As society moves further into digital spaces, the demand for good UX design increases rapidly. UX design is the culmination of various skillsets – graphic design, copywriting, programming, and psychology are all cornerstones of creating the best user experience. 

As the industry grows more competitive and customer expectations increase, UX designers need all the help they can get to compete. So, whether you’re a self-employed UX designer, or you’re just trying to improve your overall knowledge, check out these top ten books for UX designers:

  1. Universal Principles of Design (William Lidwell)
  2. The Design of Everyday Things (Don Norman)
  3. The Inmates Are Running the Asylum: Why High Tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How to Restore the Sanity (Alan Cooper)
  4. The Elements of User Experience: User-Centered Design for the Web (Jesse James Garrett)
  5. Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability (Steve Krug)
  6. 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People (Susan Weinschenk)
  7. Interaction Design: Beyond Human-Computer Interaction (Jenny Preece, Helen Sharp, and Yvonne Rogers)
  8. Observing the User Experience: A Practitioner’s Guide to User Research (Elizabeth Goodman, Mike Kuniavsky, and Andrea Moed)
  9. The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less (Barry Schwartz)
  10. Designing Visual Interfaces: Communication Oriented Techniques (Kevin Mullet)

1) Universal Principles of Design (William Lidwell)

A great all-rounder for any UX designer, William Lidwell’s Universal Principles of Design is an essential collection of principles that aim to help you make better design decisions. 

It includes a new principle on every page, making it the perfect resource to use at any point in your career. There’s also advice on talking to clients and some funny anecdotes about the origins of real-life design solutions. 

2) The Design of Everyday Things (Don Norman)

Though it’s a little dated now – first published in 1988 – The Design of Everyday Things is still essential reading, with lessons that are as relevant today as they were over 30 years ago. 

The book examines how human psychology interacts with surroundings, giving you a strong foundation of knowledge to create better designs. 

3) The Inmates Are Running the Asylum: Why High Tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How to Restore the Sanity (Alan Cooper)

Alan Cooper is best known for developing the Goal Directed Design methodology – a design philosophy that puts the user at the heart of every design decision. 

He argues that the people who pay for product development often centre the design around their own desires rather than the people they’re trying to sell to. 

To combat this misguided approach, Cooper highlights the importance of research and feedback to create intuitive, user-friendly designs that will appeal more to the general public. The Inmates Are Running the Asylum expertly explains his approach to help you prioritise the right things in the design process.

4) The Elements of User Experience: User-Centered Design for the Web (Jesse James Garrett)

Building on the essential principles laid out in books like The Design of Everyday Things and The Inmates Are Running the Asylum, Jesse James Garret goes into more detail about the operational side of UX design in The Elements of User Experience.

Because UX design involves spinning a lot of plates – usability, brand identity, information architecture, and interaction design – Garret offers practical advice and strategies to help designers approach a job without becoming overwhelmed. 

5) Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability (Steve Krug)

As the title suggests, Don’t Make Me Think looks at good software design – the kind that lets you use it without thinking. People instinctively look for the easiest option, so why not cater to that instinct?

Full of real-world examples, Krug’s writing helps outline the importance of UX design in product development. Readers will come away with a clearer understanding of what makes a truly user-friendly design that improves the customer experience.  

6) 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People (Susan Weinschenk)

Focusing on the psychology of UX design, Susan Weinschenk combines real-world examples with psychological theory to give you a deeper understanding of how people react to different designs. 

Using all the wisdom in 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People, you’ll gain a better understanding of human psychology that’s applicable in all areas of user design. 

7) Interaction Design: Beyond Human-Computer Interaction (Jenny Preece, Helen Sharp, and Yvonne Rogers)

Interaction Design: Beyond Human-Computer Interaction is a comprehensive, academic resource that students commonly use, but it’s just as useful for professionals.

Drawing on the wealth of knowledge from professors Jenny Preece, Helen Sharp, and Yvonne Rogers, this book covers all the fundamentals of interaction design, human-computer interaction, information design, and web design.

8) Observing the User Experience: A Practitioner’s Guide to User Research (Elizabeth Goodman, Mike Kuniavsky, and Andrea Moed)

Like others on this list, Observing the User Experience highlights the importance of user-first design, focusing on conducting user research with 13 practical techniques. 

What sets it apart is its focus on navigating real-world constraints like scheduling and budget, making it the perfect practical guide for UX designers.

9) The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less (Barry Schwartz)

In theory, having a lot of options might seem like a good thing, but it’s actually a surefire way to feel overwhelmed or even afraid. Humans enjoy simplicity, especially when encountering something new. That idea the cornerstone of The Paradox of Choice.

While not specifically about UX design, Barry Schawrtz outlines the importance of simplicity for consumers, showing how fewer options can lead to an easier, more satisfying customer journey.  

10) Designing Visual Interfaces: Communication Oriented Techniques (Kevin Mullet)

Kevin Mullet takes us back to basics by outlining design rules and techniques from the rational, functionalist design aesthetic seen in modern graphic design, industrial design, interior design, and architecture. With a firm understanding of basic design principles, Mullet shows how they can be applied to common user interface problems. 

Designing Visual Interfaces focuses on six key areas that require the most attention:

  • Elegance and simplicity.
  • Scale, contrast, and proportion.
  • Organisation and visual structure.
  • Module and program.
  • Image and representation.
  • Style. 

Mastering these fundamentals will help you create more aesthetically pleasing interfaces that are, in turn, more user-friendly for consumers. 

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