For the latest instalment of our Recommended Reads series, we thought we’d dive into some helpful resources on UX (User Experience Design).
You may be thinking ‘UX books? Sounds too technical for me’; but a lot of UX is about solving problems, navigating the creative process and understanding your audience. So, to save you from boredom, we’ve chosen some reading material that puts the ‘fun’ into ‘function’.
Why should I read about UX?
We’re always shouting about upskilling yourself, and we’re not going to stop. Self-educating is a highly effective way to progress in your career and reach your business goals.
UX Design is a crucial element of how modern businesses manage to thrive in a digital world. Reading about UX will benefit those who want to understand UX, those who want to implement it into their business, and anyone who wants to become a UX Designer.
If you’re unfamiliar with what UX involves, we have a post that explains its impact on your business.
We thought we’d start our list with a book with jazzy title to spark your interest.
The antidote to any creative meeting, Gamestorming is a playbook to thinking, problem-solving and innovation through the use of games. If you’re holding a UX design workshop anytime soon, Gamestorming is your bible. Never heard of it? This video breaks down what Gamestorming looks like and how it can benefit your team:
With playfully-named game plans like Graphic Jam, Give-and-Take Matrix, Product Pinocchio and SQUID, you’ll have your team engaged like never before.
TOP TIP FROM GAMESTORMING: ‘You won’t discover or invent anything unless you get used to taking risks and trying new things on a regular basis. Make it a practice to try at least one new thing every time you gamestorm.’
Defensive Design for the Web
Being defensive isn’t the best trait. But when it comes to defensive design, it’s a different story.
If you’re looking to learn the basics of UX, Defensive Design for the Web is the book for you. It’s a great one to keep on your desk as a reference point; the guidelines are simple to follow and are supported by good and bad examples. But it’s not just for UX designers, Defensive Design for the Web can be useful for copywriters, programmers and site decision-makers alike.
Although some of the specifics it teaches are quite dated, Defensive Design for the web offers some useful principles to follow for effective UX Design.
TOP TIP FROM DEFENSIVE DESIGN FOR THE WEB: ‘The same way drivers must always be on the lookout for slick roads, reckless drivers, and other dangerous scenarios, site builders must constantly search for trouble spots that cause visitors confusion and frustration. Good site defence can make or break the customer experience.’
From the same team as Defensive Design for the Web, Getting Real explains the guiding principles of UX and the importance they place on certain areas. The book is full of best practices to guide you through how to build a successful website.
Getting Real gets rid of unnecessary elements of the UX process, including:
- Timelines that take months
- Scalability debates
- The need to hire dozens of employees
- Pristine roadmaps that predict the perfect future
TOP TIP FROM GETTING REAL: ‘Before you start designing or coding anything you need
to know the purpose of your product – the vision. Think big. Why does it exist? What makes it different than other similar products?’
Some of us aren’t book people, so we thought we’d include some online material to mix it up. Inside Design is a site from InVision that offers a range of helpful design resources including UI design kits, icon packs and mockups, podcasts, e-courses and oodles of blog posts. Inside Design is a hub of knowledge that is handy for any UX designer to refer back to or any aspiring UX designer to learn from.
The blog posts cover a range of helpful topics, including:
- Customer journey maps – A breakdown of every experience a customer has with your product
- Selling the value of design – Communicating with your customers on why UX is essential to their business
- Presenting design briefs – Covering the essential parts of a design brief so that your team are able to develop better outcomes, quicker
TOP TIP FROM INSIDE DESIGN: ‘Faster decisions equal more velocity.’
The Atlassian Team Playbook
Want a no-bullshit guide on how to get the most out of your team? For fans of Gamestorming, The Atlassian Team Playbook is another great resource that offers game plans, rituals and activities to help you out.
This is another one to look at if you’re planning a UX design workshop. Its ‘game plans’ are fun, engaging, tactical ways to help you get the most out of your session. A game plan is essentially a how-to guide on applying various gamestorming techniques into a workshop or meeting.
For UX in particular, the game plans that we recommend are:
- Becoming more agile – Helping your IT/UX team to become more nimble and responsive
- Next-level project management activities – Activities that are designed to manage risks
- Building a DevOps culture – Building a DevOps culture through workshops, exercises and rituals
- Managing incident response systems – Preparing for unscheduled outages or degraded performance
- Becoming a cross-functional product team – Developing a culture of shared understanding, common goals and strong momentum
- Creating open lines of communication – Building communication by exercising it in a variety of situations
- Effective operational planning – Improving your operational planning through better ways of working
TOP TIP FROM THE ATLASSIAN TEAM PLAYBOOK: ‘To make better decisions about your product or service, go straight to the source and interview your customers.’
Validating Product Ideas: Through Lean User Research
Humans aren’t the only things that need validation, your ideas need it to.
An easy-to-read, step-by-step book, Validating Product Ideas is a worthwhile addition to your UX reading collection. This book is particularly helpful with design research. It contains tools and techniques that are easy to follow and apply to your work.
TOP TIP FROM VALIDATING PRODUCT IDEAS: ‘Implement fast, nimble techniques that are not necessarily perfect, nor robust.’
The NN (Nielson Norman) Group website
The NN Group website is jam-packed full of great UX resources like articles, reports and books, UX consulting services, and training/events information. With clients like Adobe, Google, the BBC, Sony, Paypal and Forbes, you know that you’re in good hands with these guys.
If you find it easier to digest information through video, The NN Group also have a YouTube channel. This is a great resource to check out for tips on anything UX-related, from explaining UX to friends and family to skeuomorphic design (interface objects that mimic their real-world counterparts on how they look or how they can be interacted with).
TOP TIP FROM THE NN GROUP WEBSITE: ‘In a lot of ways, your organisation’s user experience is only as good as its ability to change. If you can’t support change in the dependencies, then they become a constraint holding you back, and those user-facing experience improvements won’t be correctly addressed. This holds true at every level of UX.’
Sprint: How To Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days
Want to sprint towards success?
If you’re unfamiliar with what a Design Sprint is, Jake Knapp (the author of Sprint) describes it as ‘The ‘greatest hits’ of business strategy, innovation, behavioural science, and more — packaged into a step-by-step process that any team can use.’
Basically, a Design Sprint is a five-day process that allows you to progress (well, sprint) from a problem to a tested solution. The process is broken down into five parts:
If you’re looking to learn more about Design Sprinting, this is the book for you. Sprint is a great tool to use for learning how to build and test ideas quickly and effectively.
To get a better understanding of what Design Sprinting involves, have a look at this video from AJ&Smart:
Another one of Invision’s resources for designers, Design Better offers ebooks/audiobooks and a podcast that allows you to learn helpful design tips and tricks on the go. If that’s not enough to tempt you, the pretty designs on the website are worth having a gander at.
The topics discussed in the ebooks include:
- Design Sprints – A five day process for developing and testing ideas
- DesignOps – Optimising the design process through efficient workflows, improving communication within the team and hiring skilled people.
- Design systems – A source of useful information for the design process, including things like a style guide and pattern library.
- Design leadership – Managing a design team, operationalising the design process and shaping the design vision.
- Design thinking – The methodology behind design thinking that goes into brainstorming, ideation, prototyping and testing
- Product design – The process of product design from developing product stories to learning from feedback
- Animation – The role of animation in UX design and how to incorporate it into your work
As well as its online library, Design Better hosts expert workshops, both virtual and on-site, including:
- Design thinking
- Design sprints
- Design systems
- Special topics (Announced throughout the year)
TOP TIP FROM DESIGN BETTER: ‘The core of the design thinking approach is a focus on empathy, or using a beginner’s mindset and immersing yourself in the user’s experience to uncover deep needs and insights.’
Start With Why
Although it’s not strictly a UX book, Start With Why offers valuable insight about what motivates people and how to build that into your company culture. UX is about putting the user first, so the concept of starting with why is more relevant than you may think.
If you think outside the box a little, you’ll be able to pick up tips that could influence the way you look at UX problems.
TOP TIP FROM START WITH WHY: ‘Most of the answers we get, when based on sound evidence, are perfectly valid. However, if we’re starting with the wrong questions, if we don’t understand the cause, then even the right answers will steer us wrong.’
Book yourself in for more reading
Now that you’re a UX-pert, why not check out our recommended reads on all things content marketing? Or if you’re looking to continue reading UX-related content, keep an eye on the UX section of the J&R Journal; we have exciting stuff coming your way.