The Humane Interface

The Humane Interface : New Directions for Designing Interactive Systems

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The honeymoon with digital technology is over: millions of users are tired of having to learn huge, arcane programs to perform the simplest tasks; fatigued by the pressure of constant upgrades, and have had enough of system crashes. In The Humane Interface, Jef Raskin -- the legendary, controversial creator of the original Apple Macintosh project -- shows that there is another path. Raskin explains why today's interface techniques lead straight to a dead end, and offers breakthrough ideas for building systems users will understand -- and love. Raskin reveals the fundamental design failures at the root of the problems so many users experience; shows how to understand user interfaces scientifically and quantitatively; and introduces fundamental principles that should underlie any next-generation user interface. He introduces practical techniques designers can use to improve their productivity of any product with an information-oriented human-machine interface, from personal computers to Internet appliances and beyond. The book presents breakthrough solutions for navigation, error management, and more, with detailed case studies from Raskin's own work. For all interface design programmers, product designers, software developers, IT managers, and corporate managers.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 256 pages
  • 156 x 230 x 18mm | 480.81g
  • Addison Wesley
  • Boston, United States
  • English
  • Illustrations (some col.)
  • 0201379376
  • 9780201379372
  • 205,552

Back cover copy

"Deep thinking is rare in this field where most companies are glad to copy designs that were great back in the 1970s. The Humane Interface is a gourmet dish from a master chef. Five mice!"
--Jakob Nielsen, Nielsen Norman Group
Author of Designing Web Usability: The Practice of Simplicity

This unique guide to interactive system design reflects the experience and vision of Jef Raskin, the creator of the Apple Macintosh. Other books may show how to use today's widgets and interface ideas effectively. Raskin, however, demonstrates that many current interface paradigms are dead ends, and that to make computers significantly easier to use requires new approaches. He explains how to effect desperately needed changes, offering a wealth of innovative and specific interface ideas for software designers, developers, and product managers.

The Apple Macintosh helped to introduce a previous revolution in computer interface design, drawing on the best available technology to establish many of the interface techniques and methods now universal in the computer industry. With this book, Raskin proves again both his farsightedness and his practicality. He also demonstrates how design ideas must be built on a scientific basis, presenting just enough cognitive psychology to link the interface of the future to the experimental evidence and to show why that interface will work.

Raskin observes that our honeymoon with digital technology is over: We are tired of having to learn huge, arcane programs to do even the simplest of tasks; we have had our fill of crashing computers; and we are fatigued by the continual pressure to upgrade. The Humane Interface delivers a way for computers, information appliances, and other technology-driven products to continue to advance in power and expand their range of applicability, while becoming free of the hassles and obscurities that plague present products.

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Table of contents



Introduction: The Importance of Fundamentals.

1. Background.

Interface Definition.

Keep the Simple Simple.

Human-Centered Design and User-Centered Design.

Tools That Do Not Facilitate Design Innovation.

Interface Design in the Design Cycle.

Definition of a Humane Interface.

2. Cognetics and the Locus of Attention.

Ergonomics and Cognetics: What We Can and Cannot Do.

Cognitive Conscious and Cognitive Unconscious.

Locus of Attention.

Formation of Habits.

Execution of Simultaneous Tasks.

Singularity of the Locus of Attention.

Origins of the Locus of Attention.

Exploitation of the Single Locus of Attention.

Resumption of Interrupted Work.

3. Meanings, Modes, Monotony, and Myths.

Nomenclature and Notations.


Definition of Modes.

Modes, User-Preference Settings, and Temporary Modes.

Modes and Quasimodes.

Noun-Verb versus Verb-Noun Constructions.

Visibility and Affordances.


Myth of the Beginner-Expert Dichotomy.

4. Quantification.

Quantitative Analyses of Interfaces.

GOMS Keystroke-Level Model.

Interface Timings.

GOMS Calculations.

GOMS Calculation Examples.

Measurement of Interface Efficiency.

Efficiency of Hal's Interfaces.

Other Solutions for Hal's Interface.

Fitts' Law and Hick's Law.

Fitts' Law.

Hick's Law.

5. Unification.

Uniformity and Elementary Actions.

Elementary Actions Cataloged.

Highlighting, Indication, and Selection.


Display States of Objects.

File Names and Structures.

String Searches and Find Mechanisms.

Search-Pattern Delimiters.

Units of Interaction.

Cursor Design and a Strategy for Making Selections.

Cursor Position and LEAP.

Applications Abolished.

Commands and Transformers.

6. Navigation and Other Aspects of Humane Interfaces.

Intuitive and Natural Interfaces.

Better Navigation: ZoomWorld.


Techniques and Help Facilities in Humane Interfaces.

Cut and Paste.

Messages to the User.

Simplified Sign-Ons.

Time Delays and Keyboard Tricks.

Letter from a User.

7. Interface Issues Outside the User Interface.

More Humane Programming Language Environments.

System and Development Environment.

Importance of Documentation in Program Creation.

Modes and Cables.

Ethics and Management of Interface Design.

8. Conclusion.


Appendix A: The One-Button Mouse History.

Appendix B: SwyftCard Interface Theory of Operation.


Index. 0201379376T04062001
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About Jef Raskin

Jef Raskin ( is a user interface and system design consultant based in Pacifica, California. Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Motorola, NCR, Xerox, Ricoh, Canon, McKesson, and AT&T all number among his clients along with dozens of less-well-known firms. His articles have been published in over forty periodicals including Wired, Quantum, IEEE Computer, and the Communications of the ACM. He is best known for having created the Macintosh at Apple and the Cat work processor for Canon.

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Rating details

794 ratings
3.98 out of 5 stars
5 35% (279)
4 36% (286)
3 22% (178)
2 5% (39)
1 2% (12)
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