My primary gig is UX, and I get asked all the time what my favorite books are about user experience design. People who want to get into the field ask me all the time what they should read to get started.
Truth is, I’ve read a lot of books on UX, and I could recommend any number of them depending on what you’re looking for. However, a few stand out among the rest as the best books for getting into UX and learning the foundational bits about the discipline.
Here are my five favorites, in no particular order:
This book is an absolute classic, and goes deep into the psychology of how humans interact with interfaces. The great thing about this book is that it was written in the 80s, so all the concepts are pre-Web. That said, every concept in the book is transferable to our work designing interfaces for digital media. Put frankly, the basics of interface interactions never change. Norman covers everything from light switches, to car dashboards, to stovetops in this book. One of my all time favorite books, period.
Much of design is about making sure you’re designing the right thing, then worrying about how to design it right (to paraphrase Buxton). This book is a fantastic look at the overall design process, from research to implementation, with wonderful case studies that help to drive home the points. Buxton arranges the book in a really compelling way, and the concepts covered here are guaranteed to make you reevaluate how you go about the design process as a whole.
Krug’s book is one of the seminal books for down-to-earth usability advice, covering everything from how pages are laid out to effective navigation strategies. Where the previous book is heavy on process and theory, this book can’t be more practical. It’s a handbook for making everything on the web instantly more usable.
This isn’t about UX per se, but more about the broader product design process that IDEO uses in their practice. IDEO is a hugely popular and well respected design firm and this book, written by their CEO, is a fantastic look into their process. For me, it’s wonderfully apropos as user experience designers, as the same process they use to design consumer goods and services is the same process we can use as we design digital goods, and it all starts with understanding the people we’re designing for.
Speaking of understanding the people we’re designing for, this book is a great handbook on taking user research and making it work beautifully in your organization, by creating and socializing personas throughout the company. Personas are a fantastic artifact for summarizing user research in a way that makes it real and actionable as you design. This book walks through that research process and how best to capture those personas.
There are a ton more books I could list here, but these are the five that spring to the top of my head. This list ranges from high-level strategic design and process-oriented material, down to the page-level usability bits and pieces, and that kind of broad view of the UX process is absolutely required if you’re doing to design products well.