10 must-read UX design books in 2021

By Adham Dannaway on 2 Jan 2021

10 best ux design books

The UX design process is becoming an increasingly important aspect of creating quality website applications and software products. There are many different UX design books out there with a myriad of different techniques and methods that are important for us to know and use as UX designers. It can sometimes be confusing figuring out the right UX design practices to use, so I’ve put together a list of some of the best UX design books I’ve read. I’d love to hear what your favourites are and how they helped you improve your design process.

If you’re a UI designer, I’ve also put together a list of my favourite UI design books.

Best UX design books

The UX book

The UX Book My favourite

By Rex Hartson and Pardha Pyla

This UX design book offers a comprehensive, practical overview of the UX life cycle processes and methods. Human computer interaction techniques are distilled into an easy-to-understand format and the authors do a great job of showing readers how to gather requirements, sketch ideas, create wireframes, build prototypes and evaluate designs. While not a short read, this book is a solid resource for UX and interaction designers at all experience levels and I definitely think it’s worth having on your bookshelf.

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Smashing UX design book

Smashing UX Design

By Jesmond Allen and James Chudley

Smashing UX Design is a great introductory book for anyone new to user experience design and working in project teams. The first half of the book concentrates on the UX design process, while the second part deconstructs the user experience of specific website elements.

It’s a very practical resource that provides a solid outline of popular UX design processes, tools and techniques – from conducting initial research and defining requirements to creating wireframes and prototypes. I liked that the authors used examples of real-life projects throughout the book and I did notice that there was a focus on e-commerce websites. Overall, it’s a great read for UX designers looking for practical solutions to use in team projects.

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Lean UX book

Lean UX: Applying Lean Principles to Improve User Experience

By Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden

Lean UX provides a framework and structure for an effective UX design process. The book encourages us to move towards a more iterative, outcomes-based design process rather than relying on classic and sometimes unnecessary deliverables. The three underlying principles of Lean UX are: (1) removing waste from the design process; (2) improving the efficiency of the team; and (3) shifting your mindset away from relying on a single expert to come up with the solution and instead using rapid experimentation to learn what works best. A great read with a good balance of theory, practical advice and case studies.

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Dont make me think - UX design book

Don’t Make Me Think, Revisited

By Steve Krug

Don’t Make Me Think was first published way back in 2000 and since then it has been one of the most popular and best-loved books on usability. The author is friendly and witty and uses a lot of practical, common-sense examples and illustrations throughout the book. If you’ve read the original book you’ll already know the main concepts, but the new edition does include some updated examples as well as new a chapter on mobile usability.

The book basically consists of a bunch of usability rules based on simple human psychology that will help you create a better experience for your users. Don’t Make Me Think is a staple for anyone in the website business; it’s quick and fun to read and I guarantee it will help you understand your users better.

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The User Experience Team of One - UX design book

The User Experience Team of One

By Leah Buley

If you’re working in an organisaition that doesn’t have much of a focus on UX design, this is the book that will help you validate the importance of user experience. The User Experience Team of One briefly outlines UX philosophy before diving into a bunch of practical UX techniques and tools. Planning, discovery, research, design, testing and validation methods are all covered with real world use cases. Buley also provides practical ways to get buy-in from your organisation to implement UX processes, although these days many organisations are already very keen to become more user-centric. This book is definitely a great ally in your fight to bring UX process to your organisation.

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Elements of user experience - UX design book

The Elements of User Experience

By Jesse James Garrett

A great initial UX design book for those interested in learning about UX design. The Elements of User Experience cuts through the sometimes complex process of creating an intuitive user experience and includes clear explanations and great illustrations. It’s not a very comprehensive book on UX design methods or techniques but it does provide a great outline of what user experience design is and what it involves. This book is a clear, concise primer on UX design best suited to those new to the industry.

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Sketching user experiences - UX design book

Sketching User Experiences: The Workbook

By Saul Greenberg, Sheelagh Carpendale, Nicolai Marquardt and Bill Buxton

Most UX Design books focus on the principles of UX design, this one however focuses on the skills of sketching a user experience. You’ll learn a bunch of practical techniques to sketch wireframes, storyboards, interactions and animations. It’s a very practical workbook that will come in handy for any UX designer looking to better express their ideas through sketching. The book also touches on collaborative sketching which is great to brainstorm ideas in a team environment. As a designer, I find that you sometimes need to grab a pen and paper and get away from your computer and this book will definitely inspire you to start sketching more often.

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Project guide to UX design book

A Project Guide to UX Design

By Russ Unger and Carolyn Chandler

A UX design book that covers the core elements of the user experience design life cycle and also identifies the different stakeholders and how they’re involved. There’s quite a lot of information on the logistics of dealing with the business side of things including required documentation and meetings. I would say that this book is better suited to less experienced designers and project managers looking for an overview of the basic UX design process. If you’re already in the UX field, the authors do refer to quite a few useful external resources that you can look into for more detail. Overall a great introduction to the UX design life cycle.

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Agile experience design book

Agile Experience Design

By Lindsay Ratcliffe and Marc McNeill

If you’re a designer moving from a traditional waterfall background into an agile project work flow this book will help you overcome the problems with that transition. The first part of the book is basically advocating the advantages of agile UX design and the rest of the book outlines how to create user experiences in an agile project team. The book is presented well and easy to read and is a great resource for designers looking to work in an agile team environment.

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Universal principles of design book

Universal Principles of Design

By William Lidwell, Kritina Holden and Jill Butler

This is basically a dictionary of user experience design principles. The book is divided into 125 principles. Each design principle takes up 2 pages, with theory on the left page and a practical example on the right. The descriptions are concise and well written, making it a very easy read. It covers many of the theories and design principles that we use everyday but may have forgotten the name of including: Fitts’ law, golden ratio, Hick’s law, progressive disclosure, rule of thirds and many more. Definitely a handy cheat sheet to have nearby when you need to pull out some fancy theories to back up your designs.

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I hope you’ve found these UX design books helpful and I’d love to hear of any others that you think are worth reading. I’ve also put together a list of my favourite UI design books.

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