This article, Top 22 UX Design Books, is part of our series for the new UX designer: How to Find UX Design Jobs: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide (2021 Edition).
Who says designers can’t be readers? When it comes to receiving a solid education in UX design, you don’t necessarily need a design degree. But you need to use multiple sources to sharpen your design skills. You can do that by taking a design course, subscribing to design blogs, watching YouTube videos, listening to podcasts, and yes, reading good, old-fashioned UX design books.
But while some of the books on this list are older (but still revered as UX design bibles), not all of them were written long ago. There are new UX design books produced every year, and we’re also highlighting the best-reviewed newer books.
Our Favorite UX Design Books
When we’re unsure about what to do or buy, we look to testimonials, ratings, and reviews to tell us how to behave.
Author: Susan Weinschenk
Description: In this book, Dr. Weinschenk tackles how design leads to action. Plus, it uses tons of research to show the cause and effect of good (and bad) design. Use this book to understand how to make a design memorable and actionable.
Current innovation practices don’t reliably deliver breakthroughs. There is a lack of a set of reliable tools and methods for creating real breakthroughs rather than incremental or random improvements.
Author: Vijay Kumar
Description: While this book was written almost 10 years ago, it’s still relevant today. In 101 Design Methods, you’ll receive a guidebook to creating new products and customer experiences. This is a great book for strategists who need to tackle a design problem.
“Simple clear designs always tend to have a better conversion and better usability than visually complex counterparts.
Author: Csaba Házi
Description: It doesn’t get any easier than this seven-step formula to UX design. It doesn’t weigh you down with a lot of philosophy. Instead, it simply delivers actionable action that you can use to improve yourself as a UX designer.
Usability’s strength is in identifying problems, while design’s strength is in identifying solutions.
Authors: Alan Cooper, Robert Reimann, and Dave Cronin
Description: Curious about interaction design? In About Face, you’ll explore interaction design principles and patterns. This book is instrumental in helping you to develop interactions on mobile platforms (i.e. designing for smaller screens).
Design is basic to all human activities – the placing and patterning of any act towards a desired goal constitutes a design process.
Author: Victor Papanek
Description: This design book is one of the classics on this list (that’s because it was written over 20 years ago but is still valuable and poignant today). In Design for the Real World, you’ll shift how you think about design, specifically how design can be useful for treating the human conditions. It’s a fascinating read that challenges you to think of ways to improve the world through design.
In fact, there’s an old joke among designers: “It’s not a problem. It’s an opportunity.
Author: Dan Saffer
Description: Here’s another book that looks at interaction design, specifically how people and technology behave and respond to each other. Use the insight from this book to create a more informed design strategy, not just a cute one.
If there’s one thing you learn by working on a lot of different Web sites, it’s that almost any design idea–no matter how appallingly bad–can be made usable in the right circumstances, with enough effort.
Author: Steve Krug
Description: Don’t Make Me Think is one of the most respected books on usability. It provides a practical insight for all readers on how to design for the web. So, if you’re designing products that will be available online, you need to read this book.
Learning should take place when it is needed, when the learner is interested, not according to some arbitrary, fixed schedule
Author: Don Norman
Description: How do you design a product that people will love? This book tackles the emotional aspect of design. Plus, it’s a useful reference for understanding the human’s emotional attachment to products.
What makes something usable is the absence of frustration in using it.
Author: Jeffrey Rubin
Description: Here’s another oldie but a goodie. This book dates back to 1994, but it’s been fully updated since. It’s useful in helping you understand all aspects of usability. From planning to testing your products. Also, it provides insights into selecting and training test moderators. This is an incredible resource for market researchers.
Users who continually find value in a product are more likely to tell their friends about it.
Authors: Nir Eyal and Ryan Hoover
Description: This is the definitive guide to developing addictive products that users will love. Plus, it gives tips on how to create “hook cycles” that keep users coming back. This is a must-read.
Stories are where the richest insights lie, and your objective is to get to this point in every interview.
Author: Steve Portigal
Description: If you interview users, where do you start? In this book, Steven Portigal provides a comprehensive guide for doing user interviews. It helps you understand how people think and respond. Also, it’s a must for helping you conduct in-person, on-line, or over-the-phone interviews.
Are you enjoying this list of top UX design books? Let us know your fave in the comments section below!
At its core, UX research is about spending time with the “users” of a product, learning about their needs, and taking those insights to improve the product.
Author: Lauryl Zenobi
Description: This book is pretty straightforward in its content. It’s focused on helping readers get a job. Use this book to learn how to build your portfolio, how to network, and ultimately, how to land a UX job.
AS humans, we have an underlying “blueprint” for how we perceive and process the world around us, and the study of psychology helps us decipher this blueprint.
Author: Jon Yablonski
Description: What are the core tenets of UX design? In this book, you’ll use psychology to understand product design that’s human-focused. The author uses familiar apps to demonstrate key psychology principles.
Our goal is not to create a deliverable, it’s to change something in the world — to create an outcome.
Author: Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden
Description: This award-winning book teaches readers the ins and outs of the Lean UX approach. Plus, you’ll learn how to work with your Agile product product team to create minimum viable products (MVPs) quickly and efficiency.
Design is really an act of communication, which means having a deep understanding of the person with whom the designer is communicating.
Author: Don Norman
Description: Here’s another classic by Don Norman. This one discusses how to create products simply. And the author argues that design shouldn’t be complicated. It teaches you how to balance aesthetics with usability.
By asking people for their input early in the process, you help them feel invested in the outcome.
Author: Jake Knapp
Description: This bestselling book offers a big promise: the ability to solve and test new ideas in only five days. This is the same five-day process that’s used at Google, but can be implemented by teams of any size. If you can only get one book from this list, Sprint is it. And it’s especially useful for product development.
“Once you can name something, you’re conscious of it. You have power over it. You’re in control. You own it
Author: Robin Williams
Description: This book is perfect for beginner designers who have a passion for aesthetics but need to know how everything works together. So, it’s a must-get, especially if you’re completely new to design. It discusses the four principles of design and how to use color and type to create effective design.
Nothing in life is as important as you think it is, while you are thinking about it”
Author: Daniel Kahneman
Description: This bestseller, written by a Nobel-prize winner (really), is one of the most respected books on designing for how humans think and feel. It explores two ways that humans think: the fast and emotional system, and the slower and more logical system. Overall, it’s a must-read and will impact the way that you design.
In spite of the common simplistic distinctive between expert and novice users, the reality is that most people do not acquire expertise in all parts of a system.
Author: Jakob Nielsen
Description: Geared towards non-technical people, Usability Engineering will help designers understand the basic concepts of usability. It doesn’t overwhelm you with a ton of principles.
Authors: Tim Broadwater and David Edwin Meyers
Description: This is a fun book that challenges readers to think about design differently. And this book is divided into 20, specifically 20 things you should know, 20 time wasters to avoid, and 20 common failures to avoid. Also, you can use this book to improve your UX career.
21. UX Magic
Never start sketching screens and then try to reverse-engineer a CM from them. This is a rookie mistake that can get you ejected from the Jedi academy.
Author: Daniel Rosenberg
Description: Here’s another must-read book. In UX Magic, the author discusses the principles of cognitive science. It also uses science to create satisfying user experiences. It may be called UX Magic, but the author relies heavily on science.
You have to know why people behave as they do—and design around their foibles and limitations, rather than some ideal.
Authors: Cliff Kuang and Robert Fabricant
Description: This is a philosophical book that explores the human relationship to machines. It’s thought-provoking and eye-opening. But, it’s not just theory. User Friendly will help any designer understand how to craft useful and beautiful interactions.
Other Great UX Design Books
- The Best Interface Is No Interface by Golden Krishna
- Think Like a UX Researcher: How to Observe Users, Influence Design, and Shape Business Strategy by David Travis and Philip Hodgson
- The Elements of User Experience by Jesse James Garrett
- The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less by Barry Schwartz
- User Story Mapping: Discover the Whole Story, Build the Right Product by Jeff Patton
The Bottom Line
To improve your skills as a UX designer, don’t just rely on courses, blogs, or YouTube videos. Also, include books in your learning. A good design book, like the ones mentioned above, will provide a focused introduction to a specific subject.
So, what are you waiting for? Choose any of the above books and get to reading. Every one of them is guaranteed to make you a better designer.
Don’t go yet! Check out the other posts in this series: