07Sep 2023

10 UX Design Books Every Designer Should Read

For UX designers, reading is as essential as the software on your laptop. Books provide deep learning and exposure to best practices not found by googling alone. 

While the internet offers bite-sized tips, books give the space to tackle topics holistically. As UX maturity models show, expanding your knowledge is key to professional growth. 

This article highlights 10 UX design books every designer should read covering diverse facets of UX design. From mental models to business strategy, these books will sharpen your thinking and skills. Expect actionable insights from the giants of the field. 

By learning UX history, principles, and psychology, you will improve your work enormously. These books reveal how to solve problems, avoid pitfalls, and create delightful user experiences. 

Let them inspire you to think more strategically and design even more empathetically. 

Poor vs. Good Design
Poor vs. Good Design – Image Source: Thence

As developer Brian Reed said, “everything is designed, few things are designed well.” Keep reading to improve your craft.

  1. “The Design of Everyday Things” by Don Norman
The Design of Everyday Things
The Design of Everyday Things – Image Source: https://g.co/kgs/jv8NV5

Considered a seminal foundation for user experience design, Don Norman’s The Design of Everyday Things unpacks the psychology behind how people interact with products.  

Norman introduces key concepts like affordances, constraints, mapping, feedback, and mental models. He advocates for a human-centered design that leverages natural intuitions and gives clear signals about how things work. For example, a door handle with an obvious shape and mechanism affords pulling, while a flat panel does not.

Through real-world examples and case studies, Norman points out poor designs that violate usability principles. As he states, “A brilliant solution to the wrong problem can be worse than no solution at all: solve the correct problem.” 

A key takeaway is that designers must create objects and interfaces based on user expectations, not just functionality. Clarity of form and function takes precedence over aesthetics.

This UX design book empowers designers to advocate for the user’s needs at each stage of product development. Norman provides actionable advice for improving discoverability, understanding, usability, and preventing errors. He stresses the importance of feedback and visibility of system status.

Originally published in 1988, this book laid the groundwork for human-centered design by elucidating how people perceive, interpret, and interact with the world around them. It remains a must-read that every designer should read; for new designers and experienced practitioners alike. With technology and design evolving rapidly, its insights on human cognition and ergonomics remain highly relevant today. 

The Design of Everyday Things teaches foundational psychological principles that designers should leverage to create frictionless, intuitive interfaces. It will make you rethink your everyday surroundings and instill a renewed appreciation for well-designed experiences.

  1. “Don’t Make Me Think” by Steve Krug
Don't Make Me Think
Don’t Make Me Think – Image Source: https://g.co/kgs/gYxFR4

Steve Krug distills web usability principles based on decades of design experience in Don’t Make Me Think. He provides practical, actionable advice to create straightforward, intuitive user experiences. 

Krug stresses that designers must adopt the user’s mindset. Web visitors are busy people trying to complete tasks quickly. Don’t make them think unnecessarily or figure out unclear interfaces. 

With humor and wit, Krug identifies common problems that violate usability: cluttered pages, confusing navigation, wordy instructions, ineffective search, etc. He shares before-and-after examples to demonstrate fixes. For instance, descriptive tab labels like “Register” or “Create Account” are far superior to generic ones like “New.”  

Krug offers a usability toolkit including tips like writing straightforward copy, crafting self-evident designs, using scannable layouts, and testing early and often. As he advises, “If you can’t make something self-evident, you at least need to make it self-explanatory.” He advocates stripping interfaces down to simplify essential functions.

Since its 2000 debut, Don’t Make Me Think has become a usability bible for UX designers and web professionals. It teaches an intuitive, user-first approach to design. Krug shows how small tweaks like changing button names or page headers can vastly improve conversion and completion rates. 

This humorous, insightful UX design book combines research and guidelines with plenty of real-world examples. Designers will gain empathy for users’ mindsets and learn to create seamless experiences by applying Krug’s usability principles.

  1. “About Face: The Essentials of Interaction Design” by Alan Cooper et al.
About Face: The Essentials of Interaction Design
About Face: The Essentials of Interaction Design – Image Source: Amazon

The classic About Face provides a comprehensive introduction to interaction design principles for digital products and interfaces. Originally published in 1995, it quickly became an essential primer for UX professionals.  

Authors Alan Cooper, Robert Reimann, and David Cronin outline core concepts like mental models, affordances, metaphors, and visual hierarchy. They provide guidelines for designing interfaces for complex devices and systems. 

Key takeaways include leveraging mental models to create intuitive designs, providing clear visual signifiers, and ensuring aesthetic decisions enhance usability. The book covers top-down interaction modeling to understand tasks and requirements before detailed design. 

As the authors state, “Define what the product will do before you design how the product will do it.” 

About Face stresses designing for the user’s needs rather than just the capabilities of technology. It demonstrates using personas, scenarios, and workflows to inform design solutions centered on real user goals. 

With wit and wisdom, the authors reveal how to create interfaces that adapt to changing contexts and tasks. They advocate iterative design informed by usability testing. Diagrams, screenshots, and examples illustrate key ideas.

This book gives designers a rigorous process for creating purposeful, pleasurable interaction models. While screen designs have evolved, About Face’s foundational principles remain highly relevant today. It teaches essential practices like task analysis, prototyping, and focusing on users that all UX designers should master.

  1. “The User Experience Team of One” by Leah Buley
The User Experience Team of One
The User Experience Team of One – Image Source: Amazon

With UX design more in-demand than ever, Leah Buley’s UX design book provides strategies for maximizing impact as an army of one. She offers tips for conducting research, creating deliverables, and influencing stakeholders when resources are scarce.

Buley stresses prioritizing the most critical user needs and business goals. She advocates guerilla research tactics like intercept surveys over costly exhaustive studies. Agile interviews and quick-turn deliverables keep projects moving. 

Key takeaways include focusing on layouts and wireframes over polished visuals, using product analytics and social media for insights, and enlisting other teams for input. Buley offers advice on demonstrating value through metrics and communicating insights effectively.

While large teams enjoy specialization and scale, The User Experience Team of One teaches solo designers how to be versatile and resourceful. It provides lean frameworks for synthesizing research, defining MVP feature sets, and creating design libraries for efficiency. 

By breaking UX into manageable chunks and connecting work to real outcomes, anyone can make an impact. Buley mixes principles and prescriptive advice with reassuring tips for building confidence and credibility.  

This book is a must-read that every new UX designer should read to balance strategy and hands-on work. Experienced practitioners will also gain insights into maximizing their effectiveness by using resources strategically.

  1. “Rocket Surgery Made Easy” by Steve Krug
Rocket Surgery Made Easy
Rocket Surgery Made Easy – Image Source: Amazon

In Rocket Surgery Made Easy, usability guru Steve Krug delivers on the promise of the title – a step-by-step guide to usability testing that anyone can follow.  

Krug’s book demystifies testing by providing practical tips for recruiting participants, preparing scripts and tasks, moderating sessions, observing body language, and analyzing data. He advocates rapid testing early and often, using affordable tools and straightforward methods.

Key takeaways include keeping tasks short and focused, using think-aloud protocols, avoiding leading questions, and identifying patterns in feedback. Krug stresses the importance of iterating based on tests rather than hunches or assumptions. 

With humor and visual examples, Krug makes testing seem unintimidating. He offers sample scripts, recruitment emails, and results summaries designers can customize. Checklists and worksheets help translate observations into action plans.

Since its 2010 release, this UX design book has become an indispensable resource for making usability testing a routine part of the UX design process. Krug proves you don’t need expensive labs or complex methods to gain valuable user insights. 

Rocket Surgery Made Easy combines an entertaining style with practical guidance. Any designer or developer will gain the confidence to improve experiences through simple, low-cost testing. Iterating based on user feedback saves time and prevents costly mistakes.

  1. “Seductive Interaction Design” by Stephen Anderson
Seductive Interaction Design
Seductive Interaction Design – Image Source: https://g.co/kgs/eBw2Gb

In Seductive Interaction Design, Stephen Anderson goes beyond usability to explore what makes digital experiences pleasurable and meaningful. Blending psychological research with design principles, he provides insights into human behavior, motivation, and emotion.

Anderson introduces design patterns like curiosity loops, engaging flows, and Easter eggs that spark delight. He offers principles for rewards, feedback loops, and experiences shaped around meaningful goals. 

Key takeaways include the importance of balancing challenge and ability for an ideal flow state, using variable rewards, and designing for different stages of mastery. Anderson advises hooking users quickly and sustaining engagement through well-paced challenges and accomplishments.

This book equips designers to build captivating, purposeful experiences. While bad UX frustrates users, Anderson shows how great UX satisfies core human drives by making interactions rewarding. 

With compelling examples and frameworks, Seductive Interaction Design provides practical tools for orchestrating emotions and guiding users on transformative journeys. Designers will gain new perspectives on motivations and learn to craft interfaces that build lasting behaviors.

By mastering techniques to stimulate curiosity, competence, completion, and creativity, UX practitioners can elevate products from usable to irresistible. Anderson’s book charts a path beyond basic UX hygiene to innovative, habit-forming experiences.

  1. “100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People” by Susan Weinschenk
100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People
100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People – Image Source: Amazon

In 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People, Susan Weinschenk distills psychological and neuroscience research into practical lessons for designers.

This UX design book shares science-based insights on how people think, learn and make decisions. Key takeaways include heuristics and biases, memory limitations, mental models, cognitive dissonance, emotional design, and persuasion techniques. 

Weinschenk provides research-backed guidelines to create interfaces leveraging mental schemas, minimize cognitive load, nudge better choices, and drive motivation. For example, progress bars utilize the Zeigarnik effect of unfinished tasks being memorable.

With wit and wisdom, Weinschenk empowers designers to build on the strengths and limitations of human psychology. She covers heuristics like proximity, similarity, and symmetry that improve intuitiveness and learnability. 

Since its 2011 release, this book has become an indispensable resource for creating experiences adapted to real human behavior. Backed by hundreds of studies, the insights help designers avoid pitfalls like change aversion, selective attention, and confirmation bias.

Weinschenk combines science-based credibility with entertaining examples illustrating each principle. Designers will gain empathy, debunk myths and make more user-centered choices by applying her concise takeaways.

This knowledge-rich book provides evidence-based rules of thumb on everything from copywriting to color psychology. Designers will gain an expanded understanding of the human behind the screen.

  1. “The Design of Business” by Roger Martin
The Design of Business
The Design of Business – Image Source: RLMI

In The Design of Business, Roger Martin provides a roadmap for creative, human-centered design thinking in strategic business management.  

This book outlines how business leaders can strike a balance between validity and reliability in decision-making. Martin advocates abductive reasoning that balances data analysis with intuitive insights.

Key takeaways include embracing design’s role in innovation while still leveraging analytics to test hypotheses. Martin provides frameworks for synthesizing consumer empathy, technical feasibility, and economic viability. 

By blending rigorous quantitative analysis with qualitative insights, leaders can drive meaningful innovation. Martin argues that design integration only enhances, rather than replaces, conventional business rigor.

Originally published in 2009, The Design of Business helped catalyze the business design movement. Martin demonstrates how human-centric design fosters competitive advantage by revealing unmet customer needs. 

This book empowers designers to expand their remit from products to strategy. With practical advice and examples, Martin positions design as a core leadership capability for uncertain times.

The Design of Business provides a compelling vision for unifying purposeful creativity with analytical mastery. It offers takeaways for innovators seeking to balance user-centricity with business viability for transformational change.

  1. “Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products” by Nir Eyal
Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products
Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products – Image Source: Amazon

In Hooked, Nir Eyal reveals tactics for designing habit-forming products by understanding user motivation. He outlines the “Hook Model” – a cycle triggering problem awareness, providing solutions, and reinforcing repeat use. 

Eyal teaches how to build engaging experiences by facilitating desired actions. He covers PRISM factors influencing behaviors – personalization, rewards, investment, social proof, and motivators. 

As Eyal notes, “To change behavior, products must ensure the user feels in control. People must want to use the service, not feel they have to.”

Key takeaways include variable reward variability, creating desire through artificial scarcity, and leveraging cognitive biases. Eyal advocates recursive loops channeling users from “triggers” to “rewards” to sustain engagement.

While teaching techniques to form addictive behaviors, Eyal also discusses ethical considerations. Hooked ultimately aims to help designers build healthy products, improving people’s lives. 

Since its 2014 release, this UX design book has become an essential reference for creating habit-forming and purposeful experiences. It combines psychological insights with a practical framework.

By studying user motivation and reinforcing behaviors, designers can facilitate beneficial habits while avoiding harmful manipulation. Eyal provides thought-provoking perspectives on captivating yet ethical design.

  1. “Information Architecture for the Web and Beyond” by Louis Rosenfeld et al.
Information Architecture for the Web and Beyond
Information Architecture for the Web and Beyond – Image Source: Amazon

The classic Information Architecture for the Web and Beyond provides a comprehensive guide to structuring, organizing, and labeling websites and complex systems.

Authors Louis Rosenfeld, Peter Morville, and Jorge Arango outline best practices for classification, hierarchy, navigation, search, and metadata. Key takeaways include facilitating findability, ensuring scalability, and shaping experiences through effective IA.

This book teaches how to develop intuitive, user-centered architecture optimized for usability. It covers techniques like card sorting, site mapping, and designing flexible navigation tuned to user tasks and goals. 

With real-world examples, the authors demonstrate applying IA principles to websites, intranets, software, and beyond. They advocate iterative refinement based on usability testing data.

Since its 1998 debut, this seminal book has defined the practices and principles of information architecture. It remains a go-to resource for both new and seasoned practitioners seeking to organize complex systems and design seamless user experiences.  

The Web moves fast, but foundational IA skills like researching user needs, designing clear taxonomies, and labeling systems are evergreen. This comprehensive guide provides the building blocks essential to any UX project.


The 10 UX design books covered offer invaluable insights into diverse facets of UX design. From foundational psychology to cutting-edge techniques, these works contain hard-won wisdom from renowned experts in the field. 

While the internet provides a wealth of bite-sized tips, books give designers the depth to grow their skills exponentially. Expanding your knowledge by reading widely exposes you to new perspectives and best practices. 

To create truly human-centered products, designers must continually study real user behavior and evolve their thinking. Additional resources like Amazon and Google Books offer a universe of UX literature to explore. Let these ten titles spur you to search out other books to sharpen your craft. 

Discuss learnings with teammates and allow new concepts to shape your work. The path to mastery never ends, but reading gives designers an enduring compass for the journey. Start building your UX bookshelf today.

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Rithesh Raghavan

Rithesh Raghavan

Rithesh Raghavan, Co-Founder, and Director at Acodez IT Solutions, who has a rich experience of 16+ years in IT & Digital Marketing. Between his busy schedule, whenever he finds the time he writes up his thoughts on the latest trends and developments in the world of IT and software development. All thanks to his master brain behind the gleaming success of Acodez.

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