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UX design books worth reading

list of best ux design books

UX design books that cover everything from layout design to the theory of user testing. Want to expand your horizons? Check out this awesome list!

UX design is an exciting field that keeps attracting all sorts of talent. However, precisely because UX can be so vast, getting to learn the theory and practice can feel a little intimidating at first. After all, where do we start? By tuning our skills with a professional UX design tool or by studying the theory of navigation design?

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The short answer is here: we start by picking up a book on the topic. For those avid readers looking to know more about UX design, usability testing or even project management – we made this comprehensive list of UX design books worth reading. Check them out!

Top 15 UX design books worth reading

1. Design of everyday things

This book is widely popular in UX design courses and other types of educational programs that introduce people to the world of design. And while the Design of everyday things is widely recommended, there’s plenty of debate in the design community over its merit. The trouble is that experienced designers tend to be told this book is a “bible of UX” – which is quite far from the truth. The result is that many readers expect an in-depth academic-style book, and are left with a feeling of disappointment over its casual tone.

design of everyday things by don norman as ux book

For us here at Justinmind, this book is definitely worth reading. However, this isn’t a book that can teach veterans how to do their job better. Instead, it’s meant as an introduction to people who don’t come from a design background. It means to help people understand how UX design approaches the problems we face, trying to get readers in the right mindset that many designers already know and use for their work.

In short, this book can be a great doorway into a new look at how UX design relates to the world and why it’s so important. This can make for a great reading recommendation to developers, business managers and any stakeholder who struggles to truly understand UX.

2. Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability

This is another book that works as a wonderful starting point for those new to UX design. It’s a similar premise to Design of everyday things, but Don’t make me think focuses on the usability of truly great product design. It’s about understanding what makes a product easy to use, why it matters to people and the role that usability plays within UX.

ux design book - don't make me think

The goal here is to get people who don’t have experience in the world of usability testing to understand what people think and feel. It works as a great introduction but doesn’t venture deep into the nitty-gritty like some other UX books on this list.

Don’t make me think is a UX design book that gives an overview of user testing, with the core information maintaining its relevance since its publication. Once again, we find that experienced designers will already have all this knowledge, making this a wonderful book for newbies and beginners.

3. Lean UX: Designing Great Products with Agile Teams

The lean method has become so wildly popular in the UX community that it barely needs any introduction. Brought to us by Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden, this is the book that started it all. We fully recommend giving it a read, even if you’re already familiar with the lean approach to design.

lean ux design book original methodology

Lean UX: Designing Great Products is all about letting go of tasks and documentation that adds little value to the project, focusing the time and effort of the design team on constructive things. It’s about changing the way we think about a UX project, seeing it as a process of action as opposed to a road filled with hoops we must jump through.

This UX design book can be either an eye-opening experience for new designers or a great opportunity to freshen up on the lean method for design veterans.

4. Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products

Hooked makes for a wonderful UX design book for all designers out there. As the title suggests, the entire book is dedicated to how we can create products that people can use over and over again. The kick? The book focuses on products that people use often because they want to, not because they have to.

hooked as design book for habit forming products

Many readers praise the book for its casual language but in-depth look at what makes a product addictive, making for a powerful message. We love the case studies, where the book takes a close look at products like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. It analyses their behavioural techniques and discusses how products like these can create habits for users.

As all UX designers can agree, creating a product that encourages a new habit in people is no walk in the park, which makes this UX design book a wonderful and potent ally.

5. The Lean Startup

This is another UX book that can be greatly misunderstood by those in the design community. The truth is that The Lean Startup looks at UX design from the point-of-view of business analysts and entrepreneurs, translating key design concepts in business language. It’s basically applying the lean methodology to how one can run a startup that relies on design creativity.

lean startup as ux design book for beginners

This means two things. First, that this book isn’t necessarily aimed at people who have lots of experience in the design industry. Second, this book can be a wonderful way to change how someone perceives UX design, as well as its role in a brand new company.

6. Understanding Industrial Design: Principles for UX and Interaction Design

Understanding Industrial Design is all about the connection between industrial design and UX or interaction design. One of the most interesting things about this book is that it offers an interesting way of looking into both industrial and UX products – both of which aim to find better ways of solving problems for people.

ux design book: understanding industrial design

Truly, the real power of this book comes from the information on products that venture further than the digital world and go on to include some form of the product in the physical world. The book itself won’t make you an expert, but many users praise the book as a path to discovering new aspects of UX design to discover in-depth later on.

The book is filled with genuinely interesting facts that can give the reader some brand new, unexpected perspective on how to design solutions. As many readers are quick to point out, this book can double as an introduction to UX as well as interesting reading material for design veterans.

7. Usable Usability: Simple Steps for Making Stuff Better

This UX design book is all about getting newbies to understand the basics of usability. Written in a casual language, many readers agree that Usable Usability is a wonderful way to showcase the main elements and goals involved in usability testing.

usable usability as great ux design book

The book has an interesting part that overviews the internet and how far digital products have come since the 80’s. While there are those who say that some of the examples are outdated, others insist that even these examples hold valuable lessons that are still relevant today. Brought to us by Eric Reiss, the same author from The lean startup, this book makes for a solid addition to your UX-themed library.

8. 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People

This UX design book doesn’t necessarily deal with interactions or different prototyping techniques. Instead, 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People is all about how you can get to know and understand your users.

ux design book: things designers need to know about people

As experienced designers will admit, quality UX design rests on the fact that you need to know who you’re designing for. Not just their problems, but their feelings, expectations, preferences and how they behave in general. This book focuses on how people’s behaviour can be studied, so that the design team can answer questions like “What makes memories stick?” or “How do you motivate people to continue on to the next step?”.

A little bit of knowledge on the human psyche is worth gold to UX designers, who are required to exercise a huge amount of empathy in their work. With this book, you’ll be better equipped to know what aspects of behaviour matter most to the product, as well as how you can know what makes your users tick.

9. Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone To Take Action

You got us. This isn’t necessarily a UX design book. However, this Start With Why focuses on how true leaders think about their obstacles and goals. It’s about how, as a leader, one can encourage action in other people – which definitely applies to UX design.

start with why as ux design book

The reason we included this book in this list is because it shows us how we can signal and nudge users to make the decisions we want them to. Be it voting or clicking a button – ultimately, UX design rests on our ability to get users to certain actions. And while this book won’t tell you how to create a convincing interface, it will help you understand how people’s decisions can be influenced. And that, friends, is knowledge worth having as a designer.

10. UX for Beginners: A Crash Course in 100 Short Lessons

This UX design book, as the title suggests, sets out to be a great introduction. Meant for people who are only starting to get familiar with the world of UX, this book gives an overview of all the factors at play when we create a brand new digital product.

ux design for beginners

The great thing about UX for beginners is that it introduces all the key aspects and concepts that UX designers deal with. For a business analyst or an angel investor, knowing the basics of usability and why it matters is a great thing. The same applies for being able to recognise a good navigation system when they see one, or being able to spot a problematic layout that just doesn’t work the available space the way it should.

Will they be experts after reading this book? No. But it’s a good way to get the reader to see how diverse and complex the field of UX really is.

11. Emotional Design

Another wonderful UX design book by Don Norman, Emotional Design is all about the part that human emotions play in UX. This book takes “persuasive design” to a whole new level, seeking to help designers create products that blend well with the way people feel and think.

emaotional design as ux book by don norman

From case studies on products that attract people and why, to more detailed explanations about the human psyche – Don Norman breaks it all down. This UX book can help us both in obtaining insight into our users but also works as a great reference point to have around.

Readers praise the book for its simple language but powerful message. Answering questions like “where do emotions come from” or “why do people love some products but hate others”, Norman delivers a cult classic in the design community.

12. Rocket Surgery Made Easy by Steve Krug

Usability testing can seem like a lot to digest at first. It’s no secret just how crucial it is to conduct a sound usability study of the product design – but that can take many different forms. That’s why Steve Krug wrote Rocket Surgery Made Easy. It takes the complex and sometimes overwhelming idea of usability and breaks it down into theory and applicable guidelines.

rocket surgery made easy book on usability testing

People all over the world have read this book and praise it’s casual and easy-to-understand writing style, which includes humour relief and plenty of practical examples.

We love that this UX book provides the theory of usability testing but chooses to focus on more specific parts. For example, it teaches us how to prioritize the biggest usability issues and how to identify them. It provides a reasonable testing plan, helping newbies understand how they can approach the matter of usability in their design. Readers praise it as the next-best-thing to having a usability researcher in your team!

13. About Face: The Essentials of Interaction Design

This UX design book also aims to be a great introduction to the world of digital product design. Being one of the very first books to bring design concepts to the masses, About Face has grown to be quite popular for design students. Since its original publication in 1995, it’s been kept up-to-date and even includes mobile app design guidelines that can be applied today.

about face as ux design book

From giving us the broad overlook of web design, this book also ventures deeper to offer methodologies and specifics. Like others on this list, this UX design book doesn’t set out to make readers experts, but it does a great job at introducing several key concepts that designers need on their day-to-day.

14. A Project Guide to UX Design

This UX design book, like others on this list, tries to introduce readers to the world of UX. However, it does bring something new to the table. It focuses on UX through business lenses, discussing not just the specifics of design but also of managing a UX project.

project guide for ux design

We like that A Project Guide to UX Design  doesn’t limit itself to design techniques and methods. It ventures into the many different parts of the puzzle that must come together for a UX project to be successful – which means even designers who have been around for a while can learn a thing or two. It covers everything, from design and research, to the rollout and quality assurance that continues far beyond the product launch.

15. Measuring the User Experience: Collecting, Analysing and Presenting Usability Metrics

Last but certainly not least, we have Measuring the User Experience. This book is a complete guide to user testing and usability as a whole. The take on usability is quite interesting: the matter of quantifying the design. After all, translating the user experience into data is the first step towards efficient testing of the product and can also be the most difficult part for a newbie.

measuring the user experience - ux design book on usability

We love that this UX design book is all about helping people understand how much of a large part data plays in the design process and final result. It invites people to think of abstract concepts in terms of concrete numbers and data, transforming something theoretical into real numbers. Be it specific testing methods and theories to how to draw conclusions from test results. This book has it all!

The wrap up on UX design books

Reading a little about UX design can be a great way to introduce someone to the world of UX or just to refine a few skills. Regardless of rather you’d like to know more about usability testing or what makes a layout work – this list of UX design books will have something for you!

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Rebeka Costa
In-house SEO manager, usability enthusiast and patron of all sleep-deprived designers