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By Paul Olyslager

What can I tell you, I just love to read about web design. Because I could spend a small fortune on books, I find it very useful and wise to read a few reviews before I actually buy a book. Instead of spending my time looking for the next purchase, I thought I’d write a review for a change.

I chose Designing Web Interfaces by Bill Scott and Theresa Neil who have worked for companies such as Sabre, Yahoo!, and Netflix. They both have some experience in the field, to say the least!

Let me tell you from the start that Designing Web Interfaces is not just the next collection of web interface patterns. Instead, the book really tackles the challenges designers encounter daily when designing user interfaces, and categorizes the recommendations into six design principles:

1. Make it Direct

  • In-Page Editing
  • Drag and Drop
  • Object selection

2. Keep it Lightweight

  • Contextual Tools

3. Stay on the Page

  • Overlays
  • Inlays
  • Virtual Pages
  • Process Flow

4. Provide an Invitation

  • Static Invitations
  • Dynamic Invitations

5. Use Transitions

  • Traditional Patterns
  • Purpose of Transitions

6. React Immediately

  • Lookup Patterns
  • Feedback Patterns

By using online examples of both well-known and smaller websites, Bill and Theresa objectively explain both the positive and negative impact on the user’s experience of each solution and provide us with tips, ideas and best practices. Designing Web Interfaces comes with an abundance of screenshots, so the story is not left to your imagination. Wherever an example pattern requires several steps and some kind of interaction from the user, multiple screenshots make the functionality of the pattern clear to the reader.

The book has many user interface patterns to show, but you just can’t compare it with normal pattern collections. What I mean is that you can’t turn the pages, find the pattern you need, compare it with alternatives and implement it into your project. Instead, Bill and Theresa describe both the advantages and disadvantages of well-chosen user interface patterns and back it up with their many years of experience. For example: the different stages of a drag-and-drop pattern are explained in 34 pages, where each stage of interaction is carefully explained with text, plenty of examples and screenshots.

Although I find it very useful when a pattern is described in detail, personally I think Bill and Theresa overdid it a bit by highlighting these details too much, making the book a tad repetitive. Other than these little shortcomings I can only be positive about the book and think it should be on every web designers’ bookshelf. Not only is it well written and a smooth read, but it is also a nice encapsulation on many of the latest UI trends for web and desktop applications.

paul olyslager

About the Author

Paul Olyslager is a web designer and usability consultant at Corelio, a Belgian based newspaper publisher. He’s the creator and editor of, a blog about UX and web usability. To keep up with him you should follow his tweets via @paulolyslager.