I'm looking for the Book that explains the essentials of user interface and user experience design.

I read Beautiful Visualization and Designing Interfaces from O'Reilly. I think they are very good but, I'm still looking for the one.

Please provide your recommendation and why it stands as the essential reference.

  • 10
    "List of..." questions that can't have one, correct (for the asker) answer aren't really what Stack Exchange is about. A certain number have been tolerated on other sites, but you should really try to avoid asking them. However, I can see value in this one.
    – ChrisF
    Commented Aug 10, 2010 at 22:28
  • 47
    Strangely enough, these 'must read books' questions are pretty much my favourite part of every stackexchange site
    – Damon
    Commented Mar 9, 2011 at 17:48
  • Hello, the OP means to say "the one", the definitive one, along with the "Why" of it. Each reader can have his own "the one", with his own reasons. So, no "list of..." as such.
    – Kris
    Commented Dec 7, 2011 at 12:00
  • I am surprised that "Designing Web Usability" by Jakob Nielsen was not been included on the answers list. It is very pleasant to read and along with Steve Krug's "Don't Make Me Think", they are the only two usability books I've read from end-to-end.
    – sergiol
    Commented Jul 13, 2014 at 2:18

41 Answers 41


I read all the books mentioned above and would like to add two books about cognitive psychology. Why? Because it's fundament on which UI design is based:

  1. Designing with the Mind in Mind
  2. 100 things every designer needs to know about people

Also I think there should be some books about typographics in ui designer's must read list.


Nobody mentioned outstanding book by Jacques Bertin - Semiology of Graphics: Diagrams, Networks, Maps. It is a really MUST READ book for any designed who works with information. Tufte took many ideas from Bertin in fact.

enter image description here



Wow, surprised the Cooper Book hasn't made the list yet: Designing for the digital age. I can't recommend it enough!


The Windows User Experience Interaction Guidelines, also known as the Microsoft UX guide. Available in PDF. (you can find in on web layout too here)

You don't need to read it, but it's a must reference for Windows user interface design. It contains all thing you need to know.


UX Basics - (Additionally which is not in the list)

Elements of User Experience - James Garett

Research based Web design and Usability Guidelines

Undercover User experience - Bowles and James Box

Designing with Mind in Mind - Jeff Johnson

Usability for the Web - Tom Brinck and others

Web Application Design Patterns - Pawan Vora

Never miss these books, since these are RAW and PURE elementary level books.


My favourite, and easy to read book, has got to be:

Simple and Usable: web, mobile and interaction design
by Giles Colborne (cxpartners)

This book is wonderful in how it covers a lot of great examples and stories on the authors experience in creating products. The way he explains his strategies to achieve simplicity is what grabbed me. The book itself has a beautiful design with photos communicating the message even stronger.

There's also a fantastic example he goes through in using 4 strategies to create simplicity by applying and showing the strategies on a tv remote control.

enter image description here

Some quotes from the book:

"Simpler than a bike, until you try to ride it."

"In my experience, roughly the first third of any project is spent trying to figure out what's really important. It's a nerve-wracking time, as complexity seems to spiral and there's no solution in sight. Sticking with it is the first and most important step in achieving simplicity. Don't rush into design. Understanding what's core takes time."

UX Booth did a great review on it here

Author's Website: http://www.simpleandusable.com/


These are some of my personal favorites. If I have time I'll come back and mention a few more later on:


Interface and interaction design:

Designing Visual Interfaces: Communication Oriented Techniques

Dont be put off by how old it is. It has rock solid advice and extremely well organized.

The Essential Guide to Interface Design

Very synthetic. Great compendium of design principles, human psychological traits, design patterns, etc. Awesome reference when you need to find something fast in order to stimulate your thinking about a specific topic.

About Face 3: The Essentials of Interaction Design

This is THE book for design principles. I have yet to find a principle in any other book that is not present in this one. Also has very a comprehensive design pattern library with great explanations that help you think for yourself.

For getting "the big picture":

Designing for the digital age

Covers all the typical steps in a UX project with very detailed explanations on how to structure the work, how to organize the team, how to deal with stakeholders, what questions to ask, what techniques to use to find great solutiones, etc.

Subject To Change: Creating Great Products & Services for an Uncertain World: Adaptive Path on Design

A must-read about design strategy and culture. This will help you question company paradigms and deal with business people.

The Elements of User Experience

To help you understand how different disciplines can fit together / complement each other in order to create great experiences.


Next to the GUI Bloopers mentioned above, I would strongly recommend Designing with the Mind in Mind, written by the same author, Jeff Johnson. This book really explains the 'why' of the rules that you can see elsewhere, with respect to how people read, recall, recognized, think, react, visualize, etc. and the related process in their brain. It may sound technical but it is definitely very easy to read.


Aza Raskin recommends The Resonant Interface.


Usability Engineering by Jakob Nielsen

This is the staple for any UX designer, I believe there is no point trying to learn a specific area of design until you digest this


It is hard to recommend single book, we have some of most useful ones (for my crew) listed here so it might be useful for you to go through this UX reading list


Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.