How to become an expert in UX Design
Design isn’t crafting a beautiful, textured button with breathtaking animation. It’s figuring out if there’s a way to get rid of the button altogether.
— Edward Tufte
To be a great UX designer, you need to know a little about a wide range of topics.
A bit about research methods, a bit about design, a bit about human behaviour, a bit about how to organise information, and that’s not all of it.
With so much to learn, it can be hard to know where to begin.
Fear not because we’ve saved you a lot of time and effort by compiling a list of handy resources.
From brilliant books to interesting talks, the below suggestions are a great place to start your journey to becoming an expert in UX design.
Best of luck!
5 Books To Digest
Is there anything better in life than relaxing in a comfy chair and reading?
The below books have been selected because they are all excellent on their own but even more powerful as a set.
1. UX for Beginners: A Crash Course in 100 Short Lessons by Joel Marsh
Many books on UX design are dense and technical, making them tough to read. This book, on the other hand, is the opposite. It’s easy and amusing and packed full of helpful illustrations. As the title suggests, it covers one hundred of the most fundamental things you need to know. Probably worth reading more than once.
2. Don’t Make Me Think, Revisited: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability by Steve Krug
First published back in 2000, Steve’s book is one of the foundational texts for anyone designing for the web. It’ll help you understand how people think, act and behave online and covers a myriad of topics, including writing for the web, designing effective navigation, carrying out testing, nailing usability and much, much more. An oldie but a goodie.
3. The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman
Google ‘Don Norman’, and you’ll quickly see how influential this guy has been in the field of UX design. He was one of the first to use the term ‘user experience’ back in the early 1990s when he was at Apple. This book is a comprehensive introduction to the world of design and what makes for good and bad examples of it. By the time you’ve finished it, you will have an excellent understanding of the principles of design and how you can use them to create great online experiences.
4. 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People by Susan Weinschenk
This book goes deep on the psychology of design and is essential for understanding how our brains work and how to use this knowledge to design more intuitive experiences. It contains a host of practical examples, and if you finish it, there’s a follow up 100 More Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People that’s also worth your time.
5. Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal
In this book, the author reveals how successful companies build products that people want to use over and over again. It has a clear structure and is full of examples and research to back up his argument. In short, it’s a valuable book for anyone building products designed to engage people frequently. No wonder it drove Silicon Valley into a frenzy when it was first released!
5 Podcasts To Inspire
For the times when it’s hard to read a book, there are always podcasts.
As with every topic, there are hundreds to choose from, so to make your life easier, we’ve selected five we think are some of the most valuable.
User Defenders is a celebrated UX podcast with the message that ‘being a great UX designer begins and ends with being a great human.’ Enjoy the interviews with industry experts hosted by Jason Ogle, who has been designing for the web since 1996. A true OG!
Co-host Laura Klein is the author of Build Better Products and UX for Lean Startups which are both worth checking out if you want to add to your reading list. Topics covered include ‘unpacking visual design’, ‘decoding design briefs’, ‘task flows’ and much more. Laura is well respected in the industry so has lots of valuable lessons to share.
Created by the software company Adobe this podcast reveals the stories behind user experience design and how it helps technology fit into our lives. It’s hosted by Khoi Vinh, who was voted one of Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in Business. Notable episodes include ‘Good design is human’, ‘How streaming services design interfaces to keep us watching’, and ‘Does Peleton’s design actually help you exercise more?’
This is a podcast about how design impacts our lives. Started ten years ago, each episode of the show is a fascinating look at the story behind different objects, buildings, sounds, technology and more. It’s worth listening to just to hear the smooth voice of host Roman Mars. Packed full of insights to fascinate and inspire.
Dollars to Donuts is a podcast about talking to people who lead user research in their organisations. It’s hosted by Steve Portigal, an experienced user research consultant who counts Dolby, eBay, Fisher-Price, Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft amongst his clients. Includes in-depth interviews with senior executives from Pinterest, Udemy, The New York Times, Goldman Sachs and more. Lots to learn from here.
5 Articles Worth Reading
Many talented writers on the Internet do a remarkable job of explaining big topics in digestible ways.
The below articles are no exception and offer some excellent explainers on the fundamentals of UX design.
Design thinking is the philosophy behind UX design, and this is a simple overview of what it is and how to practice it. Much like the scientific method, you will soon find UX design is all about continuously experimenting with different solutions to see what works best.
This is a collection of best practices every UX designer needs to know to be great at their job. Made up of principles, heuristics and cognitive biases, it’s a link you’ll find yourself returning to time and time again. Seriously interesting stuff!
3. 25 Cognitive Biases Every UX Designer Should Know
The human brain is a magnificent machine that behaves in weird and wonderful ways. We haven’t evolved much since our beginnings on the African plains so when we interact with the modern environment, all sorts of quirks in our thinking are exposed. Learning these key biases will help you be a better designer.
4. UX Design Glossary: 84 Key Terms To Help You Get Started
When you first start learning about UX design, you will find yourself tripping over a seemingly endless list of funny-sounding words like wireframe, task flow, user interface, usability and so on. This glossary is a quick way to understand what they all mean and will make your life so much easier. Knowing these is half of the job of becoming an expert. 😉
5. The Psychology of UX Design
So much of UX design is understanding human behaviour. This article is an excellent accompaniment to the ones above and is information-rich but easy to understand. If you only read one in this list, then this is probably it.
5 Talks Not To Miss
YouTube is a treasure trove of inspiring talks on every topic imaginable. But where do you start?
Below are five of the best we’ve come across that’ll help you on your way to becoming a UX superstar. So pop your headphones in and get watching.
1. Tony Fadell: The First Secret of Great Design
Tony Fadell was one of the top designers at Apple and is credited with coming up with the iPod. He also designed the legendary Nest thermostat for Google. His talk explains how design is all about noticing and paying attention to the smallest of details.
2. Margaret Gould Stewart: How Giant Websites Design For You
Margaret Gould Stewart, Facebook’s director of product design, talks about the challenges of designing digital products at scale and how humility is essential to understand the people you’re designing for. She also discusses how the little things matter — so much so that one facebook designer spent 280 hours redesigning the like button. Ouch.
3. Don Norman: Three Ways That Good Design Makes You Happy
It’s our old friend Don again. In this amusing talk filled with great examples, he names the three emotional cues that a well-designed product must hit to succeed. Have your notepad at the ready to record Don’s wisdom.
If you’re just looking for an explainer, then this video is for you. It covers everything you need to know about UX design and what it’s like to be a UX designer in just 12 mins! Nice and speedy.
5. Joe Gebbia: How Airbnb Designs for Trust
Not that long ago, the idea of staying in a stranger’s house or leading a stranger to stay in your home would have been crazy talk. Yet, the clever folks at Airbnb manage to turn this into a multi-billion dollar success story. This talk shows you how ‘design’ was used to build trust and overcome the stranger-danger bias.
If getting through all the above seems too much like hard work, then you might be interested in our upcoming UX Design course made in partnership with the world-renowned Parsons School of Design.
It’s carefully curated and made up of bite-sized modules you can complete at your own pace on any device.