How many UX books have you read that were uninspiring reads? Dull even? Duller than a book on accounting or gerbil maintenance?
This question came to me after cleaning out my library of design related books to make space for my wife and kids. The majority of titles hadn’t been touched since purchase. Their spines cracked as I leafed through them. Many of them held useful and well-researched information. Many were expensive, expensive enough to make you feel you must at least finish them to get any value.
It didn’t take long to decide that out of 30 design titles, I only wanted a handful. It was slightly disheartening.
On the whole, the majority of these UX books I wanted rid of were poorly written, lacking character and convoluted, and after a full working day and an evening doing homework with the kids, the last thing I wanted to read.
I understand that getting the correct tone in technical writing can be difficult. It isn’t fiction or investigative journalism. It has its narrative limits. Injecting colour into a subject that can be highly theoretical and dry must be a challenge for even the best writers.
The books I now own, exemplify what I think of as good writing; engaging, interesting, fluid and above all inspiring either through anecdote or turn of phrase. These are the best UX books that as well as giving me great practical advice and helping my work, still give me page-turning pleasure.
Cadence and Slang
Nick Disabato explains the fundamentals of interaction design in an engaging and approachable manner. Nicely written and offers practical concepts and principles in creating a more humane technology and he also covers many issues that face the profession.
Simple and Usable Web, Mobile, and Interaction Design
Giles Colborne wants everyone to simplify user experiences when designing in the digital world. It’s a short book no doubt yet embodies the principles that it teaches. It’s beautifully laid out and is a wonderful primer if you are starting out in design.
Alan Cooper et al
This could be the Bible for UX professionals. It’s a big book, full of big ideas, yet it doesn’t make for a dull read. Cooper is a clear and concise writer, and he gets you involved in his interesting story early on. He covers his ‘Goal-Directed Design’ method, from conducting user research to defining product using personas and scenarios. A must read.
Usable Usability: Simple Steps for Making Stuff Better
Reiss tells of his experiences with good and bad usability in his long career and gives us the practical advice on how to deal with the bad. I love his warm, engaging style, and it feels like he’s talking directly to you. The entire book is also superbly and richly illustrated.
100 Things Every Designer Needs To Know About People
Susan M. Weinschenk
Some readers might put this in the ‘pop-psych’ category, but this does this a disservice. It’s a useful, well researched and highly readable UX book that you can dip in and out of. It’s also fun to read, which is obviously the point. Yes, things can be fun and also useful. It’s a book you can read from start to finish.
Sketching User Experiences
Bill likes to “fail fast and early, learn fast and early” and the book goes on to show how we should be designing through sketching and early prototyping to get a better understanding of the design process. It also contains some interesting stories on design practice. Buxton is an engaging writer.
I have kept the best to last. Designing Interactions is an encyclopaedic review of product and UI design as seen over Moggridge’s long professional experience.
This is one of the best books I have read on the subject. It is essential reading for any visual/UX designer and product manager. It’s more of a history of design, than a practical manual, and takes in some most iconic products from the last 40 years. If you find the design and development of the mouse or Palm OS interesting, then this is for you.