I get asked quite often for book recommendations on different design related topics. I finally found a little bit of time to go through my list of ebooks and paper books and picked a few ones. I ordered the list in different categories to help you go through. Those are the books written in English I read and can truly recommend. (there’s a few more books but I will put them on the French version of the site).
Note that I still haven’t read half of the books I bought, so stay tuned, I will try to update the list more often.
Understanding & selling User eXperience
Just Enough Research – Erika Hall
A nice introduction to different methods of user research, from the basics to process, competitive research, evaluative research, etc. Like most A Book Apart books, a lot of information is packed in this one. You will want to keep it close to your desk for future reference.
The User Experience Team of One: A Research and Design Survival Guide – Leah Buley
I started my career as the “only UX designer in the team” and this book was really helpful. The book is split in 2 parts: philosophy (building principles, attitude, perspective) and practice (methods, techniques, tips and tricks). The first part concentrates on helping you sell UX to the company. The second one presents different UX methods and tools to help you build user centric products. Both parts are equally useful depending on where you work and where you are in your career.
This is a nice complement to Leah Buley’s book and will help you “sell” UX process within a company. This is a step by step battle plan to help you build a UX revolution and place users at the heart of your organization, from understanding it, selling the benefits, to customer experience evangelisation, getting managerial support, establishing best practices and more.
UX for Beginners: A Crash Course in 100 Short Lessons – Joel Marsh
I love the duck on the cover and this is a nice introduction to the different aspects of UX design. It covers a LOT of topics so you won’t go deep into each one, but it’s a nice book for beginners to grasp the different concepts and decide what they want to dig into more later. It’s full of illustrations though so I would advise to get a paper version or to read it on a tablet but not on kindle.
“Don’t make me think” + “Rocket Surgery Made Easy” – Steve Krug
Steven Krug can be considered as the godfather or usability. Those 2 books are classics to read on usability and user testing. They are a little bit “dated”, but still provide a nice base for the discipline.
Interviewing for research: a pocket guide to design research – Andrew Travers
Want to learn how to conduct user research and interviews? This is a small free 60 pages quick field guide to help you get started: recruitment, preparation, conducting the interview, documentation and synthesis. Also the book is available for free on the author’s site, yeahy.
100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know about People – Susan M. Weinschenk
Psychology theory is sometimes scary but Susan does a great job at making those theories accessible and easy to understand. I really like the format of the book: 100 little cheat sheets organized in different categories with practical takeaways for each theory. This is one of those books you keep on your desk and refer back to when you need it.
The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less – Barry Schwartz
This is one of those “basics to read books” when it comes to psychology. It’s a great book to understand how humans work and how they take (or don’t take) decisions. Keep in mind it was written in 2004 though.
This is a nice introduction to help you design websites. It covers some generic advice on workflow, the research and ideation phase and goes deeper into typography, color, layout with detailed examples of different websites. Remember that the book was written in 2009 thought so the examples look outdated, but the design theories and advice are still pretty accurate.
This is not just an ebook, but a whole package with videos, online lessons, etc. The promise of Refactoring UI: explain design tactics to developers. And it works! Not only for developers! The authors cover hierarchy, layout, spacing, text, color, working with depth and images to the finishing touches to help you bring your UIs to the next level.
This book focuses on one particular aspect of web and UI design: typography. The author explains how people read, how typography works and different methods and tips to evaluate and pair typefaces. A good introduction to help you avoid typography faux pas!
This is one of those “pocket guides” that are now available for free since Five Simple Steps closed. It’s a nice quick to read practical guide to help you get the right typography choices for your designs.
Design for Real Life – Sara Wachter-Boettcher & Eric A. Meyer
A great book on how to design with compassion, integrity and make sure none is left out or even worse, made feel bad when using your products and services. Sara and Eric have some great examples of what happens when things go bad and how to avoid this.
Ruined by Design: How Designers Destroyed the World, and What We Can Do to Fix It – Mike Monteiro
Everything is mostly in the title. Mike Monteiro is back with a book on the dark side of many tech companies and products we design (hello Facebook) and what designers can do to limit the damage. If you think there’s nothing wrong in the design industry, read this book and think again! Warning: this book is not about design, it’s about ethics, politics and making things better.
Design Systems: A practical guide to creating design languages for digital products – Alla Kholmatova
Alla researched a lot about how the design systems of different companies and products where built and bring you all this knowledge in this great book. It’s a great introductionto the process of building a design system. If you thought you could just copy/paste a Sketch file from a previous client, I (or Alla) hate to break it to you, but this is not how it works. The book is split in 2 parts : the foundation is about really understanding what a design system is and the “process” part will help you get your hands dirty.
This is a good introduction to the Design Sprint method. Another great “cookbook full of recipes” I read it before co-animating my first design sprint week when I was working for the University and it was quite helpful. Timeboxing is everything though!!
I might be biased because I love Karen, but this book is one of my number one references when it comes down to content strategy. She wrote this in 2012 and I still use some of the methods she wrote about today (2019) in workshops to help me build a strong content strategy and hierarchy, not only for mobile but across different screen sizes. Because “You don’t get to decide which platform or device your customers use to access your content: they do”.
The “Bible” for responsive web design. It was written in 2010, things have changed since, but still quite a nice reference to read and help you get started. This book has some code examples to help you practise.
While Ethan’s book focuses on “desktop to mobile”, Luke’s book helps you understand how to build a mobile, starting from smaller screens. There’s no code examples but the book focuses more on strategy, the whys and hows.
Understanding touch size, gestures and how touch devices work is an essential’s part of design today. This book focuses on the usability of touch interfaces but also provides a few code examples to help you implement touch friendly interactions
While Ethan, Luke and Josh’s previous books focus on “how”, this book focuses on the “why” and the strategic part of responsive web design. If you still need some arguments to convince people and a plan to approach a big responsive redesign, this book will help you! Keep in mind it was written in 2015 though.
This is another book that changed the way I work. Stephen goes deep into the “how” to build responsive website and offers quite a few interesting ideas to help you build your own process. Ever heard of designing for breakpoints and breakpoint graphs?
A great guide to help you get started in the field of accessibility: understanding disabilities, laws, guidelines, planning, testing and evaluating accessibility, etc. This book will demystify a few concepts for you before you can jump into the whole ARIA WCAG complexity.
The second book of Mike Monteiro focuses on the topic of “how to make design decisions”. Mike demystifies the design process and helps you better communicate with clients, stakeholders, team members and make the whole collaboration process go smoother.
Some of my favorite editors for design and technical books
I tend to love the format of most books from A Book Apart because they are small, practical, easy to read and well formatted on my Kindle. Smashing Library has a also a great selection of ebook, and the Smashing books are always a delight to read. There also used to be the Five Simple Steps editions who specialised on small practical books. They closed but you can still find some of the books on other sites.
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