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Top 10 Best Usability, and UX Books You Should Read



Part of the work I do is to consult, mentor and teach how to design technology products so that they better fit how people work, think, and play. The teams I work with often ask me for my ideas on the best books to read in this field. So I thought I’d update my list of favorite usability and user experience books.

There are lots of great books these days, and I’m limiting the list here to 10, so chances are you have a favorite that I’ve not included. Let me know what your favorites are in the comments.

I have an Amazon affiliate account, so I’ve linked to the books on Amazon if you are interested in purchasing, or even just getting more info.

The list below is in no particular order:

1. Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug. Steve is such a great writer (and an all round great guy!). He has a way of cutting through all the chatter and clutter and bringing out the essence of a topic. If you are going to get one book for your team to introduce them to human-centered design thinking, then this should be the book.

2. Rocket Surgery Made Easy by Steve Krug is the other necessary book if you are doing usability testing. And you ARE doing usability testing, right? This book will teach you everything you need to know about how to plan and conduct a user test of your product.

3. Forms That Work by Caroline Jarrett and Gerry Gaffney. If you are designing anything that has a form: a web page, web app, software application, mobile app, or even a paper form, you must read this book. It’s practical and also conceptual — my favorite book on form design.

4. Usable Usability: Simple Steps For Making Stuff Better by Eric Reiss. Eric combines what usability is, why it’s important, and how you do it, in one easy to read book. Give this book to anyone who needs to understand an overview of usability concepts in an interesting and practical way. Written with wit and clarity.

5. Communicating the User Experience: A Practical Guide for Creating Useful UX Documentation by Richard Caddick and Steve Cable. In an era where many are calling for “lean UX”, and the end of the formal deliverable, I am going to be so bold as to say that there are many times and situations when you should create deliverables for communicating your user experience work, and luckily this book will show you how to do that. It’s practical and innovative at the same time. A must-read for practitioners who have to create deliverables for their projects.

6. Smashing UX Design: Foundations for designing online user experiences by Jesmond Allen and James Chudley. This book has everything. It will walk you through the idea of user centered design, teach you the details of how to do everything (stakeholder research, user research, wireframing, prototyping, user test, etc etc,) and then will show you how they did it with case studies. A great book for the UX practitioner, whether new or experienced.

7. Client Centric Web Design by Paul Boag. Have you ever had your design or UX project blow up? Misunderstandings with clients? Then you need to read this book. Paul takes the point of view of the client, not just the user. This book has critical advice for anyone who works on web design/UX design projects for clients. Unless you are only designing your own personal website, you need to read this book. It’s not available on Amazon, just through his site.

8. Measuring the User Experience by Tom Tullis and Bill Albert. Need metrics? Need numbers to back up your impressions? This is the go to book for everything measurable about the user experience. Really thorough and detailed.

9. Quantifying the User Experience: Practical statistics for user research by Jeff Sauro and James Lewis. The word “statistics” scares a lot of people. I love statistics, but I understand that many others don’t. Whether you love ’em or not, you should read this book. If you are friends with stats then you’ll enjoy the book. And if you’re not you really NEED to read it! Don’t be afraid. Jeff Sauro is a master at getting people to understand the why and how of stats for user experience.

10. Card Sorting by Donna Spencer. This is a little book and just about one topic, card sorting, but it’s a great book and worth reading and having on your bookshelf if you need to learn about the user research technique of card sorting. It also has lots of great information about user research in general.

and one more bonus book: I hope you forgive me, but I’m going to recommend my own book: 100 Things Every Designer Needs To Know About People.

Which makes 11!

(You might also be interested in my top 10 Psychology books to read.)

What are your favorites?


9 responses to “Top 10 Best Usability, and UX Books You Should Read”

  1. Jan Rezac Avatar

    Hi Susan,

    I have read your books and they are among my favourites. But this list is simply wrong and if any beginner tries to begin with Don’t Make Me Think and than continue with book about user testing… he will be just confused and run away from UX.

    The focus of these books is on very low level (put breadcrumbs here, create wireframes this way,…). But these are not things that make good websites and without additional knowledge, they make more harm than good.

    In my definition – web design is about creating functional websites – which means they do what they are supposed to do. Make money. Make value to user and business owner.

    Which means you have to

    1. understand the business
    2. understand users
    3. have a process for making a website

    So I would suggest to start at more general level with books like

    About Face 3
    Designing for the Digital Age
    Submit Now
    Web Anatomy

    Krug is nice – I have read his book 10 years ago. But people who will read 2 Krug books, book about forms and than book about creating wireframes would become… well… wireframe monkeys. They will know wireframes are good and that would be all. No process. No functioning websites. Just copy & steal. :-)

  2. Caroline Jarrett Avatar

    Thank you so much for including our book on your list.

    My favourite: “Letting go of the words: Writing web content that works” by Ginny Redish.

    Time to make it a top 12 instead of top 11.

  3. Euge Avatar

    Designing for the digital age, Gamestorming.

  4. Johan Strandell Avatar
    Johan Strandell

    I’d add:

    About Face, Alan Cooper
    Design of Everyday Things, Donald Norman (there’s a new edition coming out soon)
    Mental Models, Indi Young
    Anything by Edward Tufte

    Everything I’ve read from Rosenfeld Media (like Mental Models and Card Sorting) has been very good – they’re very focused on one subject each, so most of them aren’t something I’d put on a general top 10 list, but should be checked out if you’re interested in a particular area.

  5. Jess Avatar

    My top ten would also include:
    Storytelling in User experience – W Quesenbery
    The Back of the Napkin – D Roam
    Simple and Usable Web, Mobile, and Interaction Design – G Colborne
    Design of everyday things – D Norman
    Undercover User Experience Design – Bowles, Cennydd, Box, James
    A Project Guide to UX Design – Unger, Russ, Chandler, Carolyn

  6. eeklipzz Avatar

    Earlier this year, I did a little looking around to see what some of the ux professionals suggested as good books to start reading if I wanted to get up to speed with UX. I noticed that each of these sorts of articles suggested different variations, but some seemed to be more popular than the others. I wanted to know what books were “Most Suggested” in order to get me into the “popular reading zone” of user experience / interface design.

    Here’s my findings. I think I see one or two of the one’s you suggest here on the list.

    Getting Started in User Experience: Reading List 2013

  7. […] Top 10 Best Usability and UX Books You Should Read […]

  8. UXD Abhishek Jain Avatar

    Also view: 10 books to learn about Usability and UX (Beginners)

  9. Mike Jobes Avatar

    I have read some these books and I can say great recommendations. Hope will get the time to read more.

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