Ask any established UX professional what books those new to the field should read and you’re likely to get one of three responses: Don Norman’s The Design of Everyday Things, Alan Cooper’s About Face, or Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think.
And they’re absolutely right – these are the three books, written by three titans of the industry, that have defined a large part of the UX discipline.
But, with respect to Mr. Norman, Mr. Cooper, and Mr. Krug, there is so much more good UX reading out there, especially for new UXers.
I recently asked my Twitter audience of both seasoned and new UX professionals which books they’d recommend to someone starting out in the business. And they came through with so many wonderful recommendations that it made picking just six to feature a hard part.
So here are my six picks below, along with links to pick them up if any of them pique your interest.
Think First by Joe Natoli
“Think First by @joenatoli. Clear and effective book focusing on the fundamentals of the UX. Definitely a book I would recommend to someone new as it focuses heavily on the thinking and process instead of the surface/visual design at first.” @jerome_kalumbu
It’s hard to find a UX professional as experienced or wise as Joe Natoli, a UX consultant and instructor with more than 26 years of experience and 140,000 students.
Although Joe’s written several books, Think First is the one that comes out on top. Its focus on simple research methods and questions that can be done by any team make it a guiding light for new UX pros.
In Think First, Joe’s focus on the value of fighting the good UX fight and finding the right problems shines through. Reaching beyond the simple tactics of UX, the approach in Think First is a holistic exploration of the role and value of UX within any organization.
Evil by Design by Chris Nodder
“I really enjoyed reading Devil by Design. It talks about dark patterns we love so much. It’s amazing that when you read t you start identifying all the sites you use that are either a dark pattern or unintentional bad design” @_morninglow
If you’ve never heard of a dark pattern, Chris Nodder is about to open a whole new nasty, underhanded, and enthralling world of User Experience design for you.
In short, Dark Patterns are how companies trick users into doing something they wouldn’t normally do, for the primary benefit of the company. In Evil by Design, Chris gives us a peek into the cognitive science of persuasive design, and how those cognitive tricks often use our best intentions against us.
While the ultimate goal is to give the reader the tools to create compelling ethical designs, learning about how the psychology of human-computer interaction is used against us is a big step into understanding how those same patterns can be used for positive interactions that build value for both the user and the business.
Designing for the Digital Age by Kim Goodwin
“Kim Goodwin’s Designing for the Digital Age: How to create human-centered Products and Services – it’s about 700 pages of pure gold. Covers so many verticals of UX and extremely practical. A great handbook to get started with.” @callaghandesign
People like technology.
I know that will come as no shock to anyone, especially the technophiles likely to be reading this article, but as technology encroaches further and further on everyday life the importance of its design becomes ever more crucial.
Kim Goodwin’s has done the legwork to point out the crucial space UX now plays in the digital design of the everyday things we interact with, diving into the various fields UXers need to know and be comfortable with to be successful.
From assembling design teams to documenting finished designs and everything in between, Goodwin’s book is a bible for the UX design process in the digital age.
Thinking in Systems by Donella H. Meadows
“Thinking In Systems by Donella Meadows is one of the first books that I really push toward students because I want them to understand that their work will not exist in a vacuum and can impact other things, both seen and unseen.” @designhawg
At its core, UX is about identifying and solving problems.
And, at its core, Thinking in Systems is about systemic problem solving at scale. From the personal to the global, this book is all about taking our design thinking out of the digital realm and into the real world. By approaching our problems as systemic and interconnected, we begin to see how our solutions affect more than we might expect. And that thought process, taken at scale, becomes increasingly powerful.
Meadows’ work is a powerful statement of the value in determining the seemingly ineffable interconnectivity of our designs and solutions – a statement that shouldn’t be missed by anyone in the UX field.
Mismatch by Kat Holmes
“I’m starting Mismatch by @katholmes. It’s about Inclusive Design. It really has made me think about the design decisions we make – even a color choice – can exclude millions.” @jografixx
When we think about disabilities, we tend to think of them as something that only affects a handful of users. However, nearly 1.3 billion people worldwide suffer from some form of permanent disability. That means that even the smallest design decisions can render a product unusable to millions of users.
Mismatch is an exploration of exclusive designs – designs which, either by conscious design decision or ignorance, can only be used by a few. But it’s also about our journey towards inclusive design – the art of designing solutions that can be used by all.
And, perhaps most practically, it highlights how inclusive design isn’t just a passing fad, but a true strategic advantage for businesses moving forward.
Equally entertaining to read as it is informative, Mismatch has helped reframe the inclusive design process for countless design professionals already, and will certainly be a centerpiece of the inclusive movement for years to come.
The User Experience Team of One by Leah Buley
“The User Experience Team of One.” @JeanStrong
A few years ago, just after I landed my first “real” UX job, I won a contest through UXMastery for… something. While I can’t remember exactly what it was I did to win, I do remember what the prize was – my pick of the litter from any of Rosenfeld Media’s design books.
Working as a solo UXer at the time, I leapt at the chance to get Leah Buley’s The User Experience Team of One.
It was one of the best decisions I ever made. Success bred success, and things eventually came full-circle when I quoted the book in my own article for UXMastery, “How to Survive as Your Company’s Solo UXer.”
With so many UX jobs being solo or small-team gigs, Leah’s advice couldn’t be any more practical for those coming into the field. Her clear writing style cuts to the core of many of the problems solo UXers face, from practical, philosophical, and business perspectives. It gives new professionals a clear process to use starting out, and outlines easy-to-follow methods and tactics to help solo UXers along the way.
It’s the first book I recommend to new UX pros, whether or not they’ll be working solo in their first gig.
Want more? Did I miss something?
Still looking for something new to read? The thread that provided these recommendations also produced dozens more. Drop by to take a look and leave a comment of your must-read book for new UXers if you think a deserving title has been left off the list.