Top 5 Books for UX Researchers
UXRS President, Jen Blatz, shares her favorite reads
I get this question all of the time: “What UX books do you recommend for someone interested in learning more about UX research?”
This one is a tough one to answer. There are so many great articles, books, videos and other resources out there to help a person learn more about user experience and research. I have to admit, I am a bit old school in that I like to have paper books when I am doing a deep dive on a topic. I like the ability to highlight important entries in a physical book to refer back to later.
When it comes to UX books, I have a few books I often refer back to, even years after reading them the first time. Again, this was tough to narrow down to just five books. I could probably list 100! But we don’t have a lifetime to read all of the fantastic books out there. So let’s start with Jen’s top 5 recommendations:
Now let’s go into a bit more of the “why” these books make my top 5 list.
Universal Methods of Design
By Bella Martin and Bruce Hannington
This book is pure gold when you want to have information on almost all of the research methods in one place. Do you have an upcoming research ask, and are looking for creative ways to go about getting your team answers? I can’t think of any other book that concisely, yet clearly, gives you enough information about each method to understand how to use it and get started on it right away – all in the same book. It’s amazing!
101 Design Methods
By Vijay Kumar
Don’t let the name fool you. I don’t consider the activities covered in this book “design” methods as much. They are more like brainstorming, workshop or reframing approaches that are great for researchers to have in their toolkit. This book was first pointed out by my dear friend and UXRS Treasurer, Lauren Singer, and I am thankful every day that I know this book exists.
When I am starting a new project, this is my go-to book for inspiration, ideas, and different approaches on how I might jump into discovery or exploratory research. The methods discussed can be done internally by your team, or with users. Really, this book is a great source of inspiration.
Jobs to be Done Playbook
By Jim Kalbach
I took Tony Ulwich’s master class on Jobs to Be Done (JTBD) about the same time I read Jim’s book. Though both resources are very valuable, I find that I still crack open Jim’s book to help me remember key components on JTBD. How to conduct interviews, how to extract Need Statements, how to write job stories. All of these topics are covered very well in this book. Some corners of my copy of the book are “extra highlighted” for me to go back and reference when I need a refresher in this theory. With this book, you can learn how to conduct research properly, and not just make up “Job Stories'' among the team. This is a fantastic approach when you want to understand user’s motivations on how they are trying to get sh#t done.
Designing for the Digital Age
By Kim Goodwin
I have to admit, this book is a behemoth. It feels like a college textbook – at over 700 pages. But it is jam-pack full of so much goodness and timeless information it is worth every penny. In fact, the spine of my book is broken and I have to tape the pages together because mine is falling apart. It’s falling apart because I reference the “personas” section all of the time. This is THE go-to resource if you want to build personas the right way. From how to prepare the research, conducting the interviews, doing the analysis and creating schemas – look no further if you want to know how to create those personas.
The User Experience Team of One
By Leah Buley
This book almost feels like a therapy session: “I am not the only person who has to convince stakeholders and my team of the value of UX!” Whether you are the lone UX person, or part of a larger UX team, the approaches covered in this book are extremely valuable. Leah has really creative ways to show the value of understanding our users through research and how to get the team to buy in to a user-centered mindset. The struggle for UX buy-in is real. And this book reminds you that you are not alone, even if you are a UX team of one.
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