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Application GUI design *patterns* literature?

8 replies [Last post]

Hi all,

I am looking for literature, whether in dead tree format or electronic format (PDF etc) regarding application GUI design guidelines. Basically what I am looking for is design guidelines on a case by case basis. For example the literature examines what is the best GUI design for an invoicing application, or in another words, I am looking for GUI design *patterns*. So when I have to design a GUI for a specific app, I know whether it should be a desktop window or a dialog system, or tabs, or whatnot. We all know you can design a program in a multitude of ways, but what would be the best way? Should I use a table or a combobox? should it be a bunch of tabbed panes or a tree list where you choose the panes? How do I deal with forms? Do I use dialogs? or user changing panes via a bunch of buttons on the side? or using a toolbar? Of course all of these questions are asked in the context of the type of application in development.

Another way of looking at it would be a GUI design book which deals with applications case studies... but it better cover a lot of different apps (but I am mostly interesting in database driven, forms based apps)

Summary: I am looking for a good *application* GUI design *patterns* book (or web resource).

Any help would be much appreciated,


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Joined: 2003-12-02

I guess this thread is a little old now, but I couldn't help but thrown in my two cents.

For practitioners, I find the book, "GUI Bloopers" by Jeff Johnson to be really helpful. He gives a lot of examples at the application and component level of what to do, and not to do, in application design. Although it is not done in the "pattern" style, it is more or less a book of patterns in the sense that it is a book of best practices.

If you want to get more into the academic side of it, there are of course the "seminal texts" on user interface design, such as "The Design of Everyday Things" by Don Norman (or maybe Jacob Nielsen, I don't remember). To find these, do a search on amazon for "The Design of Everyday Things" then start poking around other peoples "Best of HCI" book lists which Amazon puts on the right side of the screen.

A solid understanding of HCI is better than a patterns book, because as Jennifer Tidwell's site demonstrates, UI patters are _hard_. To boil things down to a generic best practice is not easy in UI's because the best practices haven't really been found yet, that's why computers are still so hard to use. Your better off understanding basic HCI fundamentals that will allow you to make the proper decision given your programs unique requirements.


Joined: 2003-06-10

The macintosh UI guidelines should provide what you are looking for. Yes, they will provide component-level guidelines as well, but also application design guidelines (e.g. Copy should always be Command-C, Save should always be Command-S, First menu should be File, then Edit, then View, etc.)

Joined: 2003-06-10

Joel Spolsky's book "User Interface Design for Programmers" (see is a book with concrete examples which might qualify as patterns.

Jeff Jonhsons book "GUI Bloopers" lists concrete don't and doits to learn about better UI design. Definitely patterns. See for details.


Joined: 2003-06-10

I'll assume you've already see the Java Look and Feel Design Guidelines books online? Not quite what you are looking for, but there are some useful nuggets related to patterns there.

Another good resource for usability is, Larry Constantine's site.

Joined: 2006-02-17

I know of the KDE Style guide....

You can find it online at:


Hi there,

First of all, thanks for the reply, but that document is really about GUI components and a set of guidelines. It is interesting but I was looking for something more application-centric. Not component-centric. A level or two higher than components. Maybe "application-centric UI design patterns" is what describes best what I am looking for?

Anyhow thanks, it is nonetheless still an interesting read.

Joined: 2003-06-13

What you are looking for is HCI.

Click on 'Wiki' at the top of this screen and follow HCI subject from there.
Maybe you can add the above URL (the KDE styleguide) to the wiki ?? :)


Joined: 2003-06-13

Hi Vano,

What you are looking for is exatly what you described - a pattern language for designing user interfaces. There has been some work in this area. While I am a UI Design professional, I haven't followed this topic very closely. The first work on this topic I know of is by Jenifer Tidwell. Her first document about this can be found here: It's kinda old now and I think she graduated and moved on to somewhere else.
Here is another site that looks promising: THis has some good looking links to more recent work.

Hope this helps.

Mike Albers
J2SE UI Lead