan, MA, CTM
Doctoral Student
Instructional Technology
Northern Illinois University

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