Developer to Designer: GUI Design for the Busy Developer

Author: Mike Gunderloy


Publisher: Sybex International

Reviewed by: Dean Wilson

Having an easy to use, consistent and intuitive user interface is an incredibly important part of today's software, but for every experienced UI, usability and human-computer interface professional there are legions of beginning Windows GUI developers (VB developers, Coders working with MS Office etc). Unfortuantly they are often left alone to struggle through the basic do's and don'ts of building an acceptable and consistent, both with other applications and the OS itself, GUI.

Mike Gunderloy's follow-up to Coder to Developer is the perfect starting point for those very legions and a pretty good accompaniment for the first book. The book itself can logically be separated into three sections; the chapters on Windows applications (thick client), the web chapters and the Longhorn / Avalon Appendix.

The first section, which makes up the bulk of the book, is also the best of the three. It's here that the authors experience driven (and common sense filled) guidelines can be seen most clearly. While there are very few light bulb activating moments the coverage of the different controls is comprehensive and the advice will help the reader shortcut a lot of the more common mistakes.

I didn't like the second section of the book, which consists of four chapters on web GUIs. The first of these opens up with a basic introduction to HTML, which felt very out of place to me after reading the previous section. The writing changed in tone and it didn't seem to contain the same number of useful tidbits as the first eleven chapters.

In my opinion, it focused too heavily on the underlying technology and the how's of web GUIs and less on the why's and best practises. The single Appendix also felt a little out of place but did seem to fit better than the web coverage. It provides an early look at Avalon and Aero but, like most Longhorn literature, it failed to excite me. Although that may be more the fault of the MS hype machine than the author.

So what's the ideal audience? Developers new to Windows apps and with under a year's worth of practical experience will gain the most from reading Developer to Designer; it'll save them a lot of trial and error. However I wouldn't expect most people to read it from front to back as the topic itself is quite a dry one. If, however, you're inexperienced when it comes to Windows GUIs then it makes a great reference you'll find yourself frequently dipping into.

While this book has a more limited target audience than Coder to Developer, although when you consider the number of people designing small Access based or VB applications it might not be much smaller, it will serve as a very handy reference for the GUI building beginner.

Summary: This book should come bundled with a coder's first copy of Visual Studio. If you're new to Windows GUIs then the first section of the book alone is worth the cover price; despite the weaker web section.