The UX Design reading list

These are the books I recommend if you want to teach yourself UX design. I’ve included some thoughts if I’ve read the book.

Jump to books that cover…

  1. A general overview of UX design
  2. User research
  3. Content strategy
  4. Information architecture
  5. Interaction design
  6. Visual design
  7. Usability evaluation
  8. Accessibility
  9. Animation
  10. Commercial success
  11. Ethics
  12. Graphic design
  13. HTML, CSS, and Javascript
  14. Philosophy of design
  15. Product management
  16. Psychology
  17. Small screen design
  18. Typography
  19. Writing

A general overview of UX design

Don't Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability

Steve Krug

This book is an excellent introduction to both the benefits and principles of good design. If you read this book, and put everything it says into practice, you’re off to a good start.

The Elements of User Experience: User-Centered Design for the Web and Beyond

Jesse James Garrett

This book takes a more theoretical approach to what User Experience design is than Don't Make Me Think. Jesse defines the layers that make up the profession, and how they're connected.

Universal Principles of Design: 125 Ways to Enhance Usability, Influence Perception, Increase Appeal, Make Better Design Decisions, and Teach through Design

William Lidwell, Kritina Holden, and Jill Butler

A practical book through and through, this is a great reference. You'll learn principles that will stick with you for your entire career. Each principle is given two pages, so you can easily flip to any point in the book and learn something interesting.

User research

Just Enough Research

Erika Hall

The title of this book is absolutely accurate. Erika doesn't waste any pages talking about obscure research methods you'll never use. Read this book, and you'll learn just enough about research to do what you need to on any project. A very easy and practical read, written by an entertaining author.

Universal Methods of Design: 125 Ways to Research Complex Problems, Develop Innovate Ideas, and Design Effective Solutions

Bruce Hanington and Bella Martin

This book doesn't just have research methods in it, but they make up a large part of it. It's safe to say that you'll probably never use all of the research methods listed, but if you need to learn more about specific techniques, or wonder how you should tackle a particular research problem, this is a great start.

Think Like a UX Researcher: How to Observe Users, Influence Design, and Shape Business Strategy

David Travis

Content Strategy

The Elements of Content Strategy

Erin Kissane

A good short introduction to the concepts and principles of content strategy. Useful to find out whether content strategy is something you need to learn more about.

Content Strategy for the Web

Kristina Halvorson

Content Strategy for Mobile

Karen McGrane

Information architecture

How to Make Sense of Any Mess

Abby Covert

A short book that does a good job of teaching you the principles behind information architecture, with less focus on the practical methods you might use to do it. It's available online for free, so you've got nothing to lose.

Information Architecture: For the Web and Beyond

Louis Rosenfeld, Peter Morville, and Jorge Arango

Often called "the polar bear book" because of the animal on its front cover, this is the information architecture bible. Goes into detailed methods, tools, and approaches to information architecture.

Interaction design

Designing Interfaces: Patterns for Effective Interaction Design

Jenifer Tidwell

This book collects up the common patterns seen in software design. Knowledge of design patterns is one of the best ways you can improve your ability to design good interfaces, because someone else has probably solved a similar problem before. If you know how they did it, you're already most of the way there.

Web Form Design: Filling in the Blanks

Luke Wroblewski

Forms are a big part of design - generally at some point you need to ask the user for some information. Luke is an expert on form design, and this book walks you through all of the principles you should keep in mind when you design forms.

Microinteractions: Designing with Details

Dan Saffer

Microinteractions are a little hard to define. They're the small moment-to-moment actions carried out by a user, and the software's response to them. They're also a big part of why interacting with software feels good or bad, so they're important to keep in mind.

Visual design

Designing Visual Interfaces: Communication Oriented Techniques

Kevin Mullet and Darrell Sano

The examples in this book may be dated - it was written when Windows 95 was an exciting idea - but the principles are as solid as they were then. Kevin and Darrell take the principles of graphic design and teach you how to apply them to interface design.

Refactoring UI

Adam Wathan and Steve Schoger

A more modern book, and there's always a chance that the methods will be dated in five years. That said, Adam and Steve show us many methods for making user interfaces look better. A very practical book full of exciting techniques.

Ordering Disorder: Grid Principles for Web Design

Khoi Vinh

Usability evaluation

Rocket Surgery Made Easy: The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Finding and Fixing Usability Problems

Steve Krug

A companion book to Steve's Don't Make Me Think. This book is a practical guide to usability testing on a small money and time budget. If you need to find out whether people can use your design, no matter what stage it's at, this is the book for you.

Universal Methods of Design: 125 Ways to Research Complex Problems, Develop Innovate Ideas, and Design Effective Solutions

Bruce Hanington and Bella Martin

This book has already been mentioned in the user research section, but it also lists usability evaluation methods. Each method is given a two page spread, so you can quickly learn how to carry out methods.

Accessibility

Accessibility for Everyone

Laura Kalbag

A short book that introduces the important principles behind, and reasons for, accessibility. Read this, keep its lessons in mind, and you'll already be leading the pack.

Animation

Animation at Work

Rachel Nabors

Designing Interface Animation: Meaningful Motion for User Experience

Val Head

Commercial success

Badass: Making Users Awesome

Kathy Sierra

Full of character, and very entertaining. Kathy reveals that the secret to product success is making your users feel like they're awesome.

The Right It: Why So Many Ideas Fail and How to Make Sure Yours Succeed

Alberto Savoia

This book introduces the concept of "pretotyping", which is prototyping before you have any working code. Alberto gives us a set of easy methods to find out whether a product is going to be as successful as we hope it will be.

Competing Against Luck: The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice

Clayton M. Christensen, Taddy Hall, Karen Dillon, and David S. Duncan

Clayton invented the "Jobs to be done" theory, and this book is his introduction to the concept. It's a way of thinking, and a set of methods, to find out how a business can innovate successfully and more reliably.

Ethics

Design for Real Life

Eric Meyer and Sara Wachter-Boettcher

There's often a lot more to consider when you design software than you think there is. People in the real world have all sorts of needs, desires, and fears. Unless you consider them properly when you design, you could put something into the world that makes some people's lives worse. This short book helps you to consider these angles.

Ruined by Design: How Designers Destroyed the World, and What We Can Do to Fix It

Mike Monteiro

In his usual direct manner, Mike challenges us to realise that we have the power as designers to ruin the world. We need to treat our profession with the respect it deserves, and think about what we're doing.

Graphic design

The Non-Designer's Design Book

Robin Williams

A fun and short book about the four principles that can easily transform any design into something that looks more professional. These simple principles will stick with you for the rest of your career.

A Primer of Visual Literacy

Donis A. Dondis

A more academic book than the first. If you want a fuller look at what graphic design is, and what its building blocks are, this is a good place to start.

HTML, CSS, and Javascript

HTML5 for Web Designers

Jeremy Keith and Rachel Andrew

CSS3 for Web Designers

Dan Cederholm

Javascript for Web Designers

Mat Marquis

Philosophy of design

The Shape of Design

Frank Chimero

A short book that is also available online for free. Frank has written a short and surprisingly readable book about what the importance of design and our place as a designer.

Understanding Design: 150 Ways of Looking at Design

Kees Dorst

A collection of short essays that is unfortunately hard to find - it's been out of print for a while. A whirlwind tour of interesting thoughts about design.

Product management

Escaping the Build Trap: How Effective Product Management Creates Real Value

Melissa Perri

A practical look at the problem with many product organisations, and how product management should work. An excellent introduction to the importance of product management.

Inspired: How to Create Tech Products Customers Love

Marty Cagan

Where the previous book focuses more on principles, Marty lays out a blueprint for how to successfully approach product management, both at the individual and organisational level. You'll know more than most about product management after you've finished this book.

Sense & Respond: How Successful Organizations Listen to Customers

Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden

From the authors of Lean UX, this book takes an organisational view of product management, and teaches you how to change businesses for the better.

Psychology

100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People

Susan M. Weinschenk

A set of practical principles, backed by scientific research, that every designer will find relevant to their work. A short and easy read, thanks to Susan's work in reducing complicated research down to bite-sized wisdom.

How to Get People to Do Stuff: Master the Art and Science of Persuasion and Motivation

Susan M. Weinschenk

This is not a design book, but persuasion and motivation are very important, especially in commercial settings.

Small screen design

Mobile First

Luke Wroblewski

Mobile first is an important concept now, but it hasn't been long since it was an unknown. Luke popularised the idea, and this book summarises the reasons you should design things for small screens first.

Responsive Web Design

Ethan Marcotte

A short and practical look at the technical principles behind responsive design. When you need the same code to work for every screen size, this simple introduction is all you need.

Designing For Touch

Josh Clark

This book dives into what you need to consider when your user's main method of interaction is a touch screen.

Typography

On Web Typography

Jason Santa Maria

A short and practical introduction to typography for the web. Unlike the next book, this one does not cover print typography, so it's a more focused read for a digital designer.

The Elements of Typographic Style

Robert Bringhurst

The typography bible. If you care about typography, you need to read this. I can't think of a principle it doesn't cover in a practical way. From memory, it's not even that long.

Writing

Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content

Ann Handley

Read it, follow Ann's rules, and you'll be a better writer in no time.

Letting Go of the Words: Writing Web Content that Works

Janice Redish