It's been a whirlwind year for me.
I picked up UI/UX Design earlier in the year, and like many who have come before me I had no idea where to start.
Online searches sent me straight to >$10,000 bootcamps (GA was sitting at around $14,000), YouTube sent me to successful Californian "How-to break into UX in 2020" style videos, Reddit screamed that "The golden age of UI/UX is over, Bootcamps are useless", and, in general, the internet tried to get me to spend all my money on yearly subscriptions that promised the world.
As always, one resource prevailed.
In general a book roughly sits around the $30 Australian dollar mark, they're highly accessible, and if you can't afford one, libraries are everywhere.
Picking up a book to dip your toes into UI/UX could be the most cost effective/time effective way to learn about the industry, its importance, and how we can design a better world for us all.
So; without further ado, my top 5 books (in order of reading) to dip your toes into UI/UX.
1. The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman.
Geez, what can be said about Don Norman that hasn't been said already.
A titan of the UX world, incredibly charming, intelligent and most importantly, passionate as hell.
Don't expect to read about why Instagram is so popular, or what makes a beautiful interface. This is the real shit. Norman speaks to the world around us, the physical world that we have created and designed, and how we as humans interact with said world.
Bad Design is everywhere, and Norman breaks down our interactions with both good and bad designs around us. The classic example is the Push/Pull door that we encounter regularly. Have you ever come across a door that you are unsure of whether it is a push or a pull? Yanking at the handle to no avail? The observation of this phenomenon earned these doors the descriptor of "Norman Doors". Norman breaks down how this happens, how we allow this to happen and how we can change the spaces and objects around us to not only work well, but provide joy and pleasure.
He should know, Norman was the User Experience Architect at Apple, the first person to hold the job title "User Experience"
Start here; it is an absolute joy of a read and I wish I could convince more of my friends to read it. It is essential reading.
2. User Friendly by Cliff Kuang with Robert Fabricant.
Now, this one is more of a history of design and how it relates to the world around us.
An entertaining and easier read than many, as this caters to a more general audience, who may not have as much exposure to design language.
The modern world is filled with guides and rules all around us. Guides such as, how to use machinery as a part of your job, without these guides it is often difficult, sometimes impossible, to understand how a piece of technology works or its use. The design of a product or service can delight, but a poor design can also be highly dangerous or even fatal (a strong example of this is the design of fighter planes in WWII, if the design of the cockpit is not considered the results can be deadly, read the book for the full story)
What's great about this book is the broad history of our interaction with technology, the specific stories that highlight the importance of design when considering humans and technology and the easy writing style of the author (I believe he is a journalist, so he knows how to hook you in).
Reading this will give you an increased awareness of the field before diving into the work. Plus, it's a great read.
3. Don't Make Me Think! by Steve Krug
Billed as "A Common Sense Approach to Web and Mobile Usability" this SUPER easy to digest (plenty of pictures, information is easy to chew on in small chunks) book will get you thinking about the layouts of web pages that you interact with daily.
As a user we want to be able to get to where we want to go as easy as possible, a user does not notice good design, a user definitely notices bad design, terrible design can send a user running for the hills.
Krug, a Usability Consultant, unearths what is important for users when navigating the web, and how to make their journeys as useable as possible. He also highlights the importance of testing and how a usability testing session can be approached.
Essential reading. Not only that, it's funny, direct and a quick read. I flick back to this one regularly for a quick refresher.
4. Making and Breaking the Grid by Timothy Samara
I get it. This isn't a UX design book.
But, man. I draw so much inspiration for layouts from the information between these covers.
And a good designer has to learn how to design.
Making and Breaking the Grid is "A Graphic Design Layout Workshop" book. Although often directed at designing for print, digital designers have plenty to learn from here.
The beginning of the book is dedicated to grid terminology, importance and some of the most goddamn beautiful typographic examples out there.
Dynamic ways to structure text and image, grid layouts, how the masters used grids to their advantage, and ,of course, how to break the grid for new and fantastic ways of designing.
This book makes my heart soar every time I open it. I pick this book up when I feel stuck and it never disappoints.
5. Hooked by Nir Eyall.
Alright, by now you're out there playing around with design, maybe you've picked up a short course, or an online course such as IXDF (Interaction Design Foundation, I am a member and can highly recommend for affordable and inspirational learnings, follow the link for a referral code). You've read some stories, you understand why great UX is important, you've even looked over grid systems and usability. But what makes a product habit forming?
Think Instagram, Candy Crush, Facebook all the greats out there. Why do I reach for these without thought or necessity?
These services have become second nature, whether we like it or not, we have let them into our lives and they have become habits.
Hooked breaks down how these products are built, a method that these products use and how you, as a designer, can employ these tactics to aid habits to form.
This book is fascinating, so fascinating I wrote a full sized summary here
I have many favourite parts of this book. The end of chapter "Share this" or "Apply this if you are creating a product", but I absolutely love the fact that Eyall leaves the reader on a positive note, urging the reader to use this knowledge for good, that design can be used to make the world a better place.
What's not to love about good habits?
And that's it, my top 5 for kick starting your new UI/UX career.
Thinking with Type by Ellen Lupton
Sprint by Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky
Feeling ready to take the plunge?
I can highly recommend The IXDF courses found at https://www.interaction-design.org/?r=thomas-richards
If you use my code you'll get 2 free months and I'll also get 1 free month (or $200 discounts off their Bootcamps) What's not to love?!