Recommended Books for your User Experience and Usability Library

In my last article, I gave examples of the key things that I learned from Steve Krug’s great book Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, 2nd Edition. In that article, I asked people to share key books in their Usability and User Experience libraries. I also asked our Twitter followers and here are what other UXBooth readers had to recommend:

Information Architecture for the World Wide Web: Designing Large-Scale Web Sites

By Louis Rosenfeld

This is a great book to introduce business people to information architecture, for architects to reinforce their skills, and for web designers to principles to apply to site design. The second edition has more information and is more in depth than the first, and is well worth purchasing.

The Psychology Of Everyday Things

By Donald A. Norman

Although this book is a product of the 1980′s, its essential premise is not dated nor obsolete. Dr. Norman vividly illustrates the good and bad of design, and provides an excellent guidebook for the understanding of basic user-centric design in products, fixtures, software, and the everyday things that make up our world.

The Design of Sites: Patterns for Creating Winning Web Sites (2nd Edition)

By Douglas van Duwyne, James Landay and Jason Hong

This book may simply be the best collection of proved successful web interface design patterns. It has no technical details but does has a rich collection of the state of the art patterns that can inspire web designer. Studying this book before actually writing any web interface code is highly recommended.

A Project Guide to UX Design: For user experience designers in the field or in the making (Voices That Matter)

By Russ Unger and Carolyn Chandler

This is an excellent real-world primer on UX design that captures all the necessary elements for someone to become a competent UX designer. It strikes the right balance between revealing better design practices with the most effective project management approach which is often omitted in books in the same category.

The Elements of User Experience: User-Centered Design for the Web (Voices That Matter)

By Jesse James Garrett

The Elements of User Experience cuts through the complexity of user-centered design for the Web with clear explanations and vivid illustrations that focus on ideas rather than tools or techniques.

The User Is Always Right: A Practical Guide to Creating and Using Personas for the Web (Voices That Matter)

By Steve Mulder and Ziv Yaar

This comprehensive guide approaches user experience research like never before, and is well-written, easy-to-read, and quite user friendly. It provides real-world examples of how user research is done in just enough detail that it can both inform an executive of the role of usability research as well as introduce methodology for persona creation to someone starting out in user experience design.

Information Architecture for Designers: Structuring Websites for Business Success

By Peter Van Dijck

This must-read text for all web designers delivers vital information on how to employ information architecture to create intelligent sites that produce hard sales. In today’s drastically reduced web market, measurable business returns are essential to clients and this book equips the designer with the tools to deliver the goods.

Designing Interfaces: Patterns for Effective Interaction Design

By Jennifer Tidwell

Designing Interfaces catalogs UI design patterns in use and provides guidance in using them, with plenty of examples. It takes a consistent approach to describing each pattern: What it is, when to use it, why to use it and how to use it. The book is both a good overview and a reference.

Prioritizing Web Usability (Voices That Matter)

By Jakob Nielson and Hoa Loranger

This book is for anyone involved in creating something that goes on the internet: designers, programmers, information architects, and, yes, usability people. It doesn’t say anything about programming languages or using software like Photoshop, but it says everything about the product created by programming languages and software. A website is the cumulation of a thousand decisions: the location of links, typography, the size of the search box, the substance of the content, etc. This book gives you the best design decisions and the reasons behind those decisions discovered through in depth usability testing of the common user.

The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures

By Dan Roam

The Back of the Napkin is one of the very few really practical books about visual thinking. It describes the process and explains the tools effectively in the lay man’s terms. This book is a must for everybody who would like to learn not only visual thinking but creative thinking in general. It’s essential part of the visual literacy.

Designing the Obvious: A Common Sense Approach to Web Application Design

By Robert Hoekman Jnr

This book is great for people who are new to the information architecture/usability/interface design field. This was the first book I read in this area, and it was a great starter book which has kick started my desire to learn more. Even if you aren’t in those fields, its a great book for software designers and developers to read and should have you improving your apps usability in no time.

Designing the Moment: Web Interface Design Concepts in Action (Voices That Matter)

By Robert Hoekman Jnr

Hoekman’s style makes this a quick and very understandable read. Each chapter is overflowing with tips you can apply immediately to things you’re working on right now. In many cases, he starts with some design that may not have any obvious problems, then iterate through improvements, thoroughly explaining WHAT he’s improving on and WHY the improvement actually IS an improvement. The plentiful, full color screenshots are a huge help, to see exactly what the iterations produce.

Mental Models: Aligning Design Strategy with Human Behavior

By Indi Young

The book is detailed and clear about mental modeling methods and practices, and strikes a nice balance between the thinking and doing aspects of creating a mental model.

About Face 3: The Essentials of Interaction Design

By Alan Cooper, Robert Reimann and David Cronin

Not only does this book cover the general principles and theory behind interaction design, but also provides lots of real-world practical information. The writers call on designers not simply to follow rigid interaction design rules, but to create elegant, informative and respectful interfaces. That’s a loftier goal, and this book give you the tools to attain it.

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  1. The 2nd book from Donald Norman is probably amazing, I heard a lot about it, also, I read the “Emotional Design”. Donald Norman have really good books.

    About Face (last one) is enormous as well as complete. Is worth it.

    I’m 25% reading the 4th one (UX Design), is super up to date with really good content and easy to read.

    Good calls UXbooth.

  2. Worth mentioning that Peter Morville is the co-author of the ‘polar bear book’ with Lou, and that The Psychology Of Everyday Things was republished as The Design Of Everyday Things long ago, should you wish to buy the cheaper paperback version.

  3. Great list! I would also recommend “Web Form Design” by Luke Wroblewski

    ~ Aaron I

  4. Useful post – thank you.

    I would also submit the work of Edward Tufte ( as highly valuable to UX designers…

  5. great list i have really been upping my UI game lately. Thanks for the help.

  6. Great list, thanks for posting! I have been collecting a list of ‘must-read’ and recommended books and blogs here:

    The ones I might suggest adding to your list are Donald Norman: Emotional Design – Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things (as mentioned by All-X above) and William Lidwell, Kritina Holden, Jill Butler: Universal Principles of Design.

  7. You’re kidding me!

    “Don’t make me think!” isn’t listed here. ;-)

    Great list!


  8. I wouldn’t recommend the Nielson book as I found it teaches almost nothing and fails to address so many modern web needs. About Face 3 covers a lot of ground (often beyond web design) and has many relevant pages.

    ‘Designing Web Interfaces… by Bill Scott and Theresa Neil is intelligent, straightforward, tackled usability issues and questioned web trends thoughtfully.’ –

  9. Dan Roam here, author of “The Back of the Napkin”. I am planning to launch a series of visual thinking seminars open to the public and am trying to get a gauge of interest. If you’d like to be included on the seminar mailing list, please send me a note here:

    Thanks, Dan Roam

  10. Try Flashman Flashman, it is also a great book.

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