August 27, 2011

10 Favourite IxD Books

Interaction design (or user experience design) is a craft. I learnt it by doing, without proper mentors: creating multimedia presentations, CD-ROMs, websites and games by observing other products, using common sense and trusting my gut. Back in those days, interaction design wasn’t really a specific job; it was something a concept designer or graphic designer did as a part of their job. As a result, the products sometimes lacked understanding of user motivations, or performed poorly in usability tests (if there were any).

While working on Habbo, I decided to check if anything useful was written about this topic. Over the years I have found some books really useful. I wish I had read them earlier.

Here’s my top 10 IxD books:

Designing for the Digital Age

How to Create Human-Centered Products and Services
by Kim Goodwin

The number one. It contains a comprehensive explanation of Cooper’s goal-directed design process with material on design principles, research, personas and scenarios. With 768 pages it’s not an easy read, but for me it built the big picture of how to think about the design process.

About Face 3

The Essentials of Interaction Design
by Alan Cooper, Robert Reimann and David Cronin

This book comes from the same school of thought as the previous, but focuses more on design principles. Solid stuff, but it gets a bit random towards the end. There are some fun things, like Mac OS X Lion’s auto-save feature described some 10+ years earlier.

The Inmates Are Running the Asylum

Why High-Tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How to Restore the Sanity, by Alan Cooper

The third book of “Cooper-school” to complete the trio. This book is aimed at business and technical people. It paints a picture of why it’s valuable for products and services to be designed for people. The book was originally published in 1998, and luckily the situation has improved a bit since then.

Don’t Make Me Think

A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability
by Steve Krug

A really easy and entertaining to read from Steve Krug. It’s a great book for anyone who has something to do with developing a website. The best effort vs benefit ratio!

Rocket Surgery Made Easy

The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Finding and Fixing Usability Problems
by Steve Krug

Another Steve Krug book, this time explaining a simple process for running usability tests yourself. Usability tests are seen as slow and difficult, but here’s a model that makes them quite easy. Being involved in testing yourself helps you make better decisions next time.

Paper Prototyping

The Fast and Easy Way to Design and Refine User Interfaces
by Carolyn Snyder

A bit old but, as far I remember, a really useful book. It explains how to build and test rough paper prototypes on users by role-playing a computer yourself.

Sketching User Experiences

Getting the Design Right and the Right Design
by Bill Buxton

How can we sketch interactions – something that happens over time? A bit of a rambling book, but with plenty of interesting ideas, techniques and historical perspective on interaction design.

The Design of Everyday Things

by Donald A. Norman

The usability classic.

I have to say, it’s been a while since I read it, but I remember it as an eye-opening experience. Door handles won’t look the same after you read this.

Web Form Design

Filling in the Blanks
by Luke Wroblewski

Good best practice for web form design. A surprisingly large amount of our interaction with websites is done with forms. Luke Wroblewski has distilled plenty of experience and research results into a concise book.

Designing for the Social Web

by Joshua Porter

A bit uneven as a whole, but outlines good methods and patterns for designing social software. The book contains a light description of activity-centred design as an alternative to Cooper’s goal-directed design.

For some more, see books tagged ‘design’ in my LibraryThing catalogue.

Do you have a personal favourite that is not on the list? Please let me know in the comments.

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Sampo Karjalainen

Designer CEO of Moves for iPhone. Co-founder of Habbo Hotel and Hel Looks.                                
mobile: +358 50 382 7321

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