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January 11, 2022

15 Must-Read Books for UX Researchers

It's been a while since you last checked out a book on UX research, right? Don't worry, there are some really great reads out there that can help you improve your skills, learn about new ideas, and discover innovative research practices. Want to get started on some new reading material?

We've put together a list of 19 essential books for UX resigners that you might find helpful. Happy reading!

Top UX Research Books to Add To Your Bookshelf in 2023

  1. Card Sorting: Designing Usable Categories

  2. Convivial Toolbox: Generative Research for the Front End of Design

  3. Deploy Empathy: A Practical Guide to Interviewing

  4. Interviewing Users: How to Uncover Compelling Insights

  5. It’s Our Research: Getting Stakeholder Buy-in for User Experience Research Projects

  6. Just Enough Research

  7. Lean UX: Designing Great Products with Agile Teams

  8. Mixed Methods: A short guide to applied mixed methods

  9. Observing the User Experience: A Practitioner's Guide to User Research

  10. Practical Ethnography: A Guide to Doing Ethnography in the Private Sector

  11. Quantifying the User Experience: Practical Statistics for User Research

  12. The User Experience Team of One: A Research and Design Survival Guide

  13. Usable Usability: Simple Steps for Making Stuff Better

  14. UX for Lean Startups: Faster, Smarter User Experience Research and Design

  15. Validating Product Ideas

Card Sorting: Designing Usable Categories by Donna Spencer

Card sorting is a crucial tool for anyone working in UX research. It helps researchers understand how people naturally group and categorize information. In this book, Donna Spencer shows us how to plan and carry out a card sort, then use the results to improve the organization of content in our projects. She makes her readers feel confident that they can make products easier for users to find and understand what they're looking for.

Where to find it: Amazon

Convivial Toolbox: Generative Research for the Front End of Design by Liz Sanders and Pieter Jan Stappers

Generative UX research is all about involving the people we're designing for in the design process. This way, we can make sure we're meeting users’ needs and helping them achieve their goals for the future. This book is all about this new and exciting area of design that's super interesting to both UX design researchers and product managers working on creating products, systems, services, and environments that are centered on humans.

Where to find it: Amazon

Deploy Empathy: A Practical Guide to Interviewing by Michelle Hansen

Whether you are new to Jobs to Be Done or JTBD interviews are a staple of your research practice, this book is worth a read.

The book's central concept is that the way you ask a question is just as important as the questions you ask. To truly grasp customer jobs to be done and uncover their unspoken needs, desires, and processes, it is crucial to ask questions in an empathetic manner.

Where to find it: Amazon

Interviewing Users: How to Uncover Compelling Insights by Steve Portugal

Everyone can ask questions, right? Not quite. Interviewing Users is a valuable resource that teaches you how to effectively interview users and uncover powerful insights about them, rather than just collecting data. The book functions like a guidebook for the techniques and tools you can use to uncover powerful insights about people and their habits.

Where to find it: Amazon

It’s Our Research: Getting Stakeholder Buy-in for User Experience Research Projects by Tomer Sharon

In 2023, integrating research into Product, Design, and Engineering (PDE) is crucial to getting adoption of your user research. This book covers topics such as the roles of business, engineering, and user experience stakeholders in research, how to identify research opportunities by developing empathy, and how to plan UX research. Additionally, it offers advice on strategies for effectively communicating research results to stakeholders.

Where to find it: Amazon

Just Enough Research by Erika Hall

This book is great for academic researchers trying to navigate the politics and constraints of working in an applied setting. It’s a quick read, but a great read for teams learning how to integrate UX research into existing processes.

Where to find it: Amazon

Lean UX: Designing Great Products with Agile Teams by Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden

In its third edition, this book provides tactics for integrating user experience design, product discovery, agile methods, and product management, with a focus on creating a positive product experience rather than just deliverables. The book teaches you how to iteratively design and test your product in short cycles to determine what works best for both businesses and users. It is a journey through the process of improving your product development approach.

Where to find it: Amazon

Mixed Methods: A short guide to applied mixed methods by Sam Ladner

Sam Ladner is a sociologist and UX researcher. She specializes in ethnographic research for product design and she wrote the best quick guide to mixed methods research that's out there. This book is a great resource for applied researchers who want to expand their toolbox of research methods but aren't 100% sure where to start. It covers the basic strengths of quant vs. qual methods and shows you how to complement your go-to methods.

Where to find it: Amazon

Observing the User Experience: A Practitioner's Guide to User Research by Elizabeth Goodman and Mike Kuniavsky

Have you ever noticed that there can be a big gap between how designers, researchers, and PMs imagine their users to be, and who those users actually are? This gap can lead to waste in your product development process. If you want to understand what your users really want and need from your product, and whether they will be able to use it easily, Observing the User Experience is the book for you.

Filled with practical advice and real-world examples, this book offers a complete toolbox of techniques to help you see through the eyes of your users. It provides in-depth coverage of 13 user experience research techniques that will help you create better products.

Where to find it: Amazon

Practical Ethnography: A Guide to Doing Ethnography in the Private Sector by Sam Ladner

Ethnography is an increasingly important research method in the private sector, but all the books are written for academics. Sam Ladner fills the gap by advancing rigorous ethnographic practice that is tailored to corporate settings where colleagues are not steeped in social theory, research timelines are days, and research sponsors expect actionable outcomes and recommendations.

Where to find it: Amazon

Quantifying the User Experience: Practical Statistics for User Research by Jeff Sauro and James R. Lewis

Can you use statistics to solve common quantitative problems that arise in user research? You bet, and this book will teach you how. It addresses questions researchers face every day, including, Is the current product more usable than our competition? Can we be sure at least 70% of users can complete the task on their first attempt? How long will it take users to purchase products on the website?

If it’s been a few years since your last stats class, this book will provide a foundation for statistical theories and the best practices needed to apply them.

Where to find it: Amazon

The User Experience Team of One: A Research and Design Survival Guide by Leah Buley

There are thousands of places to start when it comes to UX Research, but when you are a team of one, scalability and prioritization are critical. Whether you are the only researcher at your company or you just want your team to get closer to the user this book gives you tools and insight for doing more with less.

Where to find it: Amazon

Usable Usability: Simple Steps for Making Stuff Better by Eric Reiss

There’s nothing more frustrating than a poorly designed user experience. World-renowned UX leader Eric Reiss shares his knowledge from decades of experience making products delightful to use for everyone.

This book is all about getting it right the first time (or fixing what's broken). It's full of colorful examples and teaches you how to understand what users need, how to go above and beyond their expectations, and lots of tips for improving the overall user experience. It's packed with great advice and examples to help you succeed.

Where to find it: Amazon

UX for Lean Startups: Faster, Smarter User Experience Research and Design by Laura Klein

Having a great user experience (UX) is critically important for any product, but the process of designing an engaging user experience can be time-consuming and expensive. That's where this practical, hands-on book comes in. It teaches you how to use Lean UX techniques to design a great UX faster and smarter. UX expert Laura Klein shows you how to get valuable feedback from customers, build something they'll really love, and get your product to market faster.

Where to find it: Amazon

Validating Product Ideas: Through Lean User Research by Tomer Sharon

Do you spend your time trying to figure out what your users are thinking? If you are a UX researcher or PM this book will help you learn techniques for finding the answers to your users’ most timely questions.

Where to find it: Amazon

Bonus Book Recommendations

These books aren’t necessarily about UX research directly, but they will make you think differently about UX research and that can be a really valuable thing.

  1. Economic Facts and Fallacies by Thomas Sowell
    We love this book for thinking differently about data analysis and how that data can help you form narratives
  2. Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World by General Stanley McChrystal
    General McChrystal shares how his experience on the battlefield in Iraq translates to practical leadership and management practices that can scale to thousands of people—and fast. This book is incredibly helpful if you are thinking about your approach and stance on the democratization of user research.
  3. High Output Management by Andrew S. Grove
    This book is as applicable for User Researchers as it is for CEOs. Grove covers techniques for creating highly productive teams and demonstrating methods of motivation that lead to peak performance. It’s interesting to apply these tactics to your user research plan evaluation

We hope this list helps you find a new UX research book to add to your bookshelf. It's always important to keep learning and developing your skills in the field, so you can continue to deliver great work and stay ahead of the game. If you are looking for even more UX books, check out our list of Top Reads for UX Designers.

Did we miss any of your go-tos? Get in touch with us on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn to tell us about your favorites. We'd love to hear your recommendations and even add them to the list!

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