UX Books: 15+ Must-Reads in 2023 (Updated)
There’s a lot of information on UX out there. If you want to learn more about UX, become a UX designer, or improve yourself as a designer reading a book can be of great help. With that many books available, knowing where to begin can be difficult. My reading list of top UX books and recommendations in 2023 is a great place to start. Take a look!
There are many, many excellent UX design books you can read. I’ll provide a list of essential must-read UX books you can read in 2023. Once you have read these books, you can consider yourself to have a solid understanding of UX theory.
After that, you can pick books from my more specific reading lists. These include UX books for beginners, UX research, and UX writing. I will provide 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 learning about UX. Some are expensive, like online UX courses and 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. Just think of it. You can read books in your own time, at your own pace, and in a place of your choice. For example, you can read a book in your garden while enjoying a nice cup of tea, on a train to work, or just before bed.
Books are a lot cheaper and less time-consuming as well. You can listen to an audiobook while at work or while you take a walk. I like to listen to audiobooks while I drive to work. It’s very efficient!
Even in 2023, in the era of working-from-home and online collaboration, reading UX books can be your go-to choice when you want to become a UX designer. While bootcamps and courses are either online or postponed, you can still order one or two books to read. You will not be delayed in your learning journey.
Essential UX books in 2023
Let’s start at the beginning. Here’s my reading list of top UX books that are a must-read regardless of your current position, goals, or experience as a designer.
The books I’m about to recommend should be a part of any UX reading list, as these books will help regardless of your experience.
The Design of Everyday Things
The Design of Everyday Things is an all-time classic in UX design. Therefore, it is a must-read for every UX designer. Written by Don Norman in 1988, this book is still relevant today. It aims to teach you fundamental principles on designing useful products that are delightful to use.
One of these principles is the idea of affordances in UX. Affordances are an essential subject when you want to become a UX designer. Other important subjects are introductions to user-centered design, the Norman Door, and design thinking. In other words, go and read this UX masterpiece!
The Design of Everyday things explains how design acts as the bridge between an object and the user. Furthermore, it helps explain how good design can make the interaction between users and objects enjoyable.
After its initial release, the book received a significant update in 2013. Because of this, the book is relevant for every UX designer today.
Don’t Make Me Think
Yet another classic book on UX. This book is your go-to source for anything on usability. As you might know, usability is a big part of UX, making this a great book to help you learn about it as a UX professional.
Steve Krug states that good design is 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. You’ll learn how to make that happen.
Like The Design of Everyday Things, this book has had several updates—the most recent one being in 2013.
Don’t Make Me Think is an easy book to read. With just over 200 pages, it is pretty short as well. You could finish the book in just a few days. The book focuses on classic design rules like the 3-click-rule and whether or not you should still apply it today. There’s a lot of humor inside, which makes reading the book a breeze.
The UX Jobs Handbook
Yes, I’m mentioning my ebook in my list of must-read UX books. That’s because it is a very helpful book! The UX Jobs Handbook is a step-by-step approach to landing your first UX design job.
Over 50 pages of actionable tips, tricks, examples, and tutorials help you learn all job hunting essentials while you work your way to landing your first job as a UX designer. The ebook will help you learn the following and much more.
- How to write a cover letter that will get you job interviews.
- Tips, tricks, and templates for your portfolio.
- How to prepare and ace your job interview.
- And much more.
You can get the ebook in one of three bundles over on Gumroad. Check it out below.
No Bullshit Guide to UX
This is a UX ebook written by the great Hype4 Academy. As the title suggest, it will learn you about UX without all the fluff and one-liners.
I will try and do the same for this summary. No beating around the bush. This UX ebook is a must-read for any UX beginner. Take a look at the book on Gumroad below.
100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know about People
You design your applications to be used by people. It is called user experience design for a reason. To do this effectively, you must know who your users are, what they want, and how they work.
Understanding your users will benefit the quality of your design considerably. This book will help you with just that; understanding your users. It does so by taking a closer look at how users work and perceive things. Because of this, UX researchers will also benefit from reading this book. But more on UX research posts later.
In her book, Susan Weinschenk talks about how human beings function on a very deep primal level. One example I found very interesting was how we’re unconsciously triggered to focus on someone’s face. I didn’t know that before! It brings many options to my UX design work. Here are some more examples.
- We can have a fight-or-flight response for any object we see.
- In time, we learn new associations with colors and branding.
- You can divide how people perceive info into how we see, read, and think.
As a UX designer, you can make great use of the things this book teaches you. Therefore, this book is a must-read and should be on the reading list of every UX designer.
Smashing UX Design: Foundations for Designing Online User Experiences
Smashing UX Design is a book that takes an in-depth look into UX. With well over 400 pages, this book is nothing to take lightly! You can divide Smashing UX design into four parts.
- An introduction to UX. It makes the book an exciting read for beginners as well.
- UX research.
- The tools you will need as a designer.
- Specific design cases to go from theory into practice.
The structure of Smashing UX Design is very clear. The book builds on every chapter that passes with new info and insights. It starts very basic and moves carefully to more complex topics.
The book provides you with everything there is to know on UX. Do you want to learn about a particular type of design workshop, specific tools for designing a great landing page, or an introduction to UX research? This book has you covered.
That’s all there is to say on Smashing UX Design. If you have a UX-related question, this book is for you. However, keep in mind that the book is primarily aimed at UX design for the web. The author doesn’t talk that much about mobile.
You’re My Favorite Client
Mike Monteiro is a very outspoken designer. And that’s an understatement. He is known for his talks and lectures around the world and for being the co-founder and design director of Mule Design, an interaction design studio based in San Francisco.
You can view one of his lectures on how designers destroy the world just below. It is one of my favorite design talks.
In addition, he is the author of multiple books, including the one I recommend here. The UX book is called You’re My Favorite Client, and it is the follow-up to his first book, Design Is A Job.
With only 127 pages, this book is a short read, especially compared to some of the other UX books on this reading list. The book zooms in on the relationship you need to build with your clients to create a successful product. Compared to other books on this list, it stands out as they focus more on hard skills.
Client-designer relationships can be complicated. To make it a success, you have to focus on the soft skills of a UX designer. In the book, Mike Monteiro talks about the step-by-step process of selling and creating your design work, including the questions you must ask and the people you must hire. Especially that final part makes this book also interesting for design managers and even clients.
I recommend all four of Mike Monteiro’s books, but I had to choose one; this book is the one.
Free UX books
There’s an easy way of reading some of my recommended books on UX for free. It can be of great help since getting a lot of books can still be an investment close to that of a UX course.
Try out Amazon’s Audible Plus. You can listen to books while doing something else. For example, I listen to audiobooks while I commute to work.
This excellent service has multiple books found on this UX reading list, including The Design of Everyday Things, the books by Mike Monteiro that I’ve mentioned previously, and more.
Try the service for 30 days for free. Cancel anytime!
Best UX books for beginners
When you’re trying to become a UX designer, reading books on UX will help you develop an understanding of the theories behind UX. Here’s my recommended reading list of top UX books for beginners.
The first two books are also part of my essential UX booklist, as discussed above. Start with the following books. Both of them are listed above.
Learning UX is like learning to ride a bike. First, you start with some assistance like training wheels.
Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug is like those training wheels. You’ll start easy with UX basics, how-to’s, and principles to get you going.
After that, the training wheels come off when you read The Design of Everyday Things. This book is more abstract and conceptual. It tackles real-life situations, while Don’t Make Me Think is very concrete and focuses on best practices and actionable tips and tricks.
Once you’re done with these first two, continue with the following beginner-friendly UX design books.
Universal Principles of Design
This book is a top read for every beginning UX designer. In the current edition, you can learn 150 design principles. Just think of The Design of Everyday Things and its seven design principles. Then, add another 143 to that list, and you have the Universal Principles of Design!
As a UX designer, you need to speak the language of design. This book teaches you just that.
You can use this book as a dictionary for UX design. With a new design principle every few pages, all you have to do is reference a page you want to know more about.
Then, by adding a sticky note, you remember where to look. Does a more senior UX designer talk about a principle you don’t know? Just look it up in your new UX dictionary!
Universal Principles is a contender for the number one spot on every beginning UX designer’s reading list. It helps designers get started the right way. In addition, the book includes incredible examples and illustrations, which makes it an easy and fun read.
Lean UX is an excellent book for UX beginners, written by Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden.
Most clients you’re going to collaborate with work using an Agile framework, like Scrum and Kanban. Scrum events like the daily standup, sprint retrospectives, and reviews are common for almost any UX designer. This book helps you find your place within a Lean and Agile working environment.
Yes, UX and Agile have some differences in their way of working. However, lean UX will give you the tools you need to work together with Agile-minded teams and clients efficiently and productively. And if you need more help, you can always take a look at the ultimate Scrum guide for UX designers I wrote.
The User Experience Team of One
During your design career, it could happen 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 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 the design done and make an impact while being a one-person UX design team. It focuses on getting more UX work done in less time and how you survive as a lone UX professional.
UX for Beginners: 100 Short Lessons to Get You Started
This book is all about the UX Crash Course blog you can find at The Hipper Element. Joel Marsh, a designer and author, wrote both the blog and book.
UX for Beginners is a book that teaches you, as the title suggests, 100 basics about UX. Like the Universal Principles of Design I mentioned earlier, this is essentially a very long listicle. Together, they provide you with 250 principles. That’s instant growth as a designer right there!
These fundamental design principles can help any beginner become a better UX designer. Even experienced designers can still learn a thing or two from this book.
UX research books
Research is one of the building blocks of UX design. Some of the books on my UX reading list also cover some of this expertise. Yet, I believe UX research to be a skill that is too important not to have its list of recommended books. Here’s my list of UX research books. Take a look!
Quantifying the User Experience
Design is about more than just putting pixels in order. Yes, it is important, but there is way more that you will need to do as a UX designer. I’m talking about user research, or UX research in short. As I said before, user research is a unique skill that deserves its own list.
One of the most challenging parts of being a designer is measuring the success of your design. Most people think that design is something subjective. You either like it, or you don’t. Quantifying the User Experience is a UX research book that gives you the tools to do qualitative and quantitative user research. You’ll learn how to break through the image of how design is subjective.
After reading the book, you will be able to measure the success of your UX design work. In addition, by using these tools, you can convince stakeholders of the importance of UX design. It will, in turn, help you become a better designer.
Mental Models: Aligning Design Strategy with Human Behavior
A lot happens inside a user’s mind when they interact with your design. For example, your users might have a prejudice or bias you’re not aware of. In other cases, using your designs might be scary for first-time users.
How someone sees an object and how he thinks it will work is what we call a mental model. User research is an essential part of your design process when working as a UX designer. Understanding the mental model involved is key to delivering a user experience that’s both helpful and delightful.
That’s where this UX research book comes in. Indi Young, the author of Mental Models, describes how to approach such a user research process in great detail. If you’re up for a design project that involves UX research, this is an essential book that has to be on every reading list.
Best books for UX writing
Text is becoming a more significant part of the user experience every day. That’s why UX writing is an integral part of the modern UX designer’s toolbox.
Just think of it like this. One way to communicate is by sending a text message. Every product you use has a form of text (or speech) in one way or another. As a UX writer, you have to be prepared for that.
These books on UX writing can help you learn the skills you need to make communication within your product easy to use and understand.
Strategic Writing for UX: Drive Engagement, Conversion, and Retention with Every Word
Let’s start with the author. Torrey Podmajersky is a very experienced UX writer. He has working experience at multiple big companies like Google and Microsoft.
She believes UX writing is only about the text within the scope of a UX designer. These texts include headings, call-to-actions, and button labels. UX writers work very closely with copywriters and (in part) marketeers. However, it is very much its own specialty.
Strategic Writing for UX takes a close look at common topics within UX writing, like conversational design, what UX writing is (and isn’t), best practices, and how to measure work effectiveness.
The book does so in a transparent and down-to-earth way. As a result, I can recommend this book to UX designers at any experience level.
I will be updating this reading list whenever I see new UX books that I think will help you become a UX designer. In addition, I’ll be creating follow-up lists focused on specific topics, like UI design books.
In the meantime, I suggest you read more about becoming a UX designer. After all, theory on UX is an essential part of every UX designer’s toolbox. Reading books is just one part of that.
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