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6 awesome books to read when starting out in user research

November 15, 2019Research4m read

We’ve surveyed the Dovetail community for books to read when you are entering the wonderful world of user research. Here are a few suggestions to get you started.

1. User Friendly: How the Hidden Rules of Design Are Changing the Way We Live, Work, and Play - Cliff Kuang and Robert Fabricant

There is a definite hype around this title - author Cliff Kuang is a UX designer and renowned journalist making his voice both distinct and powerful. User Friendly takes the reader through the principles governing how design shapes our current behavior. It is told through the fascinating historical lens of what has gone before and how it has changed the design and human landscape forever.

Joe Gebbia, co-founder of Airbnb says:

Rarely do I dog-ear pages as much as I did with this book. Engrossing and rich with rarely-told stories and interviews, User Friendly gives critical insights to make us better, smarter consumers of design.

2. Interviewing Users: How to Uncover Compelling Insights - Steve Portigal

Researchers must love it when they pick this book up and the title reads - how to uncover compelling insights, indicating that the pages within will arm you with the tools you need to discover nuggets of greatness in your next interview. While interviewing is just a small part of the user research landscape, from all accounts, it is an incredibly complicated part. This book isn’t just for readers who are new to user research, the widely held opinion is that all researchers should constantly be revisiting the pages of Interviewing Users.

Elizabeth Churchill, director of user experience at Google says:

Steve Portigal’s book is packed with useful tips, illustrative examples, cautionary tales, and how-to advice for planning and conducting interviews, as well as analyzing and presenting data gathered.

3. Don’t Make Me Think, Revisited - Steve Krug

There’s got to be a reason that Don’t Make Me Think is constantly listed as Amazon’s Best Seller in User Experience. This book went from being purely for web designers and developers in the early 2000s to being a staple for anyone with an interest in the relationship between usability and design. If you have anything to do with a website, this is a must read.

Jeffrey Zeldman, author of Designing with Web Standards says:

After reading it over a couple of hours and putting its ideas to work for the past five years, I can say it has done more to improve my abilities as a Web designer than any other book.

Image of a woman in front of a bookshelf

4. Lean UX - Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden

This title is a fan favorite and provides an introduction to being lean and agile while simultaneously pulling it into the realm of UX. Various reviewers have indicated that while it doesn’t function as the definitive manual of how to implement Lean UX at scale, it is a foundational piece that creates a base understanding.

Andrew Binstock, a former editor at Dr. Dobb’s Journal says:

This short book is an excellent guide to the paradigm of UX design and implementation, presented here in an agile context that enables developers to integrate this approach into their workflow quickly and effectively.

5. Just Enough Research - Erika Hall

Just Enough Research is thought of as an ultra-valuable design research primer which includes user research, stakeholder research, competitive analysis etc. The sentiment is that it is jam-packed with practical tips to ensure you understand your customer and optimize your approach based on the things you discover.

Liz Danzico, VP of design at NPR says:

Chances are good that your business is making inaccurate assumptions about your customers’ behavior. Enough! Erika’s book makes research accessible and helps you create an informed plan to better understand—and design for—your customers.

6. Quantifying the User Experience: Practical Statistics for User Research - James R. Lewis and Jeff Sauro

This book is not we would call a quick read but it is purportedly one of the most useful resources for quant UX researchers! Quantifying the User Experience acts as a practical guide on how to use statistics to solve common quantitative problems that arise in user research. It offers functional applications and considered discussions. Philip Kortum, an associate psychology professor at Rice University

Serious practitioners of usability science will find this book a valuable addition to the highly qualitative texts that are currently available.


We would love to hear about what books you would recommend to someone starting out in user research. Connect with us on Slack, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

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