There’s a lot of free resources out there for learning more about UX – whether for the newcomer to the field, or for the grizzled veteran. These 10 books on usability and the user experience are, in our opinion, some of the most worthwhile; and best of all, they’re free!

Cover image for Knock Knock1. Knock Knock: Seth Godin’s Incomplete Guide to Building a Web Site that Works (2005)

Knock Knock is an engagingly written intro to effective web design that boils down the various processes of optimization in an economical 41 pages. Godin provides perspective on how to think about the purpose of a website, and what enables it to achieve that purpose.

2. Introduction to Good Usability (2007)

Peter Conradie’s short guide is a bare-bones handbook of essential tips for creating usable UIs, including best practices for most of the common components of a typical webpage – breadcrumbs, dropdowns, tabs, and more.

3. Research-Based Web Design & Usability Guidelines (2004)

This compilation from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is comprehensive and broad-based in its prescriptions for successful UX design. The book comprises thorough and expert advice on everything from page layout and navigation to content, accessibility, and every other conceivable aspect of user experience.


Six Circles


4. Six Circles: An Experience Design Framework (2012)

James Kelway explains his conception of UX as the amalgamation of 6 concentric circles: persuasion, behavior, visual design, usability, interaction, and content; and how to incorporate this framework into an experience design approach.

5. Web UI Design for the Human Eye: Principles of Visual Consistency (2015)

This informative book from UXPin focuses specifically on visual choices, but also in a broader sense on the core principle of predictability in web design. Following convention, and knowing when (and how) to break, it are both critical to usability; in that vein, this book has got you covered.

6. Mental Models in Human-Computer Interaction: Research Issues About What the User of Software Knows (1987)

This much older piece of literature from the Human Factors Committee remains highly relevant because it deals with the effects of human psychology, learning, and preconceived mental models on the success of design. While heavily academic, it contains no small amount of useful and digestible insights on designing with users in mind.

7. Getting Real (2006)

Getting Real, from 37 Signals, is a fascinating book written from a wealth of experience, covering tips not only on the elements that make up a great user experience, but also on how to run an effective UX process within your team.


UX Storytellers


8. UX Storytellers: Connecting the Dots (2010)

This monster of a project put together by Jan Jursa draws on the personal stories of people from all over the UX industry. With its narrative and metaphoric richness, this compilation book is great for perusing a few chapters at a time to deepen your understanding of UX and the advancement and growth of the industry.

9. The User Experience Guide Book for Product Managers (2013)

Marcin Treder takes user experience design outside of the UX industry and talks application in a broader product-planning-and-execution context. This book describes the journey of working on a product team, and how to achieve the best results in those circumstances.


This Sux! new cover


10. This SUX! A Guide to Better User Experiences (2015)

Our brand new book is a guide to understanding and building user-centered designs, combining the conceptual and the practical in a multi-layered approach. This collaborative work draws on lessons gleaned from thousands of user testing hours as well as the expertise of guest writers from MeasuringU and Facebook.


Let us know your favorite UX books in the comments, and happy reading!

By Tim Rotolo

Tim Rotolo is a UX Architect at TryMyUI. He is a born researcher whose interests include history, psychology, architecture, design, and zoology. Tim holds a Bachelor's Degree in International Relations from Claremont McKenna College in southern California. You can reach him at or on Twitter at @timoroto

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