10 essential interaction design books to take you from zero to interaction design hero
Whether you’re an aspiring Interaction Designer, UX/UI Designer, or even a Product Manager, it’s important to know the fundamentals of interaction design to be able to serve your users better. In fact, one of the most important aspects of UX design is interaction design (IXD), which aims to create meaningful relationships between users and interfaces.
Grounding yourself with a strong background in usability design principles, user-centered design, information architecture and sketching and wireframing is only going to strengthen your UX skillset. And while there are plenty of design tools that will help you develop these skills – such as Justinmind – it’s worth investing some time (and some cash) in what the experts have to say.
Lucky for all you budding designers, there are plenty of resources available to help you understand the theory behind interaction design. And to make sure you start off on the right foot, we’ve compiled a list of the top 10 interaction design books. Let’s begin!
10 interaction design books to make you an IXD pro
#1 The Design of Everyday Things (Donald A. Norman)
“Two of the most important characteristics of good design are discoverability and understanding.”
At the top of our interaction design reading list we have Don Norman’s ‘The Design of Everyday Things’ – a great introduction to the discipline of interaction design.
In his book, Don looks at how product design often neglects the needs of users through the misuse, misunderstanding or errors when using everyday objects and devices. He explores how design should serve as the communication device between everyday objects and users and offers advice on optimizing communication in order to improve the experience for the user.
You will be introduced to the concepts of affordance as it is applied to design, discoverability, natural mapping, feedback and constraints. This is a must read for every interaction designer who wants to understand the discipline from the ground up.
Don Norman is the director of The Design Lab at University of California, San Diego and co-founder and principal of Nielsen Norman Group.
#2 Microinteractions: Designing with Details (Dan Saffer)
“It’s the little things that turn a good digital product into a great one.”
Dan Saffer’s ‘Microinteractions: Designing with Details’ will help you learn how to design effective microinteractions. For those of you who are new to the idea of microinteractions, they are contained product moments where the user and interface interact, designed to enhance the user experience. Every time you change a setting, sync your data, set an alarm, pick a password or set a status – you are engaging with a microinteraction.
Dan’s book is gives you a 360 degree experience of the microinteraction. Through helpful, real-world examples, he walks you through its composition and structure, the types of triggers that initiate it, rules that define how microinteractions are used, as well as the best practices on feedback and user preferences in relation to microinteraction design.
Although small, microinteractions actually have a huge impact on how we interact with our digital devices and can have help to improve the user experience. Whether you’re designing an app, site or any other form of digital interface, interaction needs to draw users in. Dan Saffer will show you how.
Dan Saffer is a Director of Interaction Design at Smart Design.
#3 Thoughtful Interaction Design: A Design Perspective on Information Technology (Jonas Lowgren and Erik Stolterman)
“To design digital artifacts is to design people’s lives.”
Jonas Lowgren and Erik Stolterman’s interaction design book ‘Thoughtful Interaction Design: A Design Perspective on Information Technology’ provides a collection of tools that consider IXD from a design perspective, rather than one of usability or usefulness.
The authors’ action-first approach to the interaction design helps to define the digital design process. The book draws on design theorist Donal Schön’s concept of the reflective practitioner, which seeks to help designers deal with complex design challenges through innovative technology.
This is a great example of combining design theory with design practice, situating digital design in the history of the design process and critical thinking and exploring design as process and not an output.
Jonas Löwgren is a Swedish author and Professor of interaction and information design at Linköping University. Erik Stolterman is a Professor in the School of Informatics and Computing at Indiana University Bloomington.
#4 You’re My Favorite Client (Mike Monteiro)
“Whether you’re a designer or not, you make design decisions every day.”
Mike Monteiro’s ‘You’re My Favorite Client’ proves that a good design process is essential for consistently successful results by looking at the design process from the point of view of both the design client and the designer.
This book includes strategies on how to nurture a positive design environment, hire and evaluate designers and how to provide helpful feedback when things go well or when things go wrong. Read more on the UX-business strategy link in our interview with Jaime Levy here.
Mike is an excellent storyteller, sharing his ideas in the form of advice and anecdotes. And for new designers, there’s a helpful glossary at the back of the book to help you along with less commonly-known design jargon.
Mike Monteiro is co-founder and design director of Mule Design.
#5 Film Music and Everything Else (Charles H. Bernstein)
“Melody and rhythm have always been a reassuring comfort against the many unpredictabilities.”
Although this might not sound like the most obvious choice for interaction design book, we had to include it in our list. In ‘Film Music and Everything Else’, Charles H. Bernstein leverages the concept of creativity in music and relates it to design.
Anyone who knows Charles’ work will know that he likes he cross boundaries. In ‘Film Music and Everything Else’, he draws on the inner life of the creator and the mystery and magic of the creative process, forcing the reader to look at the idea of creativity in the widest possible sense.
A great, albeit unconventional read for anyone looking for design inspiration or a break from the more traditional theory behind interaction design.
Charles H. Bernstein is an American poet, essayist, editor, and literary scholar.
#6 Designing Web Interfaces, Principles and Patterns for Rich Interactions (Bill Scott and Theresa Neil)
“Make it direct.”
Bill Scott and Theresa Neil’s ‘Designing Web Interfaces, Principles and Patterns for Rich Interactions’ offers readers a practical guide to designing design patterns for web interfaces.
The authors’ discuss how to use web transitions and how to implement them to build usable design patterns with rich interactions, drawing on many patterns with examples from working websites. Anyone looking to understand the interaction behind a website should read this book. Learn more about interaction design patterns in our post here.
Bill Scott is Head of Engineering at Venmo and a User Interface Design and Engineering Evangelist. Theresa Neil is Managing Director a Theresa Neil Strategy and Design and is recognized as one of the Top 75 Designers in Technology. Check out her blog for all things interaction design.
#7 Designing Interactions (Bill Moggridge)
“Digital Technology has changed the way we interact with everything from the games we play to the tools we use at work.”
In his book ‘Designing Interactions’, Bill Moggridge recounts the stories of how digital designers who have changed the way people use everyday things, from the games we play to the tools we use at work. Bill reveals how the design of digital products has undergone a shift, as designers no longer regard their job as designing a physical object, but as designing interactions with it.
Bill also tells readers about his own design process, how the shift in design focus to people and prototypes is evolving the products we deliver and how the needs and goals of users can inspire innovative designs.
The book includes interviews with over 40 influential designers, including with the founders of Google, the creator of The Sims, and the inventors and developers of the mouse and the desktop.
Bill Moggridge was a British designer, author and educator who cofounded the design company IDEO and was director of the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum in New York.
#8 Seductive Interaction Design: Creating Playful, Fun, and Effective User Experiences (Voices That Matter) (Stephen P. Anderson)
“I’m a great app, if people would just get to know me.”
In ‘Seductive Interaction Design: Creating Playful, Fun, and Effective User Experiences’, Stephen P. Anderson describes how the same tactics humans use to attract a mate can be applied to the interactions between users and interfaces, in order to ensure the most meaningful connections possible and make your interface stand out from the rest.
The topics covered in the book include aesthetics, cognition, emotion and behavior, and the subtle art of seduction in relation to digital interfaces. Stephen focuses on human behavior, when interacting with both physical objects and digital devices, and explores the underlying psychological principles applied to UX.
Question: “Why should the things we’re building be seductive?”
Answer: “We need to learn how to deliberately entice a person to engage in some sort of behavior.”
Stephen P. Anderson is an internationally recognized speaker and consultant based out of Dallas, Texas.
#9 Designing Connected Products (Elizabeth Goodman, Claire Rowland, Martin Charlier, Alfred Lui and Ann Light)
“The Internet of Things (IoT) promises a wealth of new possibilities for interacting with the world around us.”
‘Designing Connected Products’ takes a look at the Internet of Things (IoT) and how interaction designers can design connected products. The Internet of Things is transforming the way we connect with others and with our devices, and making objects capable of filling these new roles will create plenty of opportunity for interaction designers.
‘Designing Connected Products’ provides designers with a practical roadmap of consumer product strategy and design in relation to connected devices. By drawing design best practices and academic research, this book delivers sound guidelines for working with interactions across devices in IoT technology.
Elizabeth Goodman is a design researcher in Intel’s User Centered Design group. Claire Rowland is an independent product and UX strategy consultant specializing in the Internet of Things. Martin Charlier is an independent design consultant. Alfred Lui is a user experience designer for consumer products, having created user interfaces and digital services for companies around the world, including The BBC, Motorola, PayPal and Jawbone. Ann Light is a Professor of Design & Creative Technology, University of Sussex.
#10 About Face: The Essentials of Interaction Design (Alan Cooper, Robert Reimann and David Cronin)
“Define what the product will do before you design how the product will do it.”
‘About Face: The Essentials of Interaction Design’ is a comprehensive guide to interaction design in relation to the evolving culture of mobile-first design.
The authors’ discuss the state of mobile app interaction, touch interfaces and screen size considerations. Other notable interaction design topics include design patterns, affordances, motion and flow
Alan Cooper is the “Father of Visual Basic” and is the founder of Cooper, a leading interaction design consultancy. Robert Reimann has spent the past 20 years pushing the boundaries of digital products as a designer, writer, and consultant. He has led dozens of web, desktop, and device-based interaction design projects, for startups and Fortune 500 companies alike. David Cronin is UX Director at Google and is an experienced manager, speaker, educator, and writer.