UX Books: Essential Must-Reads in 2021

There’s a lot of information on UX out there. If you want to learn more on UX, become a UX designer, or just improve yourself as a designer this list of books is a good place to start.
UX books. 5 essential must-reads.

Luckily there are a number of great books on UX design you can read. We’ll provide a list of essential books you can read first in 2021. If you have the basics down, you can pick books from our more advanced lists. We’ll be providing them at the end of this post. Good luck!

Table of Contents

The benefits of reading books on UX

There are a couple of routes you can take in starting your career as a UX designer. Some of them are either expensive, like online courses or bootcamps, while others are very time-consuming, like joining a university to get your master’s degree in UX.

Another option might be to read a nice book on UX, UI, or perhaps usability. Just think of it. You can read books in your own time, at your own pace, and at a place of your choice. This could be in your garden while enjoying a nice cup of tea or on a train. Books are a lot cheaper and less time-consuming as well.

Even in 2021, in the era of working-from-home and online collaboration, reading books can be your go-to choice when you want to become a better designer. While bootcamps and courses are either online or postponed, you can still order one or two books to read.

Essential UX books in 2021

Let’s start at the beginning. There are a few books we believe are a must-read regardless of your current position, goals, or experience as a UX designer. These books will help when you’re an experienced designer but also when you want to become a UX designer.

Here’s our list of books every UX designer should read.

The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman

The Design of Everyday Things

This book is an all-time classic in the world of UX design. It is a must-read for every UX designer.

The Design of Everyday things explains how design acts as the bridge between an object and the user. It helps explain how good design can make the interaction between users and objects enjoyable. The book was originally released back in 1988 but has received a major update in 2013. This means the book is still relevant today.

You can get this book on Amazon.

Don't Make Me Think by Steve Krug

Don’t Make Me Think

Yet another classic. This book is your go-to source for anything on usability. Usability is a big part of UX, making this a great book to help you as a UX professional. Steve Krug states that good design is design where you do not have to think about how you should interact with the design. Good design makes it easy for you to complete your tasks. Just like The Design of Everyday Things, this book has had several updates. The most recent one being in 2013.

You can get the book on Amazon.

100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People by Susan Weinschenk

100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know about People

You design your applications to be used by people. To do this effectively, you must know who your users are. Understanding your users will benefit the quality of your design greatly. This book will help you with just that; understanding your users.

You can get the book on Amazon.

Smashing UX Design by Jesmond Allen

Smashing UX Design: Foundations for Designing Online User Experiences

Smashing UX Design is a 400+ pages book on UX. That’s quite a lot! Reading the book will be worth it. The book provides you with everything there is to know on UX. That’s all there is to say on the book. If you have a UX related question, this book is for you.

You can get the book on Amazon.

Best UX books for beginners

When you’re trying to get into the field of UX design, reading books on UX will help you develop an understanding of the theories behind UX. Here’s a list of books you should read (in order) to get yourself starting.

The first two books are a part of our essential UX booklist as we’ve discussed above. Start with the following books. Both of them are listed above.

  1. Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug.
  2. The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman.

To use a metaphor, Don’t Make Me Think is like learning to ride a bicycle. You’ll start with the basics of UX, how-to’s, and principles. After that, the training wheels come off when you read The Design of Everyday Things.

When you’re done with these first two, continue with the following UX books.

Universal Principles of Design

Universal Principles of Design

This book is a top read for every aspiring UX designer. In the current edition, you can read about 150 design principles. As a UX designer, you need to speak the language of design. This book teaches you just that. The book includes cool examples and illustrations which makes it an easy and fun read.

You can get the book on Amazon.

Lean UX

This is a great book for UX beginners, written by Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden.

Most clients you’re going to collaborate with work using an Agile framework. UX and Agile have some differences so this book is going to give you the tools you need to work together with Agile-minded teams and clients in an efficient and productive way.

You can get the book on Amazon.

The User Experience Team of One

The User Experience Team of One

It happens quite some times that you’re either going to be the only designer at your company or that you’re going to have to collaborate with clients that not really see the benefit of good UX design. 

That’s where this book comes in. The UX Team of One teaches you how you can get your design done while being a one-man team. It focusses on getting more UX work done in less time and how to survive as a lone UX professional.

You can get the book on Amazon.

UX for Beginners: 100 Short Lessons to Get You Started

UX for Beginners: 100 Short Lessons to Get You Started

This book is based on the UX Crash Course blog at The Hipper Element. Both the blog and book are written by Joel Marsh. He is a UX designer and author.

UX for beginners is a book that teaches you, as the title suggests, 100 basics about UX.

These are fundamental design principles that can help any beginner become a better designer. In fact, even more experienced designers can still learn a thing or two from this book.

You can get the book on Amazon.

Recommended books on UI design

UI design is an important part of UX. Even though UX is about more than just the things you see on a screen you still have to design what you see on the screen. That’s what sets UI design apart from UX. Here’s a number of books you can read to grow your knowledge on UI design.

The first two books are also part of our other UX booklists as stated previously. There’s no particular order in which you should read these books on UI design. Check them out at the beginning of this post.

  1. Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug.
  2. Universal Principles of Design by William  Lidwell, Kritina Holden, and Jill Butler.

After the first books, you can continue learning UI design by reading one (or all) of the following books.

Tog on Interface

Tog on Interface

If you know about the Nielsen Norman group, chances are you also know about Bruce ‘Tog’ Tognazzini. He teaches some of the classes at their UX conferences. Besides that, he has worked at Apple for over 14 years.

Tog on Interface is a collection of UI design principles, guidelines, and examples around the Mac. This makes the book a bit ‘Mac-heavy’ so you have to be okay with that. In every other way, this is a great book to help you understand everything there is to know on UI design.

You can get the book on Amazon.

UI is Communication

UI is Communication

User interfaces are the bridge between the user and a product. Whenever we interact with our phone, our car, or a household product, we have to understand and interpret data.

This book teaches you about just that. It shows you the ‘conversation’ between users and interfaces by giving you examples and real-life best practices. A must-read for both beginning and more experienced UI designers.

You can get the book on Amazon.

Further reading

We’ll be updating this list whenever we see new books that we think will help you in becoming a better designer. In addition, we’ll be creating follow-up lists focused on specific topics, like UX Writing, Usability, and Research.

In the mean time, we’d suggest you to read more on creating your UX portfolio.

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