So you wanna be a user experience designer — Step 1: Resources

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Pretty much every single day I get a tweet, email, or in person request for information on how to get started in the field of user experience. I’ve recently had a few people reach out to me even asking me to mentor them throughout the process. Given that I often find myself repeating the same answers over and over again, I decided to put all of my resources in a single blog post so that folks could easily access a consolidated version of my advice.

So you wanna be a user experience designer?

The best way to learn a new language is to go to a country where it’s spoken and immerse yourself in the confusion. Soon the unfamiliar will become familiar, and before you know it you’ll be fluent.

If you’re interested in getting to know more about user experience, I recommend doing the same. You may choose to simply understand the terminology, or become conversant. You might later decide to tackle some of the more complex concepts.

There are many steps to the process, but I am starting with Resources because I believe you need a great arsenal before kicking off any journey. In future posts I’ll discuss:

  • Guiding Principles
  • Process
  • Tools
  • Transitioning from other careers
  • Practice Landscape

…as well as any other topics that come up along the way.

I have organized the resources below in what I perceive to be lightest to deepest engagement — publications and blogs, books, local events, organizations, mailing lists, webinars, workshops, conferences, and schooling.

DISCLAIMER: These are my personal recommendations, and plenty of people will disagree with me on many points, I’m sure. But this is what has worked for me — the people/places/events/organizations that have kept my interest throughout my schooling and career — and where I believe anyone who wants to immerse themselves in user experience should start their journey. Please feel free to add your suggestions in the comments.

UX Books

UX Primer

Design Thinking

Strategy

Process

Principles

Activities

Documentation

Extra Credit

UX Blogs

  • Konigi by Michael Angeles

    Tips, tools and techniques for being a better user experience designer

  • Disambiguity by Leisa Reichelt

    The ins and outs of designing a product with an existing, and passionate, community

  • EverydayUX by Alex Rainert

    A fresh look at the world around us through UX-tinted glasses

  • Graphpaper by Christopher Fahey

    Critical analysis of some of the toughest issues facing UX designers today

  • inspireUX by Catriona Cornett

    Cubical-wall worthy quotations from a variety of practitioners on how and why to create positive user experiences

  • Bokardo – Social Design by Joshua Porter

    For everything you need to consider when designing socially-focused stuff

  • Logic + Emotion by David Armano

    Reusable visualizations and valuable synthesis at the intersection of user experience design, marketing and business

  • Putting People First by Experientia

    A great resource for all things UX from around the globe

  • Brain Sparks by User Interface Engineering (UIE)

    Inside the brilliant minds of user research pioneer Jared Spool and his team

  • Design for Service by Jeff Howard

    Insights into all the ways companies need to be communicating with their customers, outside of their websites

  • UX Booth by Redd Horrocks, Matthew Kammerer, David Leggett, and Andrew Maier

    A group blog written by up-and-coming designers and developers with fresh perspectives on user experience design. They represent the next generation of our community

UX Publications

  • Boxes and Arrows

    Journal dedicated to discussing, improving and promoting the work of the information architecture community

  • interactions

    Magazine including timely articles, stories, and content related to the interactions between experiences, people, and technology, published by the Association for Computing Machinery

  • UXmatters

    Insights and inspiration for the user experience community written by many distinguished practitioners

  • Core77

    Industrial Design content and community site – articles, discussions, interviews and resources

Local Events

Organizations

Mailing lists

Webinars

  • UIE’s Virtual Seminars

    A monthly series of online seminars giving you the chance to hear the latest perspectives in the world of design from the field’s premier experts.
    $129 each. 90 minutes.

  • Rosenfeld Media’s Future Practice Webinars

    The cutting edge of contemporary user experience research and design methods and practices.
    $99 each. 60 minutes.

  • Adaptive Path’s Virtual Seminars

    $129 each. 75 minutes.

  • Smart Experience online material

Workshops

  • UIE Roadshow

    In this full-day, in-depth seminar you’ll discover the key experience-design factors, analyze your team’s strengths and weaknesses, create an experience vision, and learn the role of delight.

  • AdaptivePath’s UX Intensive

    This four-day workshop series is for experienced professionals wanting to take their practice to the next level.

  • Cooper U

    A practical collection of courses that help product team members improve their effectiveness from early planning all the way through implementation.

Conferences

Inspirational

  • Good Experience Live (GEL)

    A conference and community exploring good experience in all its forms — in business, art, society, technology, and life.

  • IDEA Conference

    The world’s foremost thinkers and practitioners sharing the big ideas that inspire, along with practical solutions for the ways people’s lives and systems are converging to affect society.

  • Adaptive Path’s Managing Experience (Mx)

    Thought leaders from major corporations show you how smart and visionary management will help you successfully compete in a difficult economy.

Practical

  • UIE’s User Interface Conference

    Examining the biggest issues in the world of web design, information architecture, and usability.

  • NN/g’s Usability Week

    A three-day usability camp, a three-day intensive session on interaction design, and several specialized, day-long tutorials on core usability topics. Come for as few or as many days as you want.

  • UPA

    Tutorials, workshops, Experienced Practitioners program, then two and a half days packed with presentations, Idea Markets, and opportunities to network with other user experience professionals.

Mixed

  • IxDA Interaction Conference

    Three days of inspirational and tactical sessions geared at anyone who practices Interaction Design, as well as a day of pre-conference workshops.

  • IA Summit

    The premier gathering place for information architects and other user experience professionals. Two days of pre-conference sessions, two keynotes and over 50 presentations.

  • Adaptive Path’s UX Week

    A mix of inspiring talks from recognized thought leaders and hands-on workshops delivering takeaway skills, this event delivers for user experience professionals at all levels — directors, managers, and practitioners.

  • UIE’s Web App Summit

    The four-day Summit includes two days of intensive full-day workshops and two more days of featured presentations from world-renown experts, to give you fresh perspectives and new insights on today’s web app design challenges.

  • UX Australia

    3-day user experience design conference, with inspiring and practical presentations, covering a range of topics about how to design great experiences for people.

  • UX London

    A unique three-day event combining inspirational talks with in-depth workshops presented by some of the industry’s biggest names.

Academic

  • ACM’s CHI

    The premier international conference for the field of human-computer interaction.

Schooling

Human Computer Interaction

Interaction Design

Misc

Want to pursue a career in UX, but don’t know where to start?

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Comments

  1. ravm says

    Nice list of user experience design resources! Thanks for sharing. I'm sure many people will find these very helpful.

  2. says

    First off, phenomenal list of resources here. Kudos to you!

    Also, I'd recommend following prominent UX people on twitter. Here's the list I came up with a little while ago (far from perfect but maybe a good starting point).

  3. Lynne Polischuik says

    Great list Whitney–these are all excellent resources! A couple of books/primers I'd add are 'Designing the Obvious' and 'Designing the Moment' by Robert Hoekman (@rhjr). I found these both to be super useful for quick reference, In terms of schooling Simon Fraser University's new School of Interactive Arts + Technology here in Vancouver offers an undergraduate degree program in Informatics.

    I'd also agree with @dpan that following smart IA/IxDA/UX folks on Twitter is a good idea. Aside from the nudges towards useful content and resources I get almost everyday there are some really helpful, wonderful people in this industry who are welcoming to newbs and generally willing to answer silly questions :)

    • says

      Lynne, thanks for this. I look forward to picking up these books.

      Also, I'll definitely posting a list of UX practitioners on Twitter. That has absolutely been a powerful resource for me; I feel the people that make up the practice deserve their own post.

  4. says

    Great list, Whitney, adding to my bookmarks. . . but one nit: While CHI has a long-time reputation as a conference for academics and researches, it isn't. Over the last few years there has been an increasing presence of UX practitioners. Take a look at the program for this year's conference, you might be surprised: http://www.chi2009.org/Attending/CHI09Program.pdf.
    At the very least you could move CHI into the “mixed” category of conferences.

    Disclosure: I'm an officer in ACM SIGCHI, the sponsoring organization.

    • says

      Thanks for your input, Fred. Good to hear that CHI is becoming more practical. I think unfortunately it's been inaccessible to practitioners for some time.

    • says

      Thanks for the link, Steve. I happened upon one of your articles recently and made a mental note, but forgot to come back to it. How long have you been publishing it?

  5. says

    Kent State University has a Master of Science in Information Architecture and Knowledge Management (IAKM). There are a few different focuses you can take – information architecture, knowledge management, and usability. Great faculty and just an amazing experience and learning environment.

  6. martinpolley says

    Thanks for putting this list together — very helpful indeed!

    However, your list of schools is (understandably) very US-centric. There are a number of schools in Europe with IxD programs, including the Royal College of Art in London, the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design (Denmark), Umeå Institute of Design (Sweden), Malmö University (Sweden), TU Delft (The Netherlands), etc. And many more offering HCI courses.

    Cheers,

    Martin

    • says

      Martin, I sincerely appreciate you listing some schools outside of the US. I have much less familiarity with those, and though I knew I was leaving them out, I don't feel that I know enough about each to make recommendations. Glad you posted here.

    • says

      These are just my personal sources of inspiration, and while I'm well aware of Raskin's work it isn't something that I directly call upon. Thank you for mentioning it here.

      • says

        Yesterday I came across another pretty interesting title:
        Search User Interfaces – http://searchuserinterfaces.com/book/
        The book is still not published on paper, but the online version is freely available.

        I've read just excerpts of the book and my first impressions are that this is very very comprehensive work on Search UI – so many cases and usages have been covered.

  7. says

    Thanks for this list, Whitney. I'll be adding a few more to the Amazon wishlist then…

    I've just gotten Designing Web Interfaces by Bill Scott and Theresa Neil and it looks good.

    Yikes, I have so much reading to do!

  8. Zaphod says

    I *WAS* going to read this, but I am afraid the title put me off.

    I did “want to” but I discovered after reading the title that I didn't “wanna” any longer.

  9. says

    Coming at this from a design strategy/design thinking perspective – I think a good compliment to Subject To Change by Peter Merholz would be Design Management: Managing Design Strategy, Process and Implementation by Kathryn Best and Design Management by Brigitte Borja de Mozota. Also, I would add Ideo to the blog/website listings.

  10. says

    This is great Whitney! If it's not comprehensive, I think it's pretty darn close–and the balance of making it complete rests with the reader, anyhow. One that I hope folks discover if it's not currently on their blogroll: http://www.alistapart.com.

    Your notes about higher ed interaction design programs left me thinking. The program at CMU evolved from its top-ranked design and computer science programs. I'm curious what other schools offer excellent education on user experience and designing experiences without actually labeling them as such; I'd bet there are other courses and programs buried at RISD, Washington University, and IIT that just quietly live within their respective design programs, surfacing only in self-designed majors. Perhaps a topic for another post!

  11. AjithM says

    Thanks a lot. I have be going around on this big big web searching for this. Thanks that you put it all in one place.
    I am going to benefit a lot from this.

  12. MelindaYoung says

    Hi Whitney, I am a very newer in UX, i am wondering if I should consider the “Windows/Mac/Java UX Guide” as a premier books?

  13. says

    Hi Whitney, what an excellent article! I'm glad you mentioned my favourite Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things and The Design of Everyday Things (and Steve's Don’t Make Me Think), I think everybody can find here lots of study materials. Thank you!

  14. says

    Whitney, thanks so much for the include! We're working hard over at UX Booth to provide a unique perspective on UX Design. The list of resources you note here at the end is especially helpful. I'm going to pick up a couple of new books for the holidays!

  15. uxdesign_com says

    Solid ground to launch from here, Whitney. I'll add your site to the searchable “UX Network”: http://uxdesign.com/search-ux-network (content aggregators excluded).

    I'm a little surprised to find the IA “polar bear book”, and JJG's Elements, not under UX Primer, given their role in midwifing user experience design in to popular consciousness, if not existence. But your call.

    uxbooks.com may be useful to some, too.

  16. Erik says

    Fantastic list of resources – surprised I hadn't run across it earlier. Thanks for this post and your efforts to imform!

  17. Smitha Bharadwaj says

    Whitney, this is really a great resource. I am a mom of 2 kids and a fulltime tester in a software company. I want to make a shift to UX design as i have been doing UI testing for past 9 years. I want to do Masters but some online or distance learning and I am not able to find one. Do you have suggestions? Also i want to start building a portfolio as most of the colleges ask for it. How do i go about doing this on my own?

  18. Shan says

    Hi Whitney, great post! When are you going to blog about Step 2? looking forward to reading it, esp the topic on Transition from other careers. I am a business analyst. Thanks heaps!!

  19. Maddie says

    Is it possible to be a successfull user experience designer with only a bachelors degree? I was looking into getting a bachelors in a program that specializes in Human-Computer Interaction.

    • says

      Maddie, absolutely! There are many successful UX practitioners without any formal education in HCI, interaction design or human factors. This is very much a career you can create for yourself and many have before you. Craft your own curriculum with books, blogs, webinars, workshops, conferences, networking events and side projects where you put it all into action. Best of luck and enjoy the wild ride!

    • says

      Well, what’s your criteria for “successful”?

      I actually didn’t finish and worked my way up to where I am now which is a Sr Interaction Designer @ Intuit. My major at a CSU college didn’t involve HCI. It only involved graphic design with a minor in illustration but I did quite a bit of work as a designer working with B2B & B2C companies that gave me a lot of hands-on experience over the years. I also learned a lot from books, UX podcasts and websites that Whitney has listed on this page including Brain Sparks, Boxes & Arrows, Designer Matters, etc.

      So to answer your question, YES! It’s totally possible. The space is still so new so there’s no set path to success. Just make sure you have a simple portfolio (showing only your best works), solid process, and be able to present yourself well. That’ll come in handy since you need to convey your ideas & decisions clearly in the interviews you may come across that involve getting drilled with scenarios =)

      BTW Whitney, I’m a big fan =) Your blog is a quite the UX resource. Keep it up and pls give us more audio discussions and workshops to listen to! U rock. I enjoyed your talk “Evangelizing Yourself: You Can’t Change the World if No One Knows Your Name” and your video on Design Principles.

  20. Toby Ford says

    Hey Whitney, just listened to your podcast on the Big Web Show with Jeffrey Zeldman and it was really interesting and inspiring. I am looking to focus my career more towards UX and was wondering if having an Agile Product Owner certification would help? Also, I am not a young man anymore so do you think that makes a difference?

  21. says

    Is there a specific reason you haven’t included “research methods in anthropology”?

    My girlfriend strongly recommended it to me. I have started reading and it seems to be the bible for qualitative anthro/ethnography, and ties in beautifully with a lot of the ideas in your blog (Einstein’s 55 minutes) and it compliments your suggested reading list.

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