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As new trends emerge and consumer needs continue to shift, keeping up to date with the latest thinking, methods, and best practices in UX research will help you stay ahead of the curve. That's where the right books can make all the difference.

Below, you’ll find a list of classics and more recent publications that will equip you with the skills and knowledge you need to succeed. 

The books we picked cover diverse aspects of UX research, including usability testing, user interviews, quantitative analysis, and mental models, providing you with a comprehensive toolkit to design experiences that truly resonate with users. 

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Table of contents

Don't Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability | Steve Krug

First published in 2000, Don’t Make Me Think remains a definitive guide on web usability that encourages you to understand how users typically interact with websites.

At the heart of Krug's philosophy is the simple yet profound assertion that a well-designed website or product should allow users to achieve their goals easily and efficiently. With a brilliant knack for distilling complex concepts into digestible content, Krug guides the reader through the core principles of user-friendly design.

Don't Make Me Think also serves as a practical guide to usability testing. Krug offers easy-to-follow advice on conducting usability tests, allowing readers to apply the principles he discusses and learn from real-life user interactions.

The revisited edition, published in 2013, offers updated examples and principles as well as a section on mobile usability

The Design of Everyday Things | Don Norman

In his bestseller, Don Norman embarks on a mission to decode the mystery behind why some objects please their users while others frustrate them. 

The book is replete with relatable examples from our day-to-day lives, making it easy to grasp the essence of his design principles.

The Design of Everyday Things is far more than a design book; it's an empathetic call to action for creating a world that respects human needs and limitations. It promotes an understanding that effective design isn't about making objects beautiful or flashy but about making users' interactions as intuitive and enjoyable as possible.

Just Enough Research | Erika Hall

In her book, Erika Hall serves up an invaluable primer on the role and execution of research in the design process. Straddling the line between academic theory and real-world application, this book cuts through the fog often associated with the subject, demystifying it with clear, concise guidance.

Hall's central premise is compelling and straightforward: research isn't an add-on or an option; it is an integral part of the design process. She deftly showcases the importance of carrying out just enough research to inform your design decisions and ensure that your product resonates with users.

The book shines in its ability to explain complex concepts in an approachable and relatable manner. Hall's writing style is casual and conversational, which aids in turning a potentially dry topic into an engaging read. 

Observing the User Experience: A Practitioner's Guide to User Research | Mike Kuniavsky

Observing the User Experience by Mike Kuniavsky is a go-to reference for UX professionals and enthusiasts that offers a holistic and in-depth approach to understanding users' needs and experiences.

From the get-go, Kuniavsky emphasizes the significance of research in the design process. His approach is thoroughly user-centered, underscoring the fact that effective design is not about assumptions, but about understanding actual users and their interactions with your product or service.

The true strength of this book lies in the extensive range of UX research methods and techniques it covers. Kuniavsky doesn't merely gloss over these methods; he provides comprehensive explanations and practical advice on implementing them. From field studies and surveys to diary studies and usability tests, readers are equipped with a robust toolkit that can be adapted to various contexts and needs.

Interviewing Users: How to Uncover Compelling Insights | Steve Portigal

Steve Portigal offers a comprehensive guide to one of the most essential skills in the UX researcher's toolkit: conducting effective user interviews. This book shines a light on the nuances of this seemingly straightforward activity, presenting it as a crucial way to unearth insights that lead to successful products and services.

Portigal delves into the art of user interviews with a level of detail and thoughtfulness. He skillfully navigates the intricacies of planning, conducting, and analyzing interviews, revealing the richness and complexity of this form of research.

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The User Experience Team of One: A Research and Design Survival Guide | Leah Buley 

The book by Leah Buley is a remarkable resource designed for UX professionals who often find themselves single-handedly managing the entire scope of user experience within an organization. It’s as much a survival guide as it is an empowering manifesto for UX enthusiasts who often grapple with limited resources and a lack of understanding from other teams.

Buley offers practical tips and strategies on how to manage multiple roles, streamline workflows, advocate for UX importance, and create an impact within the organization. Her guidance is pragmatic and actionable, enabling readers to effectively navigate their unique positions.

One of the significant strengths of this book is Buley's practical approach to UX. She presents a wide array of methodologies, techniques, and tools that readers can use, even with constrained resources. These methods cover the entire UX design process from research and ideation to prototyping and usability testing.

100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People | Susan Weinschenk

In her book, Susan Weinschenk explores the intersection between design and psychology, providing designers with a deeper understanding of how people think, feel, and behave.

Each factor is grounded in psychological theory, but the author goes beyond mere theory to show how these principles can be practically applied to design.

Weinschenk presents her insights in a list format, with each of the “100 things” serving as a standalone piece of advice or insight. This structure makes the content digestible, enabling readers to dive in and out at their own pace. It also allows for easy reference, making it an invaluable resource for busy designers.

Quantifying the User Experience: Practical Statistics for User Research | Jeff Sauro and James R Lewis

Quantifying the User Experience by Jeff Sauro and James R Lewis takes a subject that can often seem intimidating and inaccessible and makes it understandable and applicable for UX professionals.

The authors do not merely describe statistical methods; they explain why these methods are necessary and how they can be used to enhance the quality and reliability of user research.

They go beyond the numbers, showing readers how to interpret statistical results and how to use these results to guide design decisions and strategies.

Mental Models: Aligning Design Strategy with Human Behavior | Indi Young

This exceptional guidebook puts human cognition at the forefront of effective design strategy. It introduces mental models as powerful tools to understand users' thoughts and motivations, and ultimately to create products that align with their expectations and needs.

Young's approach to understanding users is revolutionary in its depth. The concept of mental models provides a framework for capturing users' thoughts, emotions, and motivations in various contexts. By mapping these cognitive processes, designers are empowered to create solutions that truly resonate with their audience.

The author guides her readers through the entire process of developing and using mental models, from conducting user interviews and interpreting the results to creating detailed diagrams and using them to inform design strategy.

Mental Models is more than just a book on user experience design; it's a journey into the human mind. It offers an invaluable perspective for designers seeking to understand their users on a deeper level. While it may require a bit more time to consume than other UX resources, the depth of insight it provides is well worth the effort.

The Elements of User Experience: User-Centered Design for the Web and Beyond | Jesse James Garrett

The book offers a comprehensive overview of user experience, providing an insightful guide to the philosophy, methods, and techniques of user-centered design.

Garrett's writing is well-paced and accessible, making it an excellent introduction for beginners, while still providing enough depth to be valuable for experienced professionals. 

The Elements of User Experience covers a broad range of topics, from strategy and scope to structure and surface, taking readers on a journey through each of these layers and detailing their role in creating a cohesive and compelling user experience. 

While the title suggests a focus on web design, the principles and methods Garrett discusses can be applied to any medium. This makes the book a valuable resource for anyone involved in designing user experiences, regardless of their specific area of work.

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