My entire life I defended street smarts over book smarts.
It was always practice over theory for me, and I used my experience for everything that might require a bit of information.
That was until I started working as a creative content writer. I was told to read through tons of pages and websites, even though I had prior experience with writing.
It was the best thing that I did.
Now, when I’m venturing into any new subject, the first thing I do is check some books.
Coincidentally, my new subject these days happens to be UX design. And whether you are in the same boat as me or not, I don’t want you making the same mistake I did: underestimating a good read.
To save you some precious reading time, I have gathered up the 12 BEST books on UX design you could read in 2023.
I even separated them into categories! Let’s take a look at:
- Why you should be reading books on UX design,
- The best books on UX design,
- Best books for an intro to UX design,
- Best books for beginner UX designers,
- Best books for UX design guidelines,
- Best books for advanced UX designers,
- Best books for UX writers
If you’re ready, let’s take a ride to the library 🤓
Why read books on UX design?
Let me rephrase that: why read books at all?
It’s only the most efficient and trusted method for learning any subject.
Let’s be real; there are way too many credibility issues going on where we get our information in 2023. We wanna learn something, we check the internet, we claim we are well-read.
The truth is, Google can do only so much about fake information – that is, if it does anything at all.
I say it is high time we return to good ol’ reviewed and fact-checked pages of a book.
Agreed? Good. Back to our real question.
Why do we need to read books on UX design?
Because we need that information as SaaS people? Because UX design is taking over as a separate field of study encompassing all industries? Because it has the potential to broaden any customer-facing employee’s perspective on what they do?
All of the above.
UX design is not just your designers’ problem now.
All digital products have an online presence in 2023 and understanding the user experience design that can change a user or customer’s opinion of your product is part of growth.
👉 We all need to comprehend what users go through in a given product to produce, market, and finally sell it.
👉 What’s more, not just a designer but a marketer or a sales rep can make a great change once they get in the design thinking mindset. I’m talking about new strategies, new goals, and new projects.
All because they understand your users a little better now.
Of course, I’m not saying you should get your employees to drop everything and start reading UX design books.
👉 All I’m saying is, no matter your position if you’re working with SaaS users/customers, a good UX design book can change your perspective on what you do and urge you to do it better.
Enough talking, more reading. Let’s take a look at these gems 📖 💎
12 Best User Experience Design Books in 2023
UX design is no easy job.
Along the way, UX designers have to learn technical skills like wireframing and prototyping, soft skills like research and user psychology, and in some cases, even coding.
Whether you want to be a UX designer or you’re just an enthusiast, whether you are learning by yourself or with a class, whether you are a design novice or an advanced UX designer, there is a book for you.
Here’s the tip of the iceberg.
Best books for an intro to UX design
Not a UX designer but interested in UX? You gotta start somewhere.
The books coming up are the perfect pick for someone who is truly a beginner in UX.
You might be an entrepreneur looking to create products that will resonate with the users, a marketer trying to understand the users better. You might be a product designer, a salesperson or even a user.
Here are the books you start with.
1- The Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition by Don Norman
Originally written in 1988 and revised later on, Don Norman’s The Design of Everyday Things, is considered the bible of UX.
The book revolves around physical products rather than digital ones, but it still manages to set out practical examples for the principles of cognitive psychology.
Now, it is true that contemporary designers think the book is kind of outdated, but one fact still holds: Don Norman was one of the pioneers of modern UX and usability. And for anyone interested in designing or producing for humans, The Design of Everyday Things is a must-read.
Like it or not, it is a timeless piece and the best intro possible to UX.
“This is a MUST READ book for anybody in design, software, or pretty much any creative endeavor. It elegantly extracts the principles from sometimes complex environments and presents them in the most simple environments possible from doorknobs to light switches. I have all of the software engineers who work for me read this at some point.”
2- Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal
Hooked by Nir Eyal is a book about how to create addictive products. It is literally in the title.
Wait then, what does this have to do with UX?
In 2023, a good user experience is one that makes the users return and experience it once again. Every product, website, tool, or software design process has to build upon that mindset to be a hit.
Through the “Hook Model”, Nir Eyal explains the four steps in creating the habit-forming product: trigger, action, reward, and investment.
Rather than UX designers, Hooked is directed more at entrepreneurs and product managers with or without a design background. But that’s all the more reason to read it for UX design enthusiasts.
What Hooked puts on the table are a thought, a mindset, and a framework.
Three things that can put down a basic understanding of user behavior and cognitive psychology, eventually aligning the entrepreneur, the product, and the designer’s perspective.
You can’t build addictive products if your team doesn’t share the same attitude.
And Nir Eyal’s attitude is the perfect blueprint.
“If you’re trying to build the next big app, you need user engagement. This book lays down a model building engagement by having users constantly return to your app. In the beginning this is prompted, but eventually it’ll become instinct. This is how viral loops are formed.”
Best books for beginner UX designers
Now we’re getting to it.
If your interest in UX design goes deeper than being an endeavor in getting a new business perspective or learning about a new field that might benefit you in your own field, these are the books you’re looking for.
Here are some books for the new UX designers to get the hang of it.
3- Don’t Make Me Think (Revisited) by Steve Krug
Don’t Make Me Think, or Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability by Steve Krug, a veteran usability consultant with over 30 years of experience, is the most fun and readable book there is on usability.
Going over all the design basic and complex principles of usability with a witty sense of humor and comics every few pages, this all-time classic is a must-read for any serious UX designer-to-be.
Aside from the fact that it has precious knowledge for any new UX designer, what makes Don’t Make Me Think even better is that it is a usability manual that is supposed to be serious and boring, but isn’t.
What’s more, contrary to other must-reads on UX design, Don’t Make Me Think is the most resilient to time. It is still relevant in 2023.
“This is ESSENTIAL for web people and all those who deal with them. READ THIS BOOK IF: you need quick tips for building a useful, functional website with clear copy. You run a business and are setting up a content team. You work in any department and wonder why you’re at odds with the digital team. (…) This book needs updating more often, but the fact that it can get away with a once-a-decade refresh shows that wisdom is timeless. It shows that the user-centred approach wins out over pure design and copy flights of fancy, and capricious business whims, every time.”
4- 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People by Susan M. Weinschenk
I have 100 reasons why you need to read Susan Weinschenk’s100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People as a UX designer. But the very first is the fact that Susan Weinschenk has a PH.D. in psychology, is the Chief Behavioral Scientist, and the CEO at The Team W, In. AND a consultant to Fortune 1000 companies.
That’s someone you listen to when it is user experience we’re talking about.
Originally published in 2011, the book has an easy-to-follow format, putting a wide range of knowledge into a great introduction to the psychology of UX design.
Though some reviewers agree that the book is in fact too broad and goes into detail rarely regarding the 100 design principles it notes, other reviewers argue that this format is its charm and the reason why it is an introductory book.
“Great book with wonderful citations back to the original studies. There are a few typos and some of the concepts might need to be flushed out more, but otherwise this book compiles a lot of really great concepts and research into one place!”
5- The User Experience Team of One: A Research and Design Survival Guide by Leah Buley
It is not too often every user experience designer finds themselves in a team of extremely adept and talented designers.
In fact, most UX designers find themselves working alone at least once in their careers. To make sure such a lonely design process won’t be a nightmare for you, it’s best UX designers learn to work alone early on.
The question is, what do you do when you are alone as a designer?
Thankfully, Leah Buley has the answer.
The User Experience Team of One brings together a variety of different procedures and is quite explanatory in describing each process.
The book can easily be used as a book of reference for designers in all sorts of design challenges and it can help make difficult design decisions, especially when designers don’t have anyone to refer to.
But above all, reviewers underline one great thing: the book approaches the topics step by step like a recipe book and answers two important questions, the why and how.
“Amazing book! One of my best purchases for 2019 and for sure in my top 3 for UX. The author doesn’t only explain a variety of procedures to choose from for your project, implies them also on the concept of “team of one”. Have to say though that even if it’s easy to follow I wouldn’t suggest it to a COMPLETELY beginner. It has a kind or introductory “101 UX” chapter but that’s not what this book is about.”
Best books for UX design guidelines
Just like a developer has to look up pieces of code, a UX designer needs something to refer to from time to time. Besides, it is good to have a practical guide whatever your profession is.
If you are looking for a book that can optimize your UX design strategy or hone your basic design skills, here are some wonderful suggestions.
6- Rocket Surgery Made Easy by Steve Krug
Rocket Surgery Made Easy by Steve Krug is a quick, light read, as is expected from Steve Krug. But the quantity of usable information within is not so light. And despite being written over a decade ago, the content is still miraculously relevant.
The book content revolves around Krug’s expertise usability testing, and has all the scripts and checklists you might need.
The 168 pages long book is all practical advice delivered in the good ol’ fun Krug sense of humor, and it is reference-worthy for a design novice and experienced designer alike.
The good thing about the book is, it really does speak to a UX designer who has never done usability testing before as well as to the experts looking to do leaner testing.
“This book changed my career. I’ve got hands dirty into usability testing and convinced colleagues in a very old-school context (logistics!) to do it, because of what I’ve learned (and directly applied) from this book. I’ve coached others with this too. It’s just too good not to read for anybody working in Tech in functions around Design, Product Management, Usability, and UX.”
7- Universal Principles of Design by William Lidwell
If there was a textbook for UX design, it would be Universal Principles of Design by William Lidwell.
And I mean it. The author, William Lidwell, is a partner and chief research and development officer at the Applied Management Sciences Institute.
The book gets its strength from its scientific background, well-researched data meaningfully scattered across the book to aid understanding, and touches upon all fields from usability to human behavior.
If you are looking for a basis for principles of UX design that you can revisit Universal Principles of Design might be the read you need.
Moreover, the book deals with all sorts of design, meaning it can relatively enlarge any designer’s perspective inside and outside their own field of expertise while also being an inspiration.
“I’ve been using this book as the basis for content in my UX design courses for over seven years. It is the best single resource available for the principles of design. It sets out design principles, based in the way the human brain and visual system work. Using these principles, you can judge not only if a design is good or bad, but also *why* it’s good or bad.”
8- A Project Guide to UX Design: For user experience designers in the field or in the making by Russ Unger & Carolyn Chandler
UX design is tough work. A big skill set is required to actually be successful. And on top of all that, a UX designer needs to know their way around in the business world.
A Project Guide to UX Design is a handbook for UX designers smashed under the responsibility of design projects.
The project guide offers insider tips for understanding the roles of stakeholders in a UX project, conducting user research, doing SEO, coming up with personas, and more.
There is nothing much like A Project Guide to UX Design out on the market that gained such popularity. The authors do not set out a specific framework, but make sure you get the sense of what they are talking about and what you should be wary about.
It is truly a great guide for pressing times.
“Russ and Carolyn have really done a service for everyone who is either new to UX or is taking on new responsibilities in their organization. This is more than just a project guide, as the name humbly implies – in many ways, it’s a career guide to how to navigate the many hats a UX professional has to wear, from practitioner to project manager to evangelist.”
Best books for advanced UX designers
All professions require further knowledge throughout the years. UX being directly linked to the internet and contemporary trends, it is even more important for a UX designer to keep reading even in the later years of their career.
Here are user experience books that you might wanna give a read as an experienced UX designer.
9- Build Better Products: A Modern Approach to Building Successful User-Centered Products by Laura Klein
What Laura Klein does with Build Better Products is set out a framework for product management that takes all aspects of creating a successful product into account.
But this doesn’t mean it is only for product managers.
The book takes a step-by-step approach and considers every possibility you might come across when working on a new product; it even has a chapter on building a better team.
As an expert UX designer, product engineering might not be your expertise. You could be working on different areas of user experience and might not have experience actually building a product.
That’s why you read Build Better Products.
Because it has the potential to give you the encouragement to venture into different fields or simply do your own job better more consciously.
“Laura Klein is my UX spirit animal. (…) I bought her first book UX for Lean Startups and this one Build Better Products and I can tell you: this is years of experience knowledge speaking through the pages. She breathes UX and isn’t afraid to speak up against unuseful practices in some contexts. You get amazing insights and knowledge to even push the tools yourself.”
10- Lean UX: Applying Lean Principles to Improve User Experience by Jeff Gothelf & Josh Seiden
With more and more efficient collaboration methods and the word agile becoming ever so important in the 21st century, lean UX has become a design management system all designers are getting acquainted with.
And it’s paying off.
Now, if you’ve found yourself looking for a way into this trend as an advanced UX designer, I have just the book for you. Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden’s Lean UX explores the outcomes of an agile working mindset and how you can make the most of lean UX.
As I just explained, lean is taking off. Whether it is lean startups, lean UX, or any other agile project, they’re here to stay.
The best thing a seasoned UX designer can do to keep up with trends that are being adopted by all companies rapidly is, well, give the book a read.
“Exactly what I needed! I have been doing UX and UI for a number of years, but mostly for my own apps and websites. I decided to freelance this year and had never worked on an Agile team. This book was a great intro to that. I’d also highly recommend it to any startup CEO. UX is often completely overlooked by newer companies that think if they pour money into a great-looking product, people will use it. If you need a crash course in UX, then this is the book!”
Best books for UX writers
You thought UX designers were underrated? Think again.
UX writers possibly have the most overlooked role in a product’s UX in most companies. In fact, UX designers are most often expected to do UX writing. And some companies expect product developers to do the UX design.
That leaves us with tech people writing for users. Not the best match 😬
Whether you are a UX writer, a UX designer working on UX writing, or the poor developer above, here are great books on UX writing to get your writing top-notch.
11- Writing Is Designing: Words and the User Experience by Michael J. Metts & Andy Welfle
What’s the primary problem a UX writer faces?
With all the choices they have to make and the need for collaboration with the design team, the first thing UX writers need to do is be acknowledged. Later comes all the principles and practices.
That’s what makes Writing is Designing a valuable book. The first thing it does is pull up a chair on the design table. Then the authors move onto real-life situations, strategizing in a project environment and best practices on other aspects of writing for UX.
Writing is Designing is not necessarily an intro to UX writing book, but it is quite easy to read.
If you are already familiar with UX design and want to figure out ways to effectively make UX writing a part of your workflows and projects, this is a must-read.
“The authors do a great job sharing their experiences advocating for writing as a full-fledged design practice. They call upon real-life situations that emerge in starting and scaling a writing discipline. There are a few frameworks and loads of example questions that I’m positive will help me immediately.”
12- Microcopy: The Complete Guide by Kinneret Yifrah
Now if you were looking for the UX writing 101 book, this is the one.
Kinneret Yifrah explains all UX writing a.k.a. microcopy principles in all its dimensions; from voice, tone, conversational copy, to CTAs and error messages.
However, it is up to the reader to understand one simple fact: microscopy is an inseparable part of the user experience and it requires its own design and work process. Once this is understood, the book offers in-depth knowledge.
Minding the microcopy and actively working towards improving it is what makes timeless user experiences in 2023.
Whether you are a UX writer, UX designer, copywriter, product manager, even straight-up the CEO of a business; this book has a lot to offer in terms of practice and inspiration.
“This book had completely revolutionized the way we write UI text at our company. Whether you work on a small mobile app, or on a complex system, it will provide you with a very good perspective on the way UI text becomes an important piece of the holistic user experience. It gives practical advices and lots of examples and really is a fun read. Great to see it finally in English!”
Printed media is weird, huh?
One day it is relevant, the next day it is nothing.
Hopefully, this list never goes out of style. Because as long as the user-centered design is a thing, we will be reading more and more UX books.
But no worries, I’ll be right here to lead you to the best of the best, whether it is a classic book for beginners or a book on new UX trends for advanced UX designers.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is UX design dying?
UX design is not dying. In fact, as of 2023, it is getting to new heights with the newly realized importance of the user experience.
Can I teach myself UX design?
It is possible and often successfully done; however, teaching UX design to one’s self requires good resources and focus.
Can you get rich as a UX designer?
As companies realize the importance of user experience, the search for UX designers is as high as always. Meanwhile, a UX designer’s average yearly income in the US is around $90,000.
Can I become a UX designer in 6 months?
With high-intensity training and good resources, it is possible to start off as a novice UX designer. However, like every profession, UX design also takes further research and constant self-improvement.