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Designing From Both Sides of the Screen
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UI Designs is devoted to information and discussion about the design of cooperative technology. It grew out of our book Designing From Both Sides of the Screen: How Designers and Engineers Can Collaborate to Build Cooperative Technology. We hope to use this website to continue the conversation initiated in the book.
— Ellen Isaacs and Alan Walendowski

Designing From Both Sides of the Screen:
How Designers and Engineers Can Collaborate to Build Cooperative Technology

By Ellen Isaacs and Alan Walendowski

Written from the perspectives of both a user interface designer and a software engineer, this practical guide shows you how to make technology that cooperates with people. It begins by describing a set of design principles that apply to a broad range of technologies — handheld, wireless, and embedded devices in addition to desktop and Web software. These principles are illustrated with many positive and negative examples from existing products, showing how good designs help you flow in your task and don't get in the way.

Since design principles do not show you how to build cooperative technology, the book goes on to show how these principles are applied in practice during the design and development process. The authors demonstrate how they built a full-featured instant messenger application that runs on Palms and PCs. By discussing a realistic example, they are able to describe the many subtle tradeoffs that arise between design and engineering goals. Through simulated conversations, they show how they came to understand each other's goals and constraints and found solutions that addressed both of their needs.

While it illustrates the entire development process, the book emphasizes the importance of three phases:

  1. understanding how people carry out the tasks that the technology will support
  2. designing a user interface specification up front and then designing the system architecture to support it
  3. observing people using the system under realistic conditions during development and iterating to smooth out ease of use problems.
You will see how the authors followed these steps and dramatically improved the usability and usefulness of the system that they designed and built. This book demonstrates rather than just describes how to build cooperative technology.

(c) 2002 Ellen Isaacs and Alan Walendowski