UX is a profession that never stands still, but the latest theories, practices and sub-disciplines can take quite a bit of explaining, and can't just be summed up in a quick tweet or Facebook post.
To keep your UX skills up to date, then, new and up-to-date books can be invaluable. And this year there have been a lot of excellent and important releases.
Here, we’ve selected seven books on user experience, all written by experts in the field and published in 2019, which have been making waves. Whether you’re a UX designer, a manager or just someone who needs to stay informed, they’re all well worth checking out.
Also see our favourite graphic design books, or if you're after a different type of UX tool, check our best web design tools roundup.
In 2019, launching a new digital product is a careful balancing act between speed and quality. When budgets are limited and time is tight, how do you ensure you create a product that gets to market quickly but is also fit for purpose?
The founder and president of Nine Labs, J Cornelius has been building digital products since 1996 and shares the benefit of his experience in this superb new publication.
A practical guide focused on getting products out of your mind’s eye and into the real world, it covers the processes, exercises, and methodologies used by some of the world’s fastest moving and most successful startups and corporate product teams, in a way you can apply to your own products.
02. Strategic Writing for UX
When it comes to UX, visual design is usually the area that gets discussed the most, but getting the words right is just as important for the success of a website or app. And yet it’s a subject that’s often overlooked. This book sets out to fill that gap.
Author Torrey Podmajersky has written UX content for Google, OfferUp, Xbox and Microsoft, and teaches at Seattle’s School of Visual Concepts (SVC), so she has some great advice to offer in this area. In Strategic Writing for UX, she explains how UX text patterns work with different voices, and how to produce text that’s purposeful, concise, conversational, and clear.
Other topics addressed include how UX content works with the software development life cycle, how to use a framework to align the UX content with product principles, and how to explore content-first design to root UX text in conversation.
03. Building Design Systems
Design systems have been probably the most discussed topic among UX professionals in 2019. Essentially, they allow a design team build a framework that meets their needs by bringing together all of the critical design components, including style guides, pattern and UI libraries, CSS frameworks and other resources, in one place.
Written by two leaders in the field, Sarrah Vesselov and Taurie Davis, this book guides you through the process of defining a design language that can be understood across teams, and explains how to sell it to key stakeholders and other contributors.
You'll learn how to use an interface inventory to surface inconsistencies and inefficient solutions; establish a component library by documenting existing patterns and creating new ones; and create self-documenting styles and components to streamline your UX process.
04. Design for How People Think
UX design is ultimately about user behaviour, but how much do we really know about how people really think and act? This book aims to delve deeper into brain psychology to provide some practical answers.
John Whalen has a background as a psychology professor and now works as strategic product/service researcher and designer, so he's the perfect person to write it. In the book, he shows you how anyone on your team, without any specialised training in psychology, can conduct what he calls "contextual interviews" to unlock insights into customer behaviour.
You’ll then learn how to apply that knowledge to design brilliant experiences for your customers. The book also explores practical examples of how Fortune 100 companies have used this system to build successful and profitable experiences.
05. Ruined by Design
Most books about UX are relentlessly positive and upbeat, and that can sometimes get a bit wearing. So here’s the perfect antidote, in the form of ever-controversial web designer Mike Monteiro.
As a starting point, he points out sardonically that “The world is working exactly as we designed it”. For example, “Facebook’s privacy settings, which have outed gay teens to their conservative parents, are working exactly as designed. Their ‘real names’ initiative, which makes it easier for stalkers to re-find their victims, is working exactly as designed. Twitter’s toxicity and lack of civil discourse is working exactly as it’s designed to work.”
But this isn’t just one long rant: it’s also a call to action to make better decisions as designers, and change the world as a result. And it also provides you with the tools to do so, explaining how to evaluate the potential benefits and harm of what you’re working on, and how to present your concerns, using data and good storytelling to decision-makers, in a way that will actually make them listen
06. Emotionally Intelligent Design
Another publication probing the moral and ethical issues of UX design, this book explores new research about emotion and examines how design can help promote emotional well-being.
To help you do so, author Pamela Pavliscak, a design researcher and advisor to Fortune 500, examines new technology that engages emotion, and new emotional design practices. In the process, she draws on both her own research and the latest thinking in psychology, neuroscience, and behavioral economics.
Along the way, you’ll learn, among other things, different methods for blending well-being interventions with design patterns, new principles for merging emotional intelligence and design thinking; and how to use a relationship model for framing product interactions and personality.
07. Think Like a UX Researcher
People are unpredictable, and so second-guessing how users are likely to behave in using your website or app is the road to failure. Instead, research is vital, but what’s the best way to go about it?
This book takes a deep dive into the theory and practice of UX research, and offers practical advice on how to plan and conduct it, analyse data, and persuade people to take action based on the results.
Written by researchers David Travis and Philip Hodgson, who have 55 years experience between them, as well as each holding a PhD in Experimental Psychology, this book would be useful to UX researchers, designers, project managers, scrum masters, business analysts and marketing managers. It includes workshop ideas to build your UX maturity, and stories from seasoned researchers, outlining how their research methods can be tailored to your own projects.