User Experience Books for Beginners

Win Your Copy
Win Your Copy

Our three copies of Information Architecture just arrived. Enter to win your copy.

a screenshot of a question via twitter

A request for help.

Through @uxbooks, my twitter feed for all things UX book related, I regularly get asked to recommend books to people and more often than not, it’s to suggest entry-level publications. Normally, when I’m feeling particularly lazy, my default response is to point them in the direction of Steve Krug’s seminal book Don’t Make Me Think.

Although deserving of the praise it’s received, I thought it might be a touch unfair to only ever line Mr. Krug’s pockets, so I’ve put together this list of books by other authors just as deserving as Steve to give me a place to point people in the future.

If you’re a seasoned UX professional, chances are you’ve heard of most of these books; in fact you’ve probably read, re-read, lost/sold/given-away, re-bought, and read them again just for old times’ sake, but hopefully there are a couple included that you may not have seen or considered reading before. If nothing else, it’ll act as the perfect place for you to direct people the next time they ask you the question: “apart from Don’t Make Me Think, what else is a good intro to UX?”

A Project Guide to UX Design
(by Russ Unger and Carolyn Chandler)

Book cover: A Project Guide to UX

A Project Guide to UX Design.

When discussing books for beginners on UX Exchange recently, A Project Guide to UX Design received the most recommendations after Don’t Make Me Think. To quote one of the responses, it’s “a great practical and accessible guide to what is required of UX designers, and serves as a great introduction to the field.”

I must confess I haven’t read this book yet, but due to such popular opinion, I chose to include it at the top of the list. From what I’ve heard, unlike other books pitched at a similar level, this one not only introduces you to design principles but also shows you how to effectively integrate UX principles into a project process.

Book: A Project Guide to UX Design (by Russ Unger and Carolyn Chandler)

The Design of Everyday Things
(by Don Norman)

Book cover: The Design of Everyday Things

The Design of Everyday Things.

This list would not be complete without The Design of Everday Things by Don Norman. Although it’s centered around physical objects, it stresses the importance of understanding the needs of users and the principles of cognitive psychology. The Design of Everyday Things is a powerful primer on how and why some products satisfy users while others only frustrate them.

Book: The Design of Everyday Things (by Don Norman)

The Elements of User Experience
(by Jesse James Garrett)

Book cover: The Elements of User Experience

The Elements of User Experience.

Jesse James Garrett and his book The Elements of User Experience have become synonymous with the diagram of the same name. The Elements of User Experience cuts through the complexity of user-centered design for the web with clear explanations and illustrations that focus on ideas rather than tools or techniques. Jesse James provides a broad overview of user experience development, from strategy and requirements to information architecture and visual design.

Book: The Elements of User Experience (by Jesse James Garrett)

Prioritizing Web Usability
(by Jakob Nielsen and Hoa Loranger)

Written by the UX industries answer to Marmite (you either love him or hate him) Prioritizing Web Usability is “for anyone involved in creating something that goes on the internet: designers, programmers, information architects and usability people.” Although it’s a few years old now slightly more relevant than its predecessor Designing Web Usability. At times the content is a little dry and doesn’t really take web standards into consideration, but it’s a fairly good introduction to usability in general and worth a look.

My signed copy of Prioritizing Web Usability

That’s right baby, I got my copy signed!

Book: Prioritizing Web Usability (by Jakob Nielsen and Hoa Loranger)

Sketching User Experiences (by Bill Buxton)

Book cover: Sketching User Experiences

Sketching User Experiences.

Through his thought-provoking personal examples [Bill Buxton] is inspiring others to better understand the role of design in their own companies.

Bill Gates

According to the UX Book Club league table Bill Buxton’s Sketching User Experiences is currently the most discussed book around the world, ahead of Don’t Make Me Think. Jason Robb also recommended it in his UX Booth post “Tools for Sketching User Experiences.”

Book: Sketching User Experiences (by Bill Buxton)

About Face 3 (by Alan Cooper, Robert Reimann and David Cronin)

Book cover: About Face 3

About Face 3.

About Face breaks down the principles of good product behavior and introduces you to Alan Cooper′s Goal–Directed Design method, from conducting user research to defining a product using personas and scenarios. Along with several other books in this list About Face regularly crops up on many UX bookshelves including Nick Finck’s list of top UX books from last year.

Book: About Face 3 (by Alan Cooper, Robert Reimann and David Cronin)

Emotional Design (by Don Norman)

Book cover: Emotional Design

Emotional Design.

The second of two books by Don Norman included in this list, Emotional Design articulates the profound influence of the feelings that objects evoke.

It’s a great (and quick) read and the perfect book to come back to time and time again for inspiration and insight.

Amongst other things, Don Norman is cofounder of the Nielsen Norman Group and a fantastically engaging public speaker. If you’d like to know more about emotional design and have 12 minutes to spare, I recommend you watch Don’sTEDtalk on YouTube.

Book: Emotional Design (by Don Norman)

Handbook of Usability Testing
(by Jeffrey Rubin and Dana Chisnell)

Book cover: Handbook of Usability Testing

Handbook of Usability Testing.

The Handbook of Usability Testing is primarily a beginner’s guide that gives a basic overview of usability testing, although it also contains useful nuggets of information for more experienced UX practitioners. It’s an ideal book to keep as a reference due to the many checklists and step-by-step guidelines it contains.

Book: Handbook of Usability Testing (by Jeffrey Rubin and Dana Chisnell)

Designing for Interaction (by Dan Saffer)

Book cover: Designing for Interaction

Designing for Interaction.

Building products and services that people interact with is the big challenge of the 21st century. Dan Saffer has done an amazing job synthesizing the chaos into an understandable, ordered reference that is a bookshelf must-have for anyone thinking of creating new designs.

Jared Spool

Whether you’re entering into the UX profession, collaborating with an interaction designer, or merely curious, Designing for Interaction is a good place to start if you want to further your knowledge.

Book: Designing for Interaction (by Dan Saffer)

Designing for the Social Web (by Joshua Porter)

Book cover: Designing for the Social Web

Designing for the Social Web.

Porter’s book currently lives in my bag to give me something to dip into whenever I’ve got 5 minutes to spare. The way it’s both written and structured fits with this approach nicely. Similar to Steve Krug’s style of writing, Designing for the Social Web is very easy to read and finds a nice balance between theory and practical advice.

Book: Designing for the Social Web (by Joshua Porter)

What do you think?

What books do you recommend to UX Beginners?

About the Author

Paul Seys

Paul is VP UX Design at J.P. Morgan. His main focus is on interaction design and experience strategy. You can read his blog Short Bored Surfer and follow his tweets via @paulseys.


  • Kai Reply

    Thanks, Paul, for this list which is all the more valuable for your personal comments.

    Just a quick heads up that a new edition of Garrett’s book is scheduled for later this year.

    And so is a new edition of Jenifer Tidwell’s “Designing Interfaces: Patterns for Effective Interaction Design” which might be on this list as well…

  • vsr Reply

    “Universal Principles of Design” by William Lidwell.

  • Simon Nielsen Reply

    Great list.
    I suggest adding “Designing the obvious” by Robert Hoekman Jr.

  • Jason Robb Reply

    Don’t Make Me Think, although usually thought of as a usability book, is definitely UX-related enough to include in such a list. It’s so easy to read!

    And for those who need more motivation to read these books, you should check out the UX Book Club ( It’s a great way to get together and discuss these books with newbies and pros.

    • Jason Robb Reply

      Doh! I didn’t read the italics intro paragraph which states your short answer is to read DMMT. Sorry about that! =X

  • Kenny Liu Reply

    Not the most popular, but I came across this book; Universal Principles of Design. And it’s fantastic.

  • Janko Reply

    Good choice Paul, definitively a must-have books. I’d suggest a possible alternative for Handbook of Usability Testing (haven’t read it thought) and that is “Rocket Surgery made easy”

  • zelticfrost Reply

    Great list of book, I’m gonna try to get some of those :)

  • Dana Chisnell Reply

    I’m delighted and honored that _Handbook of Usability Testing_ made your list. Thanks!

    @Janko, it’s longer and smarter than Krug’s book, but very nuts-and-bolts about how to do usability testing and how to understand what you’ve observed.

    • Janko Reply

      I will definitely read it.

  • Paul Seys Reply

    Thanks for all the great feedback guys it’s really appreciated, and no worries on the first comment jason it was easy to miss.

    Sounds like I need to put together a second edition including all your great suggestions. I haven’t read many of the books suggested so I’ll have to get cracking before I do the sequel.

  • Russ Unger Reply

    Thanks so much for including “A Project Guide to UX Design” in this list. It’s truly an honor to share a page with many of the folks that I respect and have learned so much from.

    Much obliged.

    • Bryn Williams Reply

      You’re book is incredibly useful and I’d highly recommend it to anyone starting out in UX.

  • Xavier Reply

    Definitely the Psychology of Everyday Things / The Design of Everyday Things. One of the best goddamn books they made me read in school. A+

  • Dirk Apel Reply

    I’d like to add:

    Designing for the Digital Age: How to Create Human-Centered Products and Services by Kim Goodwin.

    It’s from early 2009 and explains the whole process from assembling a team to prototype. It’s more like Alan Cooper’s About Face 3.0 than about UX but for me it absolutely works as a perfect dictionary for most questions in the user-centered-design-process.

    Great Post, thanks!

  • Dave Bloom Reply

    The Inmates are Running the Asylum (Alan Cooper) is a good read, but I guess About Face will get the job done.

  • Steve Krug Reply

    A very good list, indeed, Paul. (And thanks for calling Don’t Make Me Think “seminal”. I’m very flattered.)

    Fortunately, book sales isn’t a zero-sum game, so even though I have a son in college I’m always happy to see people recommending good books like these. (I have to admit that the idea of being the “default” recommendation is nice, though.)

    • paul seys Reply

      Thanks Steve, I’m really glad you like it.

      From all the feedback it looks like I may have to do a follow up (after much reading) with all the books people have recommended within these comments, which you’ll be glad to see includes ‘Rocket Surgery made easy’ so hopefully I can do my bit to help your son through college!

  • Bryn Williams Reply

    I would also include: Communicating Design: Developing Web Site Documentation for Design and Planning by Dan Brown. It’s a nice book that discusses the documentation that we use as UX professionals.

  • webmongrels Reply

    Awesome list – Krug, Norman and JJ Garret are HUGELY insightful and a great read too!!!..cant wait to check out the other suggestions! Cheers, greatly appreciated! :)

  • PHP Developer India Reply

    Excellent and very nice collection of books. It will much easy to find all thing for beginners…

  • Data Migration Reply

    OMG Wow i like to read books i think this is very useful collection it saves my time find books here and there..

  • vishnu Reply

    Nice Collection, wanna look more information :)

Leave a Comment on This Article