It’s been a while since I first heard of UX Design and started my quest to learn everything I could about it. This is my guide for those who are interested in following a similar path.

I’m a London-based developer, so the below is especially useful for those from a similar background, although it’s pretty general and hopefully useful for anyone interested in the field of UX Design.

Introduction

User Experience (UX) Design is about designing digital products and services that enhance or extend the way people interact with technology in their everyday and working lives. It’s about making interactive products work harder to make our lives easier. About designing to help people complete their tasks and achieve their goals. And about making software easy to learn, and efficient and enjoyable to use.

It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” - Steve Jobs

Whether it’s a household product, a piece of software, or a fashion item, all products evoke some sort of user experience, and so the name UX Design is frowned upon by many in the industry (including myself) for theft of a common term. Another term for UX Design is Interaction Design.

A large part of UX Design is about understanding the needs and characteristics of the target user group. This target group could range from inexperienced computer users, through to web savvy consumers, office workers or highly skilled and specialised users such as forex traders. Even developers! So the UX Design process features user involvement throughout the design process, which itself is research-based and iterative with evaluation findings feeding back into the design process.

Why is any of this important? Well, badly designed software interfaces can have serious consequences on a company’s commercial success, on staff productivity and on general welfare / happiness. Well designed interfaces can have the opposite effect, giving a competitive advantage in the market. To the client, it’s often the case that the interface “is” the product and the overall quality of the deliverable will be largely judged based on the interface.

Background

Books:

Links:

Interface Design

Books:

  • Web Form Design - Luke Wroblewski
  • Designing Web Interfaces - Bill Scott & Theresa Neil
    • This book covers modern methods for structuring slick web 2.0 style interfaces, covering a range of user interface widgets, controls and design patterns.
  • A Practical Guide to Designing for the Web - Mark Boulton
    • UX Design is not just about how it looks, it’s about how it works. Visual Design makes up the “how it looks” portion of that statement and this book is mostly about Visual Design. However, learning UX Design does not require that you become an inspiring artist, and you don’t have to learn any Visual Design at all if you don’t want to. But learning the basics of Photoshop, layout, typography and colour theory will be useful.

Blogs / Twitter:

Tools:
  • Photoshop

Interaction Design Theory

Everything up until now will have given you a good grounding in practical interface design. But UX Design is based on more than common sense design principles and from this point onwards things get more interesting as we explore underlying theories.

Studying Interaction Design to a more detailed level will help you understand the theory behind determining the optimal approach to take when designing an interface. Interaction Design involves understanding how people think and behave, from the cognitive processes that help us learn and memorise, to the psychology behind emotions.

Interaction Design is a multidisciplinary topic, based on HCI (Human-Computer Interaction), computer science, ergonomics, psychology, informatics, various types of design and engineering.

Books:

  • Interaction Design - Preece, Rogers and Sharp
    • This is the Interaction Design Bible, giving a great detailed account of the subject. It is an academic textbook aimed at undergraduates and features exercises throughout that are well worth doing.
    • The Open University run a 10-month part-time course that is based entirely around this book. Stanford University were also set to offer a free online course in HCI, although this seems to be on hold for the moment.
  • About Face 3- Alan Cooper
    • A practical, process driven approach to carrying out Interaction Design, backed by a healthy amount of interesting theory.

Blogs / Twitter:

London meet-up groups:

Broader Topics

Books:

  • Mobile Design - Brian Fling
    • Designing for mobiles and tablets brings a whole load of new challenges to the table.
  • Information Architecture - Peter Morville
    • Information architecture is about the findability of content, and covers topics such as how to design search functionality and navigation, as well as how to display results for fast access and manipulation.
  • Universal principles of design - Lidwell, Holden & Butler
    • A great book on general design principles.
  • Designing for the social web - Joshua Porter
    • Covers some interesting social design patterns.
Blogs / Twitter:

Rich Interface Development Patterns

HCI Theory

Some more advanced concepts for those that are keen.

Books / Papers:

Conferences