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Recommended UX reading

Books covers.

One senior developer friend asked me to recommend him three books about user experience design. After I had sent him an email with the list and some helpful tips, it seemed reasonable to share it with everyone. Here are the top three books, in no particular order, from my reading list.

  1. About Face 3 - The Essentials of Interaction Design
    It’s long, but very easy to read. The book starts with describing user mental models, user goals and the whole design process. It finishes with specific examples and patterns you can use in your daily workflow.

  2. Don’t Make Me Think - A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability
    A world famous classic. It’s very short, but packs a lot of usability tips and it’s tailored for beginners. The problem domain is Web, but can be easily applied to other environments.

  3. The Design of Everyday Things
    Also a classic, from the 80s. It describes design in general from a very high level, showing examples of good and bad (often industrial) design to drive the point home. It’s excellent to put you in the “design good things” mindset. There is also a new revised edition.

All three are on the Smashing Magazine list of “Usability and Interface Design Books”. Two other books I can recommend from there are Designing Interfaces (collection of design patterns, very good as a reference) and Interaction Design (similar to About Face 3, but more in depth and academical; recommended for serious practitioners).

One area that has been a gold mine for my work is cognitive psychology. It’s “the study of mental processes such as attention, language use, memory, perception, problem solving, and thinking”. I think every designer should study it because it’s a window into human behavior. One of the best books in the field I’ve read until now is Thinking, Fast and Slow by Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman. It won’t teach you how to pick the best colors, but will show you how people decide, why they like not losing more than winning something of equal value, why people jump to conclusions as shortcuts and what mistakes they make along the way.

The whole list is subjective and based on books I’ve read. If you have some other recommendations worth reading that are not mentioned here, please let me know on Twitter.


Don’t miss this one:
The power of a plain old bookshelf

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