There are so many great user experience books and resources available that it can be confusing and overwhelming deciding where to start. I’m just getting started myself – so this list by no means covers all the resources available. The most important lesson I’ve learned so far is before you can really dive in and start learning, you need a good overview of what user experience design is, and all the tasks that fall under its umbrella. From there it’s easier to map out the resources and experiences that will be most useful moving forward.
User Experience 101 – What a UX designer does
The following books and websites cover the basics and do a great job explaining what UX design is, what a UX designer does, and the design process. User experience designers come from varying backgrounds and have many different skill sets. Some handle all the job roles on a project and some are very specialized and focus on one area such as content layout or usability testing. These resources have helped me narrow my focus and have made starting the UX career transition process less overwhelming.
The second edition of, A Project Guide To UX Design, by Russ Unger and Carolyn Chandler does a fantastic job defining the scope of user experience design, the roles a user experience designer may be asked to play, and what they do on a daily basis. I read a few other books first – I wish I would have started with this one. The Choose Your Hats section (p.30) in chapter two clearly defines and clarifies the roles of information architecture, interaction design, user research, and all the additional roles that relate to UX design. It explains these roles well and gives excellent basic examples of the deliverables each role produces and is responsible for. I feel this book offers a very good foundational understanding of the user experience field and will serve as a solid future reference.
Interactive Project Management: Pixels, People, and Process, by Nancy Lyons and Meghan Wilker is another great resource for understanding the user experience umbrella. It’s written from a project management perspective and it delves deeper into the different UX “hats”, the lifespan of a project, and which UX “hats” are needed when. Its focus is less “how to” and more – who, what, and when. This book is super reader friendly and outlines the UX project lifespan better than any other book I’ve seen on the subject.
Jesse James Garrett’s, The Elements of User Experience, is another book that covers all the UX roles and how they relate to each other. The book evolved from an elements of user experience infographic he created that shows UX roles at a glance. It’s a great resource for us visual-spatial folks.
I’ve also started following Nick Finch’s blog over the past few months. He has a good post about starting a career in user experience design. I found it encouraging because he suggests additional routes for education besides an HCI degree. For a career changer like me, I found this to be very reassuring! He has also posted a link to Onward Search’s UX Career Guide, which is another nice infographic for us visual-spatial folk.
Design Psychology 101 – How a UX designer thinks
While the books and resources above give a solid understanding of what a UX designer does, I recommend the following books for understanding how a UX designer thinks, or any designer for that matter. I’ve started with these!
Donald Norman’s, The Design of Everyday Things, is an older book that I found on so many people’s suggested reading list for UX design that I had to check it out. So far, it’s a great book for getting into the mindset of designing for the way people think, process information via the senses, and use products. However, in my humble opinion the actual book itself is a poor example of UX design. Why Norman (or the publisher) decided to print the figure examples with the same margin width and font, only slightly smaller than the main body font, is beyond me. I am still reading it, and constantly having to re-read pages. I keep accidentally starting to read the figure example versus continuing the paragraph. Otherwise, it’s a very good introduction to cognitive psychology for design.
What do designers need to know about people? Dr. Susan M. Weinschenk has combined her years of research and condensed it down to 100 things. You can read all about them in her book, 100 Things Every Designer Needs To Know About People. I’m only half way through, but this book is jam packed with design psychology knowledge. Great reference book!
The psychology aspect of UX design is what fascinates me the most and the part I find most exciting! Here are a few more psychology books that are not related specifically to design, but may be of interest if you’re a psychology nut like me.
Mindset: The New Psychology Of Success, by Carol Dweck
A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule The Future, by Daniel Pink
Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, by Daniel Pink
Flow: The Psychology Of Optimal Experience, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Imagine: How Creativity Works, by John Lehrer
Drawing On The Right Side Of The Brain, by Betty Edwards
My Stroke Of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey, by Jill Bolte Taylor
Do What You Are, by Barbara Barron-Tieger
Gifts Differing: Understanding Personality Type, by Isabel Briggs Myers