10 UX books that should be on your reading list

UX books

A lot has happened in the 4 years since I last posted a list of recommended UX books (Recommended UX books for aspiring UXers). I’ve become a father for the second time (yay), Germany have won the world cup (again) and Gangnam style has accumulated a mind boggling 2 billion plus views on YouTube. I’ve also read rather a lot of UX books in those 4 years so I thought it was about time that I posted up some new recommendations. Here therefore are 10 UX books that I thoroughly recommend you add to your reading list.

User Story Mapping: Discover the Whole Story, Build the Right Product

Jeff Patton (2014), 324 pages

Don’t judge a book by its cover, or indeed its title – this excellent book by Jeff Patton is about a lot more than just user story mapping. The book is a gold mine of tips, hints and advice for anyone involved in the UX for a project. A lot of the advice is more geared towards Agile ways of working, but even if you’re not working on Agile projects there is lots of practical advice that will undoubtedly help you to improve the way you, and your team go about doing things.

Agile Experience Design: A Digital Designer’s Guide to Agile, Lean, and Continuous

Lindsay Ratcliffe & Marc McNeill (2011), 320 pages

Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last 15 years or so you will have no doubt have heard that Agile software development is currently the darling of the development methodology world. An awful lot of organisations are now firmly entrenched in the Agile development camp and that means that if you’re not currently involved in Agile projects, the chances are that you soon will be. Most Agile related books are written from a development or product management perspective, but fortunately there are now a few Agile UX books out there, and this is probably the best of the bunch. It contains lots of practical help and advice for any UXers that finds themselves parachuted into the strange, mysterious and sometimes damn right confusing Agile development world.

Lean UX: Applying Lean Principles to Improve User Experience

Jeff Gothelf (2013), 152 pages

From lean start-ups, to lean enterprises and lean marketing, being ‘Lean’ has taken on a whole new meaning these days. In this short and punchy book Jeff Gothelf applies the same Lean thinking to UX and shows how lean principles such as eliminating waste, continual improvement and failing fast can be applied to the world of user experience. Even if you’re not a fully paid up member of the ‘I love Lean’ party I’d still recommend reading this book because there is a lot of excellent ideas in there that will give you a lot of food for thought.

Practical Ethnography: A Guide to Doing Ethnography in the Private Sector

Sam Ladner (2014), 211 pages

Ethnography doesn’t always get the appreciation that it deserves within the user experience, or indeed design community. For those unfamiliar with the term ethnography basically involves studying and observing people in their natural environment. It’s not only an important sounding word but also an incredibly important means of better understanding users, their behaviour and how good design might be applied to better their lives. In this book Sam Ladner covers everything that you need to know (well pretty much everything) about carrying out ethnography in the non-academic ‘real world’. It’s a great introduction to ethnography and a great resource for anyone looking to utilise the power of ethnography for their UX projects.

UX Strategy: How to Devise Innovative Digital Products that People Want

Jaime Levy (2015), 312 pages

Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat”. Wise words from Sun Tzu, the author of The Art of War and as equally relevant to user experience, as to 5th century warfare. UX strategy is very important because without a good UX strategy you’re simply stumbling from one design problem to another (UX strategy even has its own conference: UX STRAT – look at you!). In this book Jaime Levy defines what UX strategy is, introduces a number of useful tools and techniques that you can use to come up with a winning UX strategy and most importantly provides help and advice for actually putting a UX strategy into practice. I highly recommend it.

Think First – My no-nonsense approach to creating successful products, memorable user experiences and happy customers

Joe Natoli (2015), 176 pages

In this book Joe Natoli says that, “anything that was ever worth doing started with a strategy” and I couldn’t agree more. Without a sound strategy a product or service is doomed to failure, and that certainly includes a sound UX strategy. In this book Joe outlines not only why it’s so important to get the strategy right for creating great products and user experiences, but also outlines steps for creating a strategy and a roadmap to help make it happen. Whilst a lot of what Joe says should be familiar to more experience UX professionals, it’s well worth a read to those newer to the field, and even for old hats the book is a great refresher. If you want to find out more about the book check out my Q&A with Joe where he talks about some of the topics covered within the book.

Universal Methods of Design: 100 Ways to Research Complex Problems, Develop Innovative Ideas, and Design Effective Solutions

Bruce Hanington & Bella Martin (2012), 208 pages

For those still finding their feet in the world of UX this is an incredibly useful resource because the book outlines a whopping 100 different UX tools, techniques and methods that can be applied to each and every different type of UX related problem. The book covers a wide range of design and research methods, from persons and diary studies, to mental models and speed dating (which should make for some interesting conversations when your partner asks you, “So what do you do at work today?”). It’s a great UX ‘playbook’ for those relatively new to the game.

Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration

Ed Catmull (2014), 368 pages

You might wonder what a book about a computer animation studio (the mighty Pixar) is doing on my list of must read UX books, but bear with me. I believe that you can draw a lot of parallels between the work of a creative enterprise such as Pixar, and the work of a creative enterprise, such as a design consultancy, or indeed internal design team. In this book Ed Catmull, the president of Pixar talks about how Pixar encourage creativity within their organisation. He talks about the sort of initiatives that they’ve tried and about the challenges they’ve faced building and fostering a very creative environment. Not only is the book a very entertaining read but it’s full of ideas and advice for encouraging creativity that you can hopefully apply to your own organisation.

Service Design: From Insight to Implementation

Andy Polaine, Lavrans Løvlie & Ben Reason (2013), 216 pages

I’ve written before that Service design is a skill that every UXer will need to have in their Batman style utility belt (10 skills future UX designers will need to know). According to Wikipedia (the modern day fountain of all knowledge), “Service design is the activity of planning and organising people, infrastructure, communication and material components of a service in order to improve its quality and the interaction between service provider and customers”. To put it another way, service design is basically all the stuff (including of course UX design) that is key to delivering a great service to users. You know, all the stuff that you as a UX designer needs to consider. This book is an excellent introduction to Service Design. It outlines some key service design tools, such as service blueprints, service safaris and service ecology maps and covers lots of useful service design advice and real world examples.

Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers

Dave Gray, Sunni Brown & James Macanufo (2010), 290 pages

Gamestorming is not the sort of book that you’d read on a long flight, or whilst tucked up in bed after a hard day’s work (I always get a funny look from my wife for reading ‘work’ books at bed time), but it’s a very useful book none the less. Gamestorming outlines lots of different design games, workshops and exercises that you can use to breathe new life and direction into otherwise dull and boring meetings and workshops. Need ideas for what to do in a user workshop? Have a look inside Gamestorming. Need ideas for teasing business requirements out of stakeholders? Have a look inside Gamestorming. Gamestorming is a book that I’ve used time and time again and find to be a really invaluable resource.