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Insights / February 17, 2015

Getting Into UX: Read. A Lot.

By Beth McKeever

Second in a series. Read Beth’s other Getting Into UX posts here

The first thing I say to anyone interested in UX is go borrow a bunch of books from your friendly local library. Or, pull your e-reader out of retirement and put it to good use with some inexpensive digital copies.

I always start with books because there are so many different areas of focus within UX, and even many fields of expertise on the fringe of it. It’s important to explore what interests you.

There are a few books at the top of my list. These four fantastic introductions to UX will give you a well-rounded understanding of the many skills involved in UX design:

Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug
You’ll learn about what usability is, and why it matters. Krug also gives you insight into all his methods for testing usability, including great test scripts to get you started.

The User Experience Team of One: A Research and Design Survival Guide by Leah Buley
This book is a bit newer than the other classics I mention, but I’ve found it’s a great toolbox reference for anyone embarking on new UX or strategy work with a client. Buley offers a variety of tools and appropriate usage so you will be well equipped to solve your client’s problem.

100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People by Susan Weinschenk
A pillar of good user experience is behavioral science and psychology. Weinschenk encapsulates key human behaviors into this stellar book, all backed by research and case studies. You’ll want to keep this book handy so you can reference the case studies at a moment’s notice.

Information Architecture for the World Wide Web: Designing Large Scale Websites by Louis Rosenfeld and Peter Morville
In the industry, we simply call this the Polar Bear Book. This is the seminal text on information architecture, a key skill set under the UX umbrella.

There are also a whole bunch of UX books that I’ve learned a lot from. To name a few:

Microinteractions by Dan Saffer
I continually see great wireframes get translated into experiences, but the final product still fails on many counts. Microinteractions are the things you can’t always wireframe, the little pieces of the interface that make all the difference, even when they seem incredibly insignificant. Saffer’s primer on microinteractions will open your eyes to a whole world of experience waiting to be improved — one simple, tiny interaction at a time.

Lean UX by Jeff Gothelf
In my early days of UX, we did this thing where us designers would go off to our computers, build some wireframes, annotate the crap out of them, and then hand them off to developers, hoping they would get it “right.” It was awful. Lean UX is the response to that. Lean UX, based on Lean manufacturing, is the idea that teams should work more collaboratively to minimize waste (anything that doesn’t go to the end user). When we started embracing Lean UX principles, we got faster, better, and happier.

Web Form Design by Luke Wroblewski
So much of designing for the web is designing forms for the web. Designing a donation page, a checkout process, a profile creation flow… these are all forms. Wroblewski is an incredible resource on a variety of sources (more on that later) but his book and webcast on designing forms have greatly impacted me throughout my career. Wroblewski always backs up his recommendations with research and usability tests results to help you make the most beautiful, usable forms possible.

Designing for Emotion by Aarron Walter
What is now often referred to as designing “delightful experiences” was originally presented to me in Walter’s book. User experience goes beyond simply designing an interface that gets the user from A to B. How do they feel while going from A to B? Do they want to smash their keyboard at the end of it, or do they cheerfully close their tab with a chuckle? Walter presents case studies and methods to imbue designs with emotion, the quality that really takes design to the next level.

These books are great resources for both beginners and seasoned pros. Beyond that, I highly recommend looking into blogs and articles: Smashing Magazine, UX Magazine, The Pastry Box Project, UXmas, Luke W’s blog, and Brad Frost’s blog. I’m only naming a few of the many that are out there.

Additionally, start following thought leaders on Twitter — this is a great way to stay up to date on what the industry is talking about, writing about, or wrestling with. Some of my favorite industry folks to follow on twitter are:


They’re all active and non-robotic in their posting, but you may find others you like too!