12 UX Books for Beginners: a book a month

ux books for beginners cover photo

There are hundreds of great books on UX, usability, interaction design and the alike. So many in fact, that it’s hard to narrow down the very best ones and know where to begin.

Gaining knowledge on UX through reading books, is one of the best places to start for UX newbies.
We’ve complied this list of 12 UX books for beginners as a starting position.
Have other suggestions? Tweet us @usertest_io or leave a comment with your recommendation ūüôā

Best UX Books for Beginners

1. UX for Beginners: A Crash Course in 100 Short Lessons by Joel Marsh

UX For Beginners

For a “crash course” on UX, this is the place to start. Joel Marsh breaks down UX into one-hundred, easily digestible illustrated lessons, providing the most novice “uxer” an insight to the world of UX. Perfect read for non-designers who want to become designers, managers who teach UX, marketers, programmers etc.

You’ll learn:

  • The fundamentals of UX
  • How to plan and create wireframes
  • The process and science of making anything user-friendly
  • Find out what a UX designer does all day

Be warned, this book does contain profanity…on most pages.

Book: UX for Beginners: A Crash Course in 100 Short Lessons

2. The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman

The Design of Everyday Things

After reading Don Norman’s, The Design of Everyday Things, you’ll never look at objects the same way. You will question everything – from doors to coffee machines, to the computer programs. Don manages to change the way you experience and interact with your physical surroundings. You’ll see the word with new eyes and question how things should be designed – from the perversity of bad design and the desirability of good design.

Learn the aspects of user centered design, including:

  • Simplifying the structure of tasks
  • Making things visible
  • Exploiting the powers of constraint
  • Designing for error
  • Seven stages of action

Book: The Design Of Everyday Things

3. Emotional Design by Don Norman

Emotional Design

Expanding on “The Design Of Everyday Things“, Don Norman explores the reasons behind why we love or hate everyday things (objects). With a scientific backing, Norman draws on a wealth of examples to present a bold exploration of the objects in our everyday world.

Things that are more pleasurable to use, are easier to use than something with the same basic design. When people are enjoying what they are using, they tend to take more creative views at the problem they encounter during the interaction.

Build a working knowledge on:

You can learn more about emotional design from Norman’s TED talk: 3 ways good design makes you happy

Book: Emotional Design

Video: 3 ways good design makes you happy

4. Don’t Make Me Think (Revisited) by Steve Krug

Don't Make Me Think (Revisited)

As it says on the homepage: A common sense approach to web and mobile usability. With an entertaining writing style, Steve presents web usability with such wit, you’ll find it hard to put the book down.

What makes this book popular for beginners is that Steve provides more detail about function, rather than form i.e. how you can improve the usability of your designs, leading to improved user experience. Krug provides several examples, demonstrating how making usability tweaks can enhance the effectiveness of your/a website. Likewise, Krug provides examples of real-world web design scenarios and offers exercises for you to follow in order to examine a website’s usability.

Learn how to:

  • Design pages for scanning (not reading)
  • How to write for the web
  • Design navigation for the browsers and searchers
  • Conduct, simple cheap usability testing
  • Tackle web accessibility

Book: Don’t Make Me Think (Revisited)

5. Rocket Surgery Made Easy by Steve Krug

Rocket Surgery Made Easy

Known as the “companion to Don’t Make Me Think”, Steve Krug’s Rocket Surgery Made Easy spells out an approach to usability testing that anyone can easily apply to their own website, application or product.

You’ll learn how to:

  • Test any design – from a sketch on a napkin to a fully functioning website
  • Keep your focus on finding the most important problem (no one has time to fix them all)
  • Fix the problems that you find, using Steve’s “The least you can do” approach

Krug’s ability to demonstrate pairing testing and fixing products down to its essentials, conveys how realistic it is for teams to test early and often – catching problems while it’s still easy to fix them.

Book: Rocket Surgery Made Easy

6. About Face: The Essentials of Interaction Design: 3rd Edition by Alan Cooper, Robert Reinman and David Cronin

About Face

Written for the mobile age, About Face stresses the need to design for mobile (and tablet) first, over desktop. In a mobile first world, we need to optimise our designs to provide the best user experience possible.

Cooper provides useful resources and methods to be used on any user interface design project. Likewise, Cooper explores the principles of good product behaviour, his goal-direct design method and how to conduct user research, define your product using personas and scenarios.

Gain knowledge on various aspects of interaction design, including:

  • User research
  • Personas and scenario development
  • Interface mechanisms, widgets and screens

Book: About Face: The Essentials of Interaction Design (3rd Edition)

7. The Elements of User Experience by Jesse James Garrett

the elements of user exeperience

With clear explanations and vivid illustrations that focus on ideas rather than tools or techniques, Garret cuts through the complexity of user-centered design for the web. The Elements of User Experience gives readers the big picture of web user experience development Рfrom strategy and requirements to information architecture and visual design.

The five elements you’ll cover in this book, are:

  1. Strategy: Reason to the product, application or site. Why we create, who we create for, why people are willing to use it, why they need it. Define the user needs and business objectives.
  2. Scope: Define the functional and content requirements. What functions/features are required in the application and what content is needed. Requirements should be aligned with strategic goals.
  3. Structure: How users interact with the product and how they product behaves with user interactions. Split into two components: interaction design and information architecture.
  4. Skeleton: The visual form on the screen, including the arrangement of elements Рusually presented through wireframes. Skeleton is split into three components: interface design, navigation design & information design.
  5. Surface: How the product will look Рcolours, typography, layout etc. Things should be easy to understand, increase cognitive ability to absorb what users see on the screen.

Book: The Elements of User Experience

8. Design with Intent: Insights, Methods and Patterns for Behaviour Design by Dan Lockton

Design With Intent

Originally published as a toolkit,¬†Design with Intent offers a more nuanced approach to behavioural design, based around designing and researching with people rather than “for” them. Drawing on academic research and practical examples, Lockton offers interaction designers, user researchers and other professionals with a new set of tools for working with human behaviour as part of the design process.

You’ll learn:

  • Multiple perspectives on human behaviour from different disciplines, with practical examples
  • Understand and apply methods of doing research with people, in context, as an integral part of the design process
  • Learn a more nuanced and reflective approach to “behavioural design”, questioning how problems are framed and the societal impacts of design
  • See how designing with people in behaviour change can be applied to social and environmental problems, as well as commercially

Book: Design with Intent: Insights, Methods and Patterns for Behaviour Design

9. Measuring the User Experience: Collecting, Analysing and Presenting Usability Metrics by Tom Tullis and Bill Albert

Measuring The User Experience cover

As more UX and web professionals need to justify their design decisions with solid, reliable data, Measuring the User Experience provides readers with the analysis training to easily quantify the user experience.

Tom and Bill’s 2nd edition explores new metrics such as emotional engagement, personas, keystroke analysis and NPS (net promoter score). It also examines how new technologies can refine user experience measurement, helping usability and user experience.

Learn:

  • Which metrics to select for every case, including behavioural, physiological, emotional, aesthetic, gestural, verbal and physical
  • Discover a vendor-neutral examination of how to measure the user experience with web sites, digital products and virtually any other type of product of system

Book: Measuring the User Experience: Collecting, Analysing and Presenting Usability Metrics

10. Smashing UX Design: Foundations for Designing Online User Experiences by Jesmond Allen and James Chudley

Smashing UX Design

More of a manual than a book, Smashing UX Design is great for those who want to read something start to end or simply pick up when you need topic related advice. Allen and Chudley provide an overview of UX and user centered design and examine in detail sixteen of the most common UX design research tools and techniques for your web projects.

You’ll be provided with:

  • Guides for when and how to use UX research and design techniques – including, usability testing, prototyping, wire framing, sketching
  • How to plan UX projects to suit budgets, time constraints and business objectives
  • Checklists to help choose the right UX tools and techniques for the job in hand

Smashing UX Design is the complete UX reference manual.

Book: Smashing UX Design: Foundations for Designing Online User Experiences

11. A Project Guide to UX Design by Russ Unger and Carolyn Chandler

A Project Guide to UX Design

Russ Unger and Carolyn Chandler provide a canonical resource to young designers and organisations, by showing how to integrate UX principle into your project, from start to finish.

User experience design is the discipline of creating a useful and usable web site or application. Unger and Chandler bridge the gap between knowing the latest web technologies and diplomacy, project management skills and business savvy.

You’ll develop:

  • Understanding into the various roles on UX design, identify stakeholders, and enlist their support
  • Obtain consensus from your team on project objectives
  • Define the scope of your project and avoid mission creep
  • Conduct user research and document your findings
  • Understand and communicate user behaviour with personas

Book: A Project Guide to UX Design

12. 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know about People by Susan M. Weinschenik, Ph.D.

100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People

When designing a website, we try to elicit responses from people – we want them to but something, read more, or take action of some kind. Weinschenk provides real science and research with practical examples to deliver methods to design more intuitive and engaging work for print, websites, applications and products – pairing up how people think, work and play.

Learn to:

  • Increase effectiveness, conversion rates and usability of your own design projects
  • Understand how people see, read, remember, think and how to focus their attention

Book: 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know about People

Extra Reading:

100 More Things Every Designer Needs to Know about People by Susan M.Weinschenk

Book: 100 More Things Every Designer Needs to Know about People

Universal Principles of Design by William Tidwell

Book: Universal Principles of Design

Lean UX by Jeff Gothelf with Josh Seiden

Book: Lean UX

What do you think?

What UX books would you recommend to beginners and why. Drop your answers in the comment section below.

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