The best books to get started in user experience (UX) design and research

Why am I passionate about this?

There is a scene in the 1960 movie adaptation of The Time Traveler by HG Wells where the protagonist goes rapidly into the future as he watches a whole city spin into existence around him. That’s how I feel about my career. I started in 1994 and have watched UX grow into an incredible field! I’ve run my own business since 2008 focused exclusively on qualitative research consulting while also doing all sorts of exciting thought leadership activities – from writing to speaking to creating a number of courses on LinkedIn Learning – and I love to build my UX network too! I live in Silver Spring, Maryland.


I wrote...

The UX Careers Handbook

By Cory Lebson,

Book cover of The UX Careers Handbook

What is my book about?

Get all the great advice of the first edition plus new sections on critical soft skills, becoming a UX leader, and a 17th UX career pathway. Find insider's advice on learning, personal branding, networking, building your resume and portfolio, and actually landing the UX job that you want, as well as an in-depth look at what it takes to get into and succeed in your career. Also included are insights and personal stories from a range of industry-leading UX professionals to show you how they broke into the industry and evolved their own careers.

Whether your interests include design, information architecture, strategy, research, UX writing, or any other core UX skillsets, you'll find a wealth of resources framing how to get started as a UX professional.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of The UX Book: Agile UX Design for a Quality User Experience

Cory Lebson Why did I love this book?

This is an extremely comprehensive overview of most aspects of User Experience (UX).

It’s the kind of book that you may never read from cover to cover (it’s over 800 pages!) but it’s exactly what I’ve appreciated having on my bookshelf when I need a quick how-to overview of a specific design or research method.

By Rex Hartson, Pardha S. Pyla,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The UX Book as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The discipline of user experience (UX) design has matured into a confident practice and this edition reflects, and in some areas accelerates, that evolution. Technically this is the second edition of The UX Book, but so much of it is new, it is more like a sequel.

One of the major positive trends in UX is the continued emphasis on design-a kind of design that highlights the designer's creative skills and insights and embodies a synthesis of technology with usability, usefulness, aesthetics, and meaningfulness to the user. In this edition a new conceptual top-down design framework is introduced to help…


Book cover of Virtual Reality Usability Design

Cory Lebson Why did I love this book?

There are a whole host of books about UX methods, but in our world of ever-advancing technology, there are few books that are really up to date with how to practice UX when the medium is no longer one-dimensional or even a physical product.

As AR and VR experiences are becoming more and more normal, I’ve appreciated being able to read a book that really captures the most recent evolution of UX methods towards a new virtual world of possibilities. 

By David Gerhard, Wil J. Norton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Virtual Reality Usability Design as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

1. Provides a toolkit of templates for common VR interactions, as well as practical advice on when to use
them and how to tailor them for specific use cases;
2. Includes case studies detailing the practical application of interaction theory discussed in each chapter;
3. Presents tables of guidelines for practicing VR developers, for reference during software development;
4. Covers procedures for Interface Evaluation - formulas and testing methodologies to ensure that VR
interfaces are effective, efficient, engaging, error-tolerant, and easy to learn;
5. Non-linear organisation - chapters of the book on different concepts can be read to gain knowledge…


Book cover of Think Like a UX Researcher: How to Observe Users, Influence Design, and Shape Business Strategy

Cory Lebson Why did I love this book?

As a UX researcher myself, I love how this book explains UX research methods simply and clearly.

I appreciate how it presents everything within a rich background of context and history. For me, this is the book I go to when I need to figure out how to best explain some research approach to a client.

I also appreciate how it also includes sections on myths and incorrect ideas which helps me when I sometimes need to explain to a client why their approach may need to be adjusted to be more methodologically correct.

Finally, I think this is a great book for UX designers to understand when and how to involve research in their efforts.

By David Travis, Philip Hodgson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Think Like a UX Researcher as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Think Like a UX Researcher will challenge your preconceptions about user experience (UX) research and encourage you to think beyond the obvious. You'll discover how to plan and conduct UX research, analyze data, persuade teams to take action on the results and build a career in UX. The book will help you take a more strategic view of product design so you can focus on optimizing the user's experience. UX Researchers, Designers, Project Managers, Scrum Masters, Business Analysts and Marketing Managers will find tools, inspiration and ideas to rejuvenate their thinking, inspire their team and improve their craft.

Key Features…


Book cover of Usability Testing Essentials: Ready, Set ...Test!

Cory Lebson Why did I love this book?

As a UX researcher, although I offer a variety of qualitative research services, usability testing is definitely the top research approach that I’m hired for.

As such, this book is the best deep dive into usability testing methods out there. Pretty much every aspect of usability testing is covered – from planning, to conducting the research to reporting out on findings.

I appreciate how it also presents variations on usability testing and find that this book gives me good ideas when having to best explain some nuance of usability testing to my clients.

By Carol M. Barnum,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Usability Testing Essentials as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Usability Testing Essentials presents a practical, step-by-step approach to learning the entire process of planning and conducting a usability test. It explains how to analyze and apply the results and what to do when confronted with budgetary and time restrictions. This is the ideal book for anyone involved in usability or user-centered design-from students to seasoned professionals.

Filled with new examples and case studies, Usability Testing Essentials, Second Edition is completely updated to reflect the latest approaches, tools and techniques needed to begin usability testing or to advance in this area.


Book cover of Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time

Cory Lebson Why did I love this book?

One thing that I’ve seen happen is that UX professionals and aspiring UX professionals focus intensively on learning the methods needed to practice UX to the detriment of focusing on learning necessary soft skills.

There is a whole category of books that, while not UX specific, talk about how to practice those soft skills. This book is one of my favorites – it explains the value of building your network and relationships towards professional success.

Those relationships are really one of the keys to career success as a UX professional.

By Keith Ferrazzi,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Never Eat Alone as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The bestselling business classic on the power of relationships, updated with in-depth  advice for making connections in the digital world.
 
Do you want to get ahead in life? Climb the ladder to personal success?
 
The secret, master networker Keith Ferrazzi claims, is in reaching out to other people. As Ferrazzi discovered in early life, what distinguishes highly successful people from everyone else is the way they use the power of relationships—so that everyone wins.

In Never Eat Alone, Ferrazzi lays out the specific steps—and inner mindset—he uses to reach out to connect with the thousands of colleagues, friends, and associates…


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Today Was A Good Day: A Collection of Essays From The Heart Of A Neurosurgeon

By Edward Benzel,

Book cover of Today Was A Good Day: A Collection of Essays From The Heart Of A Neurosurgeon

Edward Benzel Author Of Today Was A Good Day: A Collection of Essays From The Heart Of A Neurosurgeon

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Coming from the perspective of a neurosurgeon, I have witnessed many successes and failures over more than four decades. I recognized decades ago that communication with patients at a level that involves emotions is a necessary part of being a complete physician. This involves being empathetic and, henceforth, digging deep to find the strength to be transparent, vulnerable, compassionate, understanding, and, when needed, forceful (some would call this paternalism). Although the five books I have chosen to highlight vary widely in content, they have one common theme – finding within us the will and wherewithal to succeed.

Edward's book list on awakening of the strengths that are hidden deep inside each of us

What is my book about?

My book is a collection of monthly Editor-in-Chief letters to the readership of World Neurosurgery, a journal that I edit. Each essay is short and sweet. The letters were written for neurosurgeons but have been re-edited so that they apply to all human beings. They cover topics such as leadership, empathy, vulnerability, stress, burnout, and on and on…. These essays are relevant for all who strive to craft a better version of themselves.

Life lessons learned by the author during his 40+ year neurosurgery career are shared and translated into real-life scenarios. Between the covers are many lessons that are derived from the experiences of the author and then applied to all humans. The mastering of these lessons should translate into a sense of pride and satisfaction. In keeping with the theme of the book, this process should culminate in the feeling at the end of the day that ‘Today was, indeed, a good day.’

Today Was A Good Day: A Collection of Essays From The Heart Of A Neurosurgeon

By Edward Benzel,

What is this book about?

About the Book
Today Was A Good Day: A Collection of Essays From The Heart Of A Neurosurgeon features many topics that pertain to how neurosurgeons interact with others and how each of us can use introspection to modify how we are using tools and strategies such as empathy, respect, stress management, and much more.
This book provides some insights into leadership, effective communication, and fulfillment from the perspective of a neurosurgeon, and it causes the reader to think about and consider many, many attributes of a leader.
We all want to have a good day. This book provides strategies…


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