In this day and age, reading a book about UX is an anachronism. UX, at least in the way we mean it, is native to the digital realm. Why would we read a book in meatspace about it?
The simple answer, of course, is that there are some really good books out there to read. UX books didn’t start and end with Jakob Nielsen, Steve Krug, and Seth Godin.
UX is an umbrella term used to describe a group of proficiencies that together create the digital product from which the user experience emerges. Virtually all aspects and jobs within the design cycle are impacted by UX. This opens us to a diversity in books on the topic. It really depends on where you want to place your emphasis in the design cycle. There are books for a range of topics that can all be considered “UX” in one form or another: scientific research methods, psychology, interaction design, user interface design, writing skills, design skills, and more.
This isn’t meant to be a comprehensive list but rather a good all-purpose place to start in your search for UX books that excite you and tickle your neurons. These books have all been published within the past few years. I didn’t want to exclude a great book because it was published last year. If you’re looking to beef up your knowledge of UX in 2013, these are some illuminating MUST-read UX books.
Must Read UX Books for 2013
1. Universal Principles of Design, Revised and Updated: 125 Ways to Enhance Usability, Influence Perception, Increase Appeal, Make Better Design Decisions, and Teach through Design
Release date: January 1, 2010
Purpose: General Reference Book
This book is a few years old but it’s a great reference if you want to pop in and out of topics. Each topic is summarized in a page or two with a corresponding example. To be honest with you, this would be a pretty good book to keep on the back of your toilet.
2. A Project Guide to UX Design: For user experience designers in the field or in the making (2nd Edition)
Release date: March 19, 2012
Purpose: General Overview of UX
This book does a fantastic job of providing a solid overview of UX. Great for the curious business owner or web developer. It’s interesting to see Eric Reiss review this book in the Amazon comments. He gives the book 5 stars (out of 5) and adds, “This excellent book helps take some of the “indefinable fuzziness” off the concept of UX and makes it both understandable and operational. Buy it NOW!”
3. Smashing UX Design: Foundations for Designing Online User Experiences
Release date: June 18, 2012
Purpose: An approachable overview to practical UX design
I’m a sucker for books published by Smashing Magazine. I’ve found their content to be some of the highest quality content available online about various web design topics. This book continues in the tradition of being a well-worth-your-time read. This book is written in the same kind of style that helps you get past the theory and get on with it. If “A Project Guide to UX Design” is the textbook, this is the cliff notes version, spiked with a healthy dose of real world antedotes. If “A Project Guide to UX Design” makes your eyes glaze over, skip it and grab this one instead. Topics include: budgeting, how to do a quick-and-dirty UX test (sounds like our Drive-By User Test), and tips on how to talk to the different members of your design team.
4. Measuring the User Experience: Collecting, Analyzing, and Presenting Usability Metrics
Release date: March 31, 2008
Purpose: Learn how to create, collect, and present usability metrics.
This book is the oldest one on the list, and for good reason. You really have to read this book. Nobody’s written a better one on the topic. And the topic – measurement – is a big deal in UX. I mean, Jakob Nielsen gave it a blurb. Let me ask you a question. What do you know about collecting data and actually measuring the user experience? If your answer is, “not a whole lot”, then this book is for you. If you’ve ever found yourself trying to write a quality survey or to try to figure out the best metrics to measure for your purposes, this book is here to help you.
5. Quantifying the User Experience: Practical Statistics for User Research
Release date: March 30, 2012
Purpose: Brush up on UX Math, essentially. It’s practical statistics.
If you’re doing real UX work where you’re collecting and analyzing user data, you can’t afford to be sloppy with your statistics. We all know that statistics can be twisted to say what you want them too. But don’t get confused by your own data. This book will give you a good basis in the math that’s important to a UX professional. It covers topics like sample size, margin of error, confidence interval, and a host of others.
6. How to Get People to Do Stuff: Master the art and science of persuasion and motivation
Release date: March 21, 2013
Purpose: Intro to Motivational Psychology
Have you ever wanted somebody to do something? Nah, probably not, right? :p
This book looks at 7 drives that motivate people: The Desire For Mastery, The Need To Belong, The Power of Stories, Carrots and Sticks, Instincts, Habits, and Tricks of the Mind. This is a good introduction to human psychology in a pop-psychology way. There are other books out there on human psychology and manipulation. However, for a primer on the idea, this is a great book.
7. Designing Interfaces
Release date: January 6, 2011 (Second Edition)
Purpose: An reference aid for designing interfaces
The web development business is really a business about developing interfaces for people to click on. This book does a great job of going through all of the different kind of interfaces. But better than that, they give templates and ideas for how you should create your own. This is a book that has the real potential to get worn and folded pages from use. If your create WordPress themes or otherwise do web design, you absolutely need to read this book.
8. User-Centered Design: A Developer’s Guide to Building User-Friendly Applications
Release date: April 11, 2013
Purpose: A How To Manual for UX Design
This is the book I wish I would have written about how to create an organization that thinks and functions on UX design. It covers all the bases from “What is UX Design” and it’s associated reassurances (such as, “UX Design is not a waste of time or money”), to creating user surveys, design principles, conducting a survey, iterating and more. It’s what this website would be if you put it together, cleaned it up, removed all the cussing, and put it in a book. Though I’m just about certain this book is more informative and more well written. Highly recommended.
9. Designing the Conversation: Techniques for Successful Facilitation
Release date: March 10, 2013
Purpose: To help you communicate better on UX design projects
First of all, congratulations go to Eric Reiss for reviewing another UX book that made this list. Second, it’s easy to see why he gave this book a 5 star review. It’s really comprehensive. This book takes you through sales calls, focus groups, mentoring, usability interviews, and more with practical ideas and tips for how to have better experiences through better communication. I’m looking forward to digging into this book deeper.
10. Lean Analytics: Use Data to Build a Better Startup Faster
Release date: March 18, 2013
Purpose: Learn what data will help you rapidly grow your business
I consider myself to be smarter than the average bear when it comes to Analytics. Keeping up with the analytics on this website is practically a hobby by itself. But I was surprised how much I had to learn about analytics. Take the e-commerce chapter, for example. Did you know there are three different kinds of e-commerce websites and that which one you are is determined by the composition of your user base? If you know which type of website you are, you can more easily optimize your marketing strategies to rapidly grow your business. I really can’t recommend this one enough. It’s really good.