Via @uxbooks on Twitter I often get asked to recommend books on various subjects. Recently I was asked which book I would recommend to a non-practitioner as an intro to UX. I opened the question up and thought I'd do the same on here to see what people thought.

EDIT: Please up vote the answers you agree with so we can promote the most popular suggestions for future reference.

  • TO kick things off one of the responses I had was 'blueprints for the web' simple, short & introduces IA with some interaction design - bit.ly/O12Q3 – paulseys Oct 12 '09 at 12:15
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    To follow up I've taken the great feedback from this thread and turned it into a post on UXBooth for future reference. User Experience Books for Beginners uxbooth.com/blog/user-experience-books-for-beginners – paulseys Aug 17 '10 at 13:50

28 Answers 28


Don't make me think by Steve Krug

The best by far. A small quick read and not too technical at all. Amazon Link

  • I've made sure that every organization I've gone to has purchased multiple copies of this and had everyone involved in their websites read this. – Charles Boyung Dec 7 '09 at 21:32
  • The Design of Everyday Things by Donald Norman (amazon.com)
  • This is a good book, but I don't necessarily find it great for non-usability people. – Charles Boyung Dec 7 '09 at 21:32
  • Could you explain why? – Elmook Dec 10 '09 at 17:57

A Project Guide to UX Design by Russ Unger and Carolyn Chandler is a great practical and accessible guide to what is required of ux designers, and serves as a great introduction into the field.


Steve Krug's "Don't Make Me Think" and "Designing the Obvious" by Robert Hoekman are two good books for that intro to UX.


Another good one that I like is Sketching User Experiences by Bill Buxton.

  • Again, I don't think this is a very good starter book. Excellent book overall, just not for beginners. – Charles Boyung Dec 7 '09 at 21:33
  • This is NOT a good book for beginners. Too abstract to offer any value for non-practitioners. – Yosef Waysman Jul 9 '13 at 7:19

I would also recommend The Humane Interface by Jef Raskin.

  • I would not recommend this book for non-practitioners. It contains some excellent theories about what makes a UI good or bad, but is aimed more at actual ui designers. – Lisa Daske Aug 30 '10 at 10:58

I've already voted up Don Norman's Design of Everyday things, but his book Emotional Design is a great follow up with some contemporary examples. It's a quick read, but still quite insightful.

The Inmates are Running the Asylum is another essential for understanding why we need to consider the UX.

Interaction Design: Beyond Human Computer Interaction (Sharp, Rogers, Preece). While this is a textbook, it still serves as a useful reference for someone that wants a more in-depth read.

Interestingly enough, when posting the links for the above books, the 'Customers who bought this also bought...' shows most of the gems already mentioned here:

  • +1 Good compilation including the inmates are running the asylum – Oskar Duveborn Oct 6 '10 at 15:03

Kim Goodwin's Designing for the Digital Age (amazon) is the closest thing to a UX textbook I've seen. It presents a framework for structuring the UX design process, and then delves into the details of each step.


About Face 3 by Alan Cooper is a very good start. It provides UX process vision, which is very important. Most other books just provide best practices and patterns.


Just to put something new out there. Why Software Sucks.. And what you can do about it. is a great book for engineers to read... its meant to be lighthearted and poke fun at the engineers but I think it really gets it point across as to WHY UX is so important.


This was a question I originally asked on Twitter last week that @uxbooks helpfully picked up and shared more widely, so thought it might be worth sharing what others told me direct.

Most of the responses I received are already here - with the exception of About Face By Alan Cooper, Robert Reimann & David Cronin.

Worth mentioning that Steve Krug was certainly the most popular response. Seems like it's still the starting point for most.


Don't make me think, Krugg


37 Signals' Defensive Design for the Web (amazon)


I have to agree with Matt on "Elements of User Experience" if we're talking about software/web - otherwise Dan Saffer's books or Don Norman are relatively easy reads.


@jaysonelliot just suggested that help understand why UX exists a good book would be "Designing for People" by Henry Dreyfuss


I have to say apart from the obvious books that seem to get mentioned constantly I recommend reading Web Usability Handbook


Web Design Workshop by Robin Williams is a good (but old) primer on design. Once you have that, then books on Cascading Style Sheets make a little more sense.


I would suggest:

  • Blueprints for the web simple, (amazon .com .co.uk) - short & introduces IA with some interaction design
  • Elements of User Experience by JJG, (amazon .com .co.uk) - holistic overview of what makes up user experience.

Designing the User Interface by Ben Shneiderman and Catherine Plaisant (amazon) isn't very popular but gives a nice overview of many different UX subjects. As far as I know this book is widely used by colleges and universities throughout the world.


Don't Make Me Think was excellent!


"Don't Make Me Think", Steve Krugg


The Simplicity Shift, By: Scott Jenson (amazon.com)

Geared toward managers, and helping them understand the process, and it's importance.


I'd recommend reading Don't Make Me Think first, followed by A Project Guide To UX Design. These two books should be more than enough as a start. :)


Understanding why Pesky Users never use Your Software the way you Designed It to be Used.

By Joel Spolsky**

Some of it is online here ( though obviously as it's a book its more user friendly to actually read it as a book rather than on screen )


(** Actually its officially called: 'User Interface Design for Programmers', which is such a bad title for such a good book )

When I lend my copy to people I stick a big 'Read This' post-it into this page:


When you design user interfaces, it's a good idea to keep two principles in mind: 1. Users don't have the manual, and if they did, they wouldn't read it. 2. In fact, users can't read anything, and if they could, they wouldn't want to.


Communicating Design (Dan Brown) is a book I found really useful when I was starting out (in addition to Don't Make me think & A Project Guide to UX Design already mentioned above).

Communicating Design does a great job of presenting the for who, what, where, when of different kinds, and layers, of ia/ux documentation (user needs, strategy, and design documentation) that someone starting out in UX needs to understand and be able to produce.

October 6/10 update:

It's not a book but it's such a useful, well rounded, summary overview of UX that I thought you still might find it a useful resource:

What Is User Experience Design? Overview, Tools And Resources


Chauncey Wilson's new book "User Experience Re-Mastered: Your Guide to Getting the Right Design" (Amazon.com) could also be a good candidate. It is primarily a compilation of material from various Morgan Kaufmann books presented in a project framework.


i'm not yet make a vote. so, i also suggest

Don't make me think

it's best.


"Designing the Obvious" and "Designing the Moment" by Robert Hoekman are both excellent starters.

They are small books. Quick and easy reads for the beginner.

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