The IBM i Bookshelf

Posted by Nick Hampson on Jun 19, 2013 12:22:00 AM


bookshelfLast week while doing a webinar with Steve Will, Trevor and Eamon, I was asked about design books and what one I would recommend. The question was brought up by Kevin who I met while speaking about User Experience at COMMON a few years back.

I gave the name of one book but thought the idea of mentioning some of the stand out books I have read and the variety of material I read might be interesting to people. Some people may be surprised by the variety of reading I do, especially for the IBM i community where design is often just thought of as graphic design.


So before I get into my bookshelf it important to say what I do with design is very little about graphic design. I do this on occasion but I'm certainly only an average graphic designer. Most of my work in design is what I refer to UX (User Experience) this is more about how apps work that just how they look and hence why I'm always keen to pass on info. Sure IBM i debs in the main should stay away form the color picker but the UI and UX skills can be picked up pretty easily. Most dev's know about CUA that is a set of UI standards what we have today is similar and some is firmly based around the work of CUA.


So, into some books;

UI books

Designing the Obvious - Robert Hoekman

This is I think the best book to dip your toes into UI/UX, its relatively small, packed with good info and more about web applications that just websites so requires less filtering and 'how do I apply this?' thinking. It has many of the key points to understand when getting started and is written in a simple accessible way. If you only read one book this would be the one, if you want to learn more this would be a good general starting point.

Designing the Moment - Robert Hoekman

This is a follow on and again a good short read, looking at how design affects people and how you can do that in a positive way.

Universal Principles of Design

This is not a UI book but on general design, it shows many principles that help you think and assign value to your work. Great examples showing how usability and design are used in the real world. It's a page at a time read so and easy book to dip into rather than requiring you to read it all sequentially.

About Face - Alan Cooper

Pretty much the bible of UI books, not an easy read and lots of pages but a great book to learn the detail and add depth to your understanding.

Sketching User Experiences - Bill Buxton

A great book about how to think and get design right. I'm a big fan of sketching and mockups to really understand what you need to achieve and quickly iterate, Bill is that master of this stuff.

If you can't get the book Google Bill's keynote session for Microsoft Mix he is a great speaker and you will certainly pickup some good info. Don't worry about it being Microsoft, MIx has some of the World best speaker in my opinion it's a conference I'd really love to actually go to one day.

Design for Hackers - David Kadavy

David attempts to reverse engineer the design process for developers, I'm not 100% on this I think maybe people will understand some of it, many will learn a lot but can it make people use a different side of their brain and can people give enough time to this, jury is out for me. If you read it as a dev, please ping me and let me know what you think, I'd love to hear a review from someone in the target audience on this.


A key factor is a good design is understanding people, both how they work and how they feel but also how they skew information and how to get to the facts.

Cognitive Psychology - Open University

This book has some great info but is SERIOUSLY only for the committed, it's long, dry and not verity well written (treats you like that teacher you never liked at school), the info though is good but only useful if you really want to get into the depth of cognitive psychology.

Neuro Web Design

100 things every designer needs to know about people:

Designing with the Mind in Mind - Susan Weinschenk

Susan is a great writer, she really knows here stuff when it comes to psychology and how to get across the info relevant to us, all these books are great reads. I but her books as soon as I see them without need to review they are that good. If you want to know why people do or do not, love or hate stuff Susan has the answers.

Drive - Daniel Pink

Not psychology as such but understanding how to get the best out of yourself and others. The key points of drive; Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose and clear and powerful, if you don't feel you want to read it at least check Daniel out on You Tube, he has a quick video on this and also there is a talk he did at Google which has more detail both are brilliant as well as a Ted Talk  If you manage people you have to take 5 minutes at least to understand the reality vs. myth of Drive.



General Design

Information is Beautiful - David McCandless

Great book with examples of how to turn data into information (isn't than really the essence of our roles in IT?) It does not teach you but it should inspire you! 

Hardboiled web design  - Andy Clarke

Andy takes no prisoners when it comes to design, a great read some fab examples and good to hear someone who stand up for standards and tell it like it is. 

The Icon design book - Jon Hicks

Great examples and insight into modern icons  - a must read for me, it's not about it being pretty although it should be but icons let people understand function much quicker than text when done right, the are a form of communication.

A practical guide to designing for the web - Mark Boulton

This book by 'five simple steps' is modern about web design that UI design but it's done so well you can relate all the key 5 sections to what you do and need to do. Check out five simple steps they produce some really great books, I'm a big fan of all their work.


Communication (Verbal and Visual)

For me part of design and demonstration is being able to get your point across, it's no use knowing it if you can't share it! 

The Jelly Effect - Andy Bounds

This is just a fab book about making communication more effective and concise, Andy through his life experience has a unique perspective. I really Love this book, enough so that at our last conference I told all our staff to read it and if they didn't like or learn from it I would give them the cash back for the cost of the book, so far I have not give up a penny! This book is full of IMG moments where you think, "Wow that is so obvious but I've never thought of it". A truly brilliant book by an amazing guy.


Resonate - Nancy Duarte

Nancy is THE top person is presentation design today. The books are well written and illustrated but most importantly they show how to prepare and present information to people in a compelling way. It's a saviour from 'death by PowerPoint' but also in general terms shows how to prepare well and present information.

I will not say any more otherwise I will gush in a terrible way about Nancy, Duarte and these books.


OK so at the end I'd better bring this blog post up a notch, I saved the best for last! 

The Tao of Pooh - Benjamin Hoff

Whinnie the Pooh is not the Worlds Favourite bar for nothing, now you can study his Zen like look at life :-)

This is a great little book for when you just can't code any more RPG/COBOL/C/CSS and you need to ground yourself with a little trip to the sleepy hollow.


I read a lot as you can see much of the books are pure technical to lean and try to keep up, that doesn't make them the most interesting of books, I do try and keep just to this one bookshelf so bad books and old stuff does get kicked out every year.

Hope this was useful and anyone wanting any more info please ping me.

Topics: IBM i, GUI, Application Modernization