The UX reading list: 22 ‘must-read’ books and resources for beginners and experts What books, articles, podcasts and other online resources should you read in order to develop and hone your UX knowledge? Here are the experts with their favourites

lots of open books

In this week’s #UXchat we pull the plastic sheet off our fondest wing-back armchair (which we haven’t been allowed to sit in it since 2016 due to a red velvet cake incident), don our most luxurious velour lounge-wear, whisk up an obscenely large hot chocolate, finish off any remaining red velvet cake while standing over the sink, and finally throw a log on the fire / switch over to the fireplace video on Netflix – because it’s reading time!

Whatever your own personal routine is when preparing to enter the wonderful world of learnin’ (I imagine yours is even more complex than ours), we hope that the following reading list provides an exhaustive (but not exhausting) literary view into the world of UX for all levels and disciplines.

Most of these have been recommended by our UX community on Twitter as part of last week’s #UXchat, which was eruditely chaired by Jane Ruffino, a user-centered content designer and ‘recovering archaeologist’.

Thanks to Jane and everyone below for their recommendations.

Essential UX books

User Experience Team of One by Leah Buley

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Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug

don't make me think book cover

The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman

My own personal recommendation, The Design of Everyday Things is absolutely essential for any designer – whether of physical and digital products, and confirms how integral ‘good’ human-centred design can shape the world and how thoughtless design can ruin it.

Just Enough Research by Erika Hall

Mental Models by Indi Young

mental models book cover

Read more about the world of mental models and UX in this guide.

Letting Go of the Words by Ginny Redish

Design for Real Life by Eric Meyer and Sara Wachter-Boettcher

Measuring the User Experience: Collecting, Analyzing, and Presenting Usability Metrics by Thomas Tullis and William Albert

According to uxdesign.cc (another terrific resource), Measuring the User Experience “provides the first single source of practical information to enable usability professionals and product developers to measure the usability of any product.”

Doorbells, Danger and Dead Batteries by Steve Portigal

We interviewed Steve Portigal last week about his collection of user research ‘war stories’ – a fascinating collection of bizarre, funny and occasionally heartbreaking tales from the user research frontline, that will help you prepare for anything.

Observing the User Experience: A Practitioner’s Guide to User Research by Elizabeth Goodman

Bridges the gap between “what digital companies think they know about their users and the actual user experience.” And according to Kai-Ting Huang, interaction designer at Google, required reading for the human-computer interaction master’s program at University of Washington.

A Practical Guide to Information Architecture by Donna Spencer

practical guide to information architecture

Appearing on most ‘must-read’ lists, Donna Spencer’s ebook includes dozens of case studies that will inspire you to tackle your IA project, large or small.

Online resources

UX Design: maximising the value of scientific software in life science R&D (pdf)

The Government Digital Services blog

The GDS blog is a vital resource for any organisation – it’s just so open and transparent about every step of the government’s digital transformation and provides endless practical advice. Its research on accessibility was integral to our article on designing websites for blind and partially sighted people.

UX Crash Course: 31 fundamentals

3 Placemaking Lessons From the Magic Kingdom

 

How to Teach Yourself UX Design

A super-helpful Medium post from Kai-Ting Huang that lists a huge array of resources for UX self-starters.

Material Design by Google

Material design is a visual language created by Google with an overriding goal to develop one system that allows for a unified user experience across all devices, platforms and screen sizes. Handy for inspiration when it comes to synthesising the physical world with digital, and for adhering to consistent principles.

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Material design

Podcasts

Invisibilia from NPR

invisibilia

99% Invisible from Radiotopia

99% invisible podcast cover

Produced in beautiful downtown, Oakland, California, 99% Invisible is ostensibly a ‘design’ podcast, but it’s more about the things we don’t think about. The smaller elements that have shaped our world drastically, yet have largely gone unnoticed.  99% Invisible is also one of the most wide-ranging, entertaining and enlightening podcasts in my subscriptions folder, and is by far the one podcast that I ‘must listen to first’ when it pops up in my notifications.

Non-UX reading material that you should read anyway

How to Lie With Maps by Mark Monmonier

Adapt: Why Success Always Starts With Failure by Tim Harford

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown

And… uh… The Secret History by Donna Tartt is pretty good too. Although it won’t teach you much about user research. Unless you’re plotting to murder a user, in which case I’d say it’s reasonably helpful.

For more helpful resources, check out our guide to UX training courses and communities.

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Christopher Ratcliff
Christopher is the Content Marketing Manager of WhatUsersDo. He's also the editor of wayward pop culture site Methods Unsound. He used to be the deputy editor of Econsultancy and editor Search Engine Watch.

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