Books are a popular choice if you want to learn user experience (UX) design or improve your UX skills. Here, we've found the 6 best UX design books for you to improve your UX skills, so you don't have to.
UX design, helpfully, has no commonly accepted definition. But we can say with certainty that it is all about the user - which means increasing the pleasure of using a project, making it as useful as possible and, most importantly, intuitive to use.
UX design has absolutely exploded in the design world. After all, who doesn’t want to create an easy-to use, delightful website or app which people and enjoy and is blissfully free of hiccups?
As such a big subject, UX can easily intimidate. The benefit of learning through a book is that there’s no need to rummage through the web or attend classes – everything you need to know will be findable in the book’s contents.
But the sheer amount of UX books out there can be overwhelming. We’ve taken the time to put together a selective list of the best UX books that any designer can benefit from and enjoy.
Best UX design books: Smashing UX Design by Jesmond Allen and James Chudley
Written by User Experience Directors at cxpartners and produced by Smashing Magazine – which is tailored towards web designers and developers – Smashing Design is an authoritative book from equally authoritative sources.
It is split into 4 parts: the first gives an overview of UX, the second explores how to research and evaluate for UX, the third moves onto tools and techniques in the actual design process, and the fourth explains UX design components one-by-one, clearly and comprehensively.
Plus, this much-loved manual for UX-ers keeps to the promise of its title, breaking down UX into easy-to-understand parts. For example, its detailed exploration of the 16 most common UX design and research tools for web is crucial to understanding what a career in UX is really like and relating theory to the real world.
Best UX design books: Usable Usability by Eric Reiss
World-renowned UX expert – and all-round amusing guy – Eric Reiss presents solutions to common web usability problems in this engaging fix-it guide. Not one to hold back on useful information, Eric also explains what usability is, why it matters and how you do it.
The book is divided into two parts: ‘ease of use’ and ‘elegance and clarity’, both of which are of course the main threads of UX. Loaded with real-life examples, richly illustrated and a pleasure to read, this book is a must for aspiring and current UX designers - and I’m saying that despite finding that overused claim cringe-worthy.
Best UX design books: The UX Book: Process and Guidelines for ensuring a quality user experience by Rex Harston and Pardha S. Py
Much like its title, this book is detailed, long and textbookish. So, er, why are we recommending it? Well, from academic-like books comes a hell of a lot of knowledge.
The UX Book is a solid information source for designers of all experience levels. Authors Rex Harston and Pardha S. Pyla give a very broad approach to UX and human computer interaction theory, whilst providing readers with practical techniques.
Though it’s not the shortest of books, it is certainly worth having on your bookshelf to dip into interaction design requirements, UX evaluations , prototyping and design production - as well as the entire UX lifecycle.
Best UX design books: 100 Things Every Designer Needs To Know About People by Susan Weinschenk
Really, UX is all about people – and Susan Weinschenk, a behavioural psychologist who has been working in UX design since the 1980s – is as much of a people expert as you’re going to get.
What fonts keep people reading? What line length for text is best? How can you predict the types of errors that people will make? These are just some of the questions that this visually appealing, web-design-focused book answers through a combination of science and research.
Unlike some of the other books in this list, Susan’s light offering won’t take days of solid reading to get through. In this way, the book is particularly suited to an introductory audience – but there are a few gems of information in there for anyone.
We’re fans of Susan anyway, especially since featuring her course in our guide to the best UX courses out there.
Best UX design books: Don’t Make Me Think Revisited: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, 3rd Edition by Steve Krug
The previous two versions of this supremely well-reviewed book sold over 400,000 copies since its first edition was published in 2000, with both editions becoming much-loved introductions to web usability and even remaining relevant today - though the web has substantially changed, user perceptions have not (and do not).
Not that we don’t appreciate a refresh. Steve’s 3rd edition, published in 2014, was much needed after a 13-year break. When Don’t Make Me Think was first written, web usability was hardly even a thing - and with this new perspective on web usability, which is now very much a thing, comes the inclusion of mobile usability too.
Witty, short and concise, this reads like a book on UX surely should.
Best UX design books: Design for Real Life by Eric Meyer & Sara Wachter-Boettcher
Using concrete examples from over a dozen sites and services, Sara Wachter-Boettcher and Eric Mayer's newly-released book gives you tools you can apply instantly to real life.
Though the authors acknowledge that you can't please every user, they give a firm base to cater to as many users as possible. And, what's more, they do so with kindness. trying to build interfaces that are truly human - people are messy and clean design, they think, needs to deal with that complexity.
For a unique, compassionate approach to UX - and a fresh one, given the book's very recent release date - look no further than Design for Real Life.
So we’ve gleaned the best UX design books the world has to offer for you. Now all you need to do is somehow resist buying them all. Or just screw it all and do it anyway.