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UX designers must have insatiable appetites for learning. We are expected to have a deep understanding of technology and a wide breadth of knowledge about people and behaviors. Whether self-taught or a graduate of design school, we need to embrace lifelong learning. Below is a list of “go-to” books that I recommend to designers new to the field or User Experience Design. They serve as references for not only adding to your technical toolbox but also for sharpening your softer observation and communication skills.

User Experience Design Core Concepts

The User Experience Team of One: A Research and Design Survival Guide
This is the book that helped launch my career. Not only was I new, I was also the sole designer, I was responsible for the experience of the product. Leah Buley breaks down a project, activities and possible artifacts you can work towards.

Microinteractions: Full Color Edition: Designing with Details
Dan Saffer came to Austin, TX to speak about this book at a local IxDA meetups. At the time, I was two months in at a startup pushing to build its user base. He outlined parts of his book that helped the design team and I think about the little interactions which guide a user to easily complete tasks. Ultimately, the little nudges help lead to a more positive overall experience.

Designing for how people tick

What Every Body is Saying
After reading this book from Joe Navarro and Marvin Karlins, you will never casually have a conversation again. Joe Navarro, a former FBI agent, lays a foundation for common “tells” or non verbal body cues people unconsciously use. This has helped me better understand the comfort level of interview subjects and team members in key situations.

Brain Rules
When designing for complex tasks and interactions, it is important for designers to understand how the users’ ability to make decisions is affected when stressed. The book outlines how day-to-day occurrences such as lack of sleep already tax the brain’s ability to make logical choices. It should reinforce designers that their work should not add to that stress.

Joe Navarro and Marvin Karlin help you understand the common ‘tells’ in non-verbal communication.

Don’t Make Me Think
Design teams can get wrapped up and over think the simplest aspects of their work. At the same time, we can overlook big things that will make the experience easier for the user. Steve Krug takes us through an easily digestible lesson on best practices for usability and experience design.

How are some products adopted quickly and widely while others never catch on? NIR EYAL lays out a blueprint of the UX process aligned to how humans form habits. When working with startups where their survival depends on user adoption, this book helped inform me on the best strategies for designing for encourage growth.

Little Extras

Agile Experience Design
Joining a product team? Then you will be working with Product Owners and Developers, and you will most likely be working in some form of Agile. This book is an excellent reference for how design can work in agile.

Diagnosing and Changing Organization Culture
Organizations make decisions based on the culture as to which they exist. Taken out of context certain decisions are hard to understand. This book helps designers better understand how organizations (small, medium and large) typically operate. It was a great resource for me as I tried to interpret the needs of clients from diverse organizational contexts, and later it helped me navigate the structure and culture of my next employer.

As the UX industry grows, software will permeate larger portions of the economy. We are asked to solve increasingly complex problems for new users and situations. These books have helped prepare me to best contribute to some of the most challenging projects. I hope they can benefit you too. If you have any comments about the books on this list or would like to recommend any others, please add your feedback below.

Curious about online courses to take your skills up a notch? Read this post about free and not-so-free options.

Matt Eng

Matt Eng

DesignOps Manager. Based in Austin,TX. Worked with clients such as Alcatel-Lucent, Ogilvy, RBC, Deloitte, Whirlpool, Polycom, Symantec, and Pebble. Matt teaches, mentors, and speaks about design, creativity, and fostering stronger connections within teams.