User experience, and user interface design are relatively newer in comparison to their contemporaries in the present design space, however, this doesn’t mean that the knowledge in this field is in its infancy. There are thousands of articles, papers and dissertations which have been published regarding these fields, but today, our focus is on the literature side of things. UX books have existed almost as long as the art itself, and to those searching, thousands can be found. We’ve decided to narrow down the list to ten of our favorites, and below you’ll find a collection of books which have helped us grow as designers, and are sure to help you as well!
Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days
Starting off our list on the best UX books is ‘Sprint’, which was published in 2016. The author, Jake Knapp, who having spent 10 years at Google Ventures, set out to create a definitive guide on how to quickly, and effectively build and test a prototype. As the name suggests, a five day period is in question, and each day represents a different part of the UX design process. To summarize, Jake’s Sprint system involves the steps of mapping, sketching, deciding, prototyping, and UI testing, but it’s far more intricate than this would suggest. The process, referred to as the ‘Design Sprint’ was implemented first on 150 startups at Google Ventures, and is now completely open to the public through the book.
Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative
Austin Kleon’s 2012 New York Times Bestselling book ‘Steal Like an Artist’ analyzes a much bigger issue than just the UX UI space, however, it is no less fitting to this facet of design as any other. In essence, the book firmly stands by the philosophy that everyone is creative, and creativity can be found anywhere. To channel this essence is what is preached by Kleon, as he stylistically presents ten rules by which every person can get in touch with their inner creative side. Emphasis is also placed on taking inspiration from everyday life, something which particularly resonates with our UX UI designers. So whether you are looking for UX books, or are generally looking for something to spark your creativity, look no further than this title.
About Face: The Essentials of Interaction Design
The next entry on our list of the best UX design books is ‘About Face’. The book is actually penned by four different authors, all designers in their own right, contributing to what is very much a handbook for interface design. Currently in its fourth iteration, the book started with simple interface design for new media, and has slowly but surely evolved with the time, now featuring extensive sections for smartphones and tablets. Far more technical perhaps than other entries on our list, ‘About Face’ has been treated as gospel by designers ever since it’s initial release way back in 2007. So for designers looking for a fresh set of rules by which to view their work, or those just looking to break into the industry, ‘About Face’ is a great leaping off point.
The Design of Everyday Things
Perhaps the most lauded book in all of the design space, ‘The Design of Everyday Things’ is one of the UX books which should be read by every designer out there. Written in 1988 by Don Norman, the director of the design lab in the University of California, the book holds legendary status amongst designers. In essence it’s Norman’s dissertation, linking his knowledge of behavioral psychology to everyday design, making for an incredibly complex narrative which can truly change the way one looks at things in a meaningful way. The book is also an incredible case study on how UX and UI complement one another, and how one can feel hollow without the presence of the other. Truly a book which we can strongly recommend to designers, and non-designers alike, ‘The Design of Everyday Things’ has been highly regarded for more than three decades now, and not without good reason.
100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People
The striking cover, and even more striking title of this book are definitely representative of the content to be found inside. The rather cleverly titled ‘100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People’ is a 2011 book by Susan Weinschenk and focuses on the intersection between user experience, and user response. The UX design book likens designing user experiences without fully understanding the user to exploring a city without a map, a rather haphazard thing. So much like the previous entry, psychology is explored deeply in conjunction with UX and UI. If you enjoyed the book, there is a follow up as well, expectedly titled ‘100 More Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People’.
Articulating Design Decisions: Communicate with Stakeholders, Keep Your Sanity, and Deliver the Best User Experience
‘Articulating Design Decisions’ reads far more as a designer’s handbook than a traditional novel or narrative, like some of the other user experience books on this list. However, that doesn’t discount it from being an incredible resource for designers both concerned with, and disinterested in making interfaces. The subtitle, ‘Communicate with Stakeholders, Keep Your Sanity, and Deliver the Best User Experience’ perfectly encapsulates what the book is about, and if that itself interests you, we believe the book will do much more than allow you to keep your sanity. Written by design leader Tom Greever in the year 2015, the book gives tips, tricks, and strategies to designers looking to step their game up to the next level.
Rocket Surgery Made Easy: The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Finding and Fixing Usability Problems
Yet another entry on our list with a striking title, ‘Rocket Surgery Made Easy’ is one of those quirky UX books which has plenty to offer to anyone who picks it up. Published in 2009, and written by the famous UX designer Steve Krug, who avid readers will recognize as the author of ‘Don’t Make Me Think’, yet another great UX book. The book is far more specific than his previous endeavour, since ‘Rocket Surgery Made Easy’ tends to focus far more on one specific aspect of design, UI testing. Krug breaks down simple yet effective tactics which can be used by anyone testing their prototypes, either to ensure better functionality, or cut out the tester as a middleman entirely. While we may not recommend this to novice designers just yet, those experienced in UI testing, and looking to expand their knowledge will surely find themselves fascinated.
Lean UX: Applying Lean Principles to Improve User Experience
This 2013 release from the minds of Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden is an advanced level read, much like the previous entry on this list of UX books. Jeff and Josh actually put their minds together to conceptualize and develop the ‘Lean UX design process’, where certain philosophies and constructs are brought to the forefront of every design. In essence, this book is simply a manual to this style of design, and how it can be implemented in the work of a designer, or team of designers. We’d recommend this book to designers, even if they’re not looking to apply the Lean UX style, as there are principles here which are transdisciplinary, and could be useful in other facets as well.
The penultimate entry on our list of the finest UX books out there is ‘Atomic Design’. While both the name, and the cover art is minimalistic in style, the content is just as explosive as it’s namesake. This late 2016 release by superstar web designer Brad Frost, and features comprehensive, step-by-step tips on how to develop an interface. While specifically Mr. Frost refers to the art of web design, most if not all of the content in the book can be applied to any discipline of design, including UX and UI. His methodology is simple, yet effective, and can help the more erratic designers out there more efficiently organize their workflow, and establish a format in which to execute projects. That being said, we can recommend ‘Atomic Design’ to any and all of the designers out there, as you’re sure to extract some kind of value from it.
Sketching User Experiences: Getting the Design Right and the Right Design
The last entry on our list of the finest UX books out there is ‘Sketching User Experiences’. The 2007 release by computer scientist Bill Buxton chooses to focus far more on the visual design aspect of UX and UI. Buxton believes that what is ‘seen’ by both designers, and the clients is as important in the UX design process as backend aspects and components. Buxton preaches ‘design thinking’, but also makes clear that while design is essential, holistic thinking is what makes great products, with great usability. An interesting read not just for designers, but also those working with designers, and we can recommend it to anyone in the industry, in any capacity.
As you can see, there is no shortage of UX books out there, for both designers, and the general population. The vast range of content available on what is a relatively new subject staggered even us, a team of designers. Despite the presence of millions of articles online, the feeling of reading a book cover-to-cover, and absorbing all the information held within remains undefeated. So whether you’re looking to brush up on some design essentials, or gain some perspective on a new project, these books should serve you well.