Design is hard. Writing is hard. Dancing is hard. I do hard things that make me happy. Content Writer at Uxcel.
Being a successful designer means always looking to improve your design skills — by any means possible. While you're patiently waiting for new Uxcel courses, here's our favorite list of books that are guaranteed to sharpen your design skills and keep you entertained!
#1 Design of Everyday Things
Have you ever wondered why some things are intuitively easy to use, while others are hard nuts to crack? It stands true for all kinds of products, from apps to household appliances to complicated aircraft dashboards.
Don Norman firmly believes that there are no "bad" users — only bad designs. In his book Design of Everyday Things, he introduces fundamental design principles in an entertaining and humorous manner. This book is for those who want to know how to build a strong user experience and efficiently guide users to accomplish their goals.
#2 Don't Make Me Think
What makes the most annoying design? That's right — the need to think, click too many times, remember or write down things to compare, or —gasp! — switch between screens! Since its first publication in 2000, Steve Krug's Don't Make Me Think has forever changed our design approach. The book describes principles of intuitive navigation and key points about usability accompanied by illustrations and real-life examples. Its third edition also covers best practices in mobile design.
#3 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People
If you're a fan of behavioral design research and like putting in use the insights you find in your designs, look no more than 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know about People. The book casts light on how people make decisions and what influences their behavior in general.
The author Susan M. Weinschenk, who has a Ph.D. in psychology, has studied user behavior for over 30 years. Now she works as a consultant for many large companies, startups, governments, and non-profits. The sequel 100 More Things Every Designer Needs to Know about People goes into even more detail about making your designs intuitive and engaging.
#4 About Face: The Essentials of Interaction Design
If you feel like you have enough theory to chew on, About Face is more of a practical design guide. Alan Cooper and his co-authors created a comprehensive guide to interaction design principles, patterns, and practices with tons of useful up-to-date tips.
The book covers important concepts like goal-directed design, personas, and everything you need to know about windows, dialogs, controls, and user feedback in mobile and desktop apps. Newbie designers can find it particularly useful, but it's also a good read for experienced designers or people interested in product and interaction design.
#5 Lean UX: Applying Lead Principles to Improve User Experience
If you're a freelancer who wants to become a part of an Agile team or team member transitioning from Waterfall to Agile, Lean UX is for you. It contains stories, templates, and guidelines to help you learn how to use UX design tricks in an Agile team and do a better job of building a great product. Some readers consider this book a follow-up to Lean Startup by Eric Ries that can also be a good read.
#6 Mobile First
If you like short on-point books, Mobile First is worth your attention. The author Luke Wroblewski provides a shortcut to the concept of mobile-first design — a strategy of creating websites or apps that starts with prototyping the smallest screen and working your way up to larger screens.
The book contains nuts and bolts of the most common mobile design patterns and provides a great set of tools to explain this approach to colleagues or clients. If you've never heard of mobile-first design and need some groundwork, this book will be a valuable read.
If you're new to UX/UI design, The Elements of User Experience can be your go-to book. It defines the core elements of user experience, presents a 5-step approach to creating user-centered designs, and offers ideas that will help you tackle all sorts of problems — from brand identity to interaction design.
#8 Microinteractions: Designing with Details
The butterfly effect is an idea that a small change can have a big impact later — for example, a flap of a butterfly's wings can cause a hurricane. Well, it also applies to UX — adding or removing a small interaction, like the transition between button states on click, might make or break the whole user experience.
Microinteractions: Designing with Details contains practical insights about how and when to use animation, the importance of labels, or how often users need to know about system errors. It's a good read for both beginners and those who have worked in the industry for many years.
#9 Information Architecture: For the Web and Beyond
We'll be honest with you — Information Architecture isn't the book for someone trying to figure out the basics of information architecture. However, it's a great read for UX professionals, IA architects, product managers, and developers who want to improve their existing methodology and design better websites.
The authors don't play around and immediately plunge readers into in-depth details of IA concepts, methods, and techniques and their web applications, so being familiar with basic terminology and concepts will help a lot. If you're looking for a solid foundational read on content strategy, look no further!
#10 Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Five Days
Because of their fast-paced nature, startups usually don't have time to spare and require quick working solutions. Sprint is a comprehensive how-to book that answers the most critical questions that young companies might have and gives a complete manual on assessing product ideas in 5 days.
Authors of Sprint Jake Knapp, Braden Kowitz, and John Zeratsky are gurus of product development that consulted dozens of startups through Google Ventures. The book covers everything you need to know about testing ideas — starting from building a strong team to making the final decisions about the product launch.
#11 Thinking, Fast and Slow
Daniel Kahneman, a world-famous psychologist and the winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, believes that knowing how people think is key to great design. In his book Thinking, Fast and Slow, he explains the two systems that determine our cognition — fast (intuitive and subconscious) and slow (logical and thoughtful) — and how they work together to shape human behavior.
The book is full of aha moments and covers many cognitive errors and biases that people are prone to. Designers can learn a great deal about guiding users to their goals and motivating them to act.
#12 Designing for Emotion
Designing for Emotion is a short book packed with great information about how emotions influence our perception and what designers can do about it.
Aaron Walter, a former Lead UX Designer at Mailchimp, discusses principles of designing for humans and illustrates them with a handful of practical case studies. He also reveals how to develop your product's personality, voice, and tone and make your users fall in love with your website.