Recommended UX books for aspiring UXers


Joseph Addison (an English author, playwright, politician and all round lover of the written word) once said that, “Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” In which case give your mind the exercise it craves by picking up some good UX books and get reading. There are tons of UX books out there so to help get you started I’ve listed some that I think are particularly good for any aspiring UXers out there (with the emphasis firmly on the practical, rather than the theoretical).

Designing for the digital age

Designing for the Digital Age: How to Create Human-Centered Products and Services

Kim Goodwin (2009), 768 pages

If you only buy one UX book make this it. Designing for the Digital Age is nothing less than a UX design how-to-manual covering everything from assembling a design team and carrying out user research to designing interfaces and critiquing a design. It’s very comprehensive and goes into a lot of depth for each of the design stages covered (research, modelling, requirements etc…) so there’s always loads there to delve into.

Undercover user experience

Undercover user experience design

Cennydd Bowles and James Box (2011), 192 pages

Undercover user experience design claims to teach you how to do great UX work with tiny budgets, no time and limited support (sound familiar). I’m a big fan of the book because not only is it chock full of lots of practical and pragmatic advice, at only 192 pages long it also doesn’t take too long to go through. Being quite short this book doesn’t go into a great amount of depth for each of the topics but is a great way to get ideas for what you could be doing and for looking at where you can go to find out more.

A project guide to UX design

A Project Guide to UX Design: For User Experience Designers in the Field or in the Making

Russ Unger and Carolyn Chandler (2009), 288 pages

A Project Guide to UX Design is a really good book for those new to the field because it covers a lot of the UX roles out there (information architect, user research, interaction designer etc…) and explains what a typical UX design project looks like and how it might be run. The book doesn’t go into a huge amount of detail for the various UX tasks and techniques covered, so whilst there is more than enough there for UX newbies, grizzled UX veterans might find it a little lacking in depth.

Don't make me think

Don’t Make Me Think!: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability

Steve Krug (2005), 216 pages

Don’t Make Me Think might be getting a little bit old now (at least in web design book terms), but don’t let that put you off it because it’s a cracking book and a great introduction to web usability. I love Steve Krug books because they’re so entertaining and so easy to pick up and read (its one of the few UX books you’ll probably find yourself chuckling to). Whilst the book doesn’t cover a huge amount of ground (Steve intentionally made it short enough to be read on a long flight) it’s a great first read for anyone interested in learning more about web usability.

Rocket surgery made easy

Rocket Surgery Made Easy: The Do-it-yourself Guide to Finding and Fixing Usability Problems

Steve Krug (2009), 168 pages

Every UXer should have usability testing in their arsenal of superpowers and whilst there are more comprehensive books on the subject (such as The Handbook of Usability Testing), Rocket Surgery made easy does arguably the best job of teaching you how to carry out usability testing in the real world (that is typically with no lab, little time and next to no budget). As with all Steve Krug books it’s really easy to read and is choc full of good advice and know how. There’s even an accompanying demo usability testing video that you can view for free on YouTube – whoopee!

The non-designers design book

The Non-Designer’s Design Book

Robin Williams (2008), 215 pages

In a previous article (What makes a good UX designer?) I argued that every UX designer should know at least a little bit about graphic design because how something looks is so integral to the overall user experience. The non-designers design book provides a good introduction to lots of design principles, such as proximity, alignment and contrast and can help any UX designer make their designs look that bit more professional (not to mention beautiful).

Selling usability

Selling usability – User experience infiltration tactics

John Rhodes (2009), 246 pages

Unfortunately within a lot of organisations UX design is still often seen as somewhat of an unnecessary luxury (although thankfully this outdated view is changing). An important part of any UX professional’s job is therefore being able to sell UX. This gem of a book contains loads of ideas, suggestions and tactics for selling UX within an organisation and is written in a style that makes it very easy to pick up and read (I especially love the quotes at the start of each chapter such as, “Victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan”, John F. Kennedy).

Designing Interfaces

Designing Interfaces – Patterns for effective interaction design

Jenifer Tidwell (2011), 576 pages

Although there are loads of design pattern websites out there (checkout this nifty design patterns search that covers most of them) nothing beats being able to leaf through a nice glossy book to get inspiration. Designing Interfaces fits the bill perfectly. The book includes loads of really useful design patterns (with an emphasis on the web) and for each one includes lots of examples and outlines what it is, when it might be used, why it is effective and how to utilise it.

More recommended UX books