UX Books for non-UX people

“If you create digital products, you have a responsibility to make them easy to use.” – Whitney Hess

She’s absolutley right, we do. The UX community embraces this idea. It champions a very worthy cause. Making products work better for people. And it’s a great community for sharing it’s expertise. Loads of great blogs, conference podcasts and our very own Dr Phil (Jared Spool, god bless ya).

But what about the other folk who are involved in creating digital products? Developers, product and project managers, technical writers, marketers and so on. I work in the UK as an independent consultant and a lot of companies I work with have little or no UX budget or experience. This leads to a lot of evangalizing on my part. Generally people get it, they see the value in focusing the design of a product around it’s users and they get enthused about the techniques I’ve introduced. But what happens when that ‘preachy designer’ bloke has moved on. Who has the responsibility to ensure these products keep being easy to use.

We do. So whenever I leave a project now I always buy the team a present. A book that will go part way to help fill that gap and act as a constant reminder that products fail if the user is ignored. Here is a few I’ve bought for (or recommended to) projects I’ve been working on.

Don’t make me thinkSteve Krug
No real surprise here. We’ve all read it and we all know just how good it is. And it’s plain speaking communicates it message to 
Anyone involved in the production of a web site or application

The Non-Designer’s Design Book – Robin Williams
As I mentioned, I’ve worked in companies where they still have no UI specialists on projects and developers (your OO C#/Java variety) find themselves forced into making UI decisions. Robin Williams’ book gives a simple and rounded introduction to the principles of visual design.
For: Developers, Marketers, Product managers

Web Forms Design: Filling in the blanks – Luke Wroblewski
The same reason as above. A great book to inform design decisions for anyone involved in the design and development of web forms. There is a rarely a week goes by where I don’t stick it under the nose of a developer or marketeer. It’s my current weapon of choice.
For: Developers, Marketers, Customer service

Elements of user experience – Jesse James Garrett
As Montell Jordan once sang “This is how we do it, Adaptive Path does it like nobody does…”. Or something similar. For those project managers who have never heard of User Experience this is where to start.
For: Project managers

Observing the User Experience – Mike Kuniavsky
It’s very rare a projects doesn’t have a clear idea of business requirements or technical constraints. However, the same can’t be said for an understanding of user needs. But how do we discover the user needs I hear you ask? From Mike Kuniavsky book on observing and listening to the people who will use your product. Easy. Buy it. Now. 
Business Analysts, Product managers

Designing the obvious – Robert Hoekman Jr.
Just good old fashioned common sense.
Product managers, Developers

Letting go of the words – Janice (Ginny) Redish
A good copywriter is worth their weight in gold. Words can make or break a design. Don’t underestimate this aspect of a users experience.
Marketing, Customer Services, Technical writers

Getting Real – 37 Signals
Though not a UX specific book, Getting Real goes along way to describing how to create usable and compelling applications. It changed the way I look at application development and made my job so much more rewarding because of the advice they offer.
For: Project managers, Product managers

I’m sure this list will grow. In fact I hope it does. If you know of other books let me know and I’ll add to the list.

Keep spreading the word. Peace. Out.

[UPDATE: Thinking about extending this to include blog posts, podcasts, presentations. UX resources for non-UX people instead. All recommendations welcome.]


Top of the blogs for me at present is the Wireframe blog run by Jakub Linowski. It’s a showcase of varying wireframe (and prototyping) techniques. It was on here that I came across Bubble Frames, a technique that I’ve been trying out recently.

The bubble frame is a watered down version of a wireframe. Instead of constructing exact boxes and labels as a skeleton for the web site, I use quickly drawn circles to represent what types of information will go where. – Chris LeCompte

I’m finding that they are working a treat when doing initial brainstorming with non-designers (stakeholders, developers, users), quickly getting across concepts, features, and priorities. I’m a fan of any technique that get all appropriate parties involved in the design process. And the inherent simplistic nature of them means everyone likes having a go.

Bubble frames are usually sketched/whiteboarded and then converted into digital format and either stuck up in a central project area (along with other sketches) or emailed around to act as reminder of the ideas discussed.

Fast, throwaway and accessible to non-designers. A great combination.

And finally…

Ok, that’s an odd title for my first post. Let me explain.

I’ve been working on the web for about 10 years now. I like what I do. A lot. I spend a lot of time outside of work reading about and being inspired by other peoples work. It’s more than just a job to me, and for that I’m thankful.

All that and I’ve never had a blog. Time for me to put my money where my mouth is.

I’ll be writing about and linking to things that I find interesting about my job. That includes

  • Interaction Design
  • User Research
  • UX Strategy
  • and a bit of UI development

There. First post done. Let’s hope it snowballs from here.


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