UX Resources: What’s on my bookshelf?

I like to read. I like to keep learning. I could waist, I mean spend, an entire day if not more just reading books or the millions of articles that are posted online daily regarding all things UX.

I’ll also admit; I’m also a sucker for that promotional email that says, for a limited time only download this new book at a price you can’t beat! Yep, that’s me, downloading away. I recently purchased A Practical Guide to Information Architecture, by Donna Spencer offered through UX Mastery for only $5.  I’ve already read through a bunch of it and though I know most the information already, it’s always good to refresh my memory.

The Must Haves

If call yourself a UX designer then you must have read and own the following:

The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman
– You will never look at the world around you the same. I keep this one as an e-book so I can re-read through it when ever I have a few minutes.

The Inmates Are Running The Asylum: Why High-tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How to Restore the Sanity by Alan Cooper
– I work with a lot of complex B2B products, this book is essential to say the least.

Don’t Make Me Think: A common Sense Approach to Web Usability by Steve Krug
– I still have the original version. I’m realizing I should really go out and picking up the latest version based on the reviews.

Personal Favorites

Web Form Design: Filling in the blanks by Luke Wroblewski
– I’ve seen Luke speak at a couple different events, he’s always gives a good talk!

About Face 3: The Essentials of Interaction Design by Alan Cooper, Robert Reimann, and David Cronin

Persona Lifecycle: Your Guide to Building and Using Personas by Tamara Adlin and Jon Pruitt

100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know about People  by Susan M. Weinschenk, Ph.D.

Interaction Design

Designing Web Interfaces by Bill Scott & Theresa Neil (O’Reilly book)

Sketching User Experiences, getting the design right and the right design. by Bill Buxton

Designing the User Interface, Strategies for Effective Human-Computer Interactions by Ben Shneiderman

Designing from both sides of the screen. How Designers and Engineers Can Collaborate to Build Cooperative Technology by Ellen Isaacs and Alan Walendowski

User Research:
Observing the User Experience, A Practitioner’s Guide to User Research by Elizabeth Goodman, Mike Kuniavsky and Andrea Moed

Institutionalization of Usability, A Step-By-Step Guide by Eric Schaffer

Paper Prototyping, The Fast and Easy Way to Design and refine user interfaces by Carolyn Snyder

A Happy Path vs A Winning Path

There is often talk in the UX design to define the users “happy path,” meaning, what is their main goal when using the application and how will they best complete that goal.

When my eight-year-old son started another season of little league baseball this past spring, our main “Happy Path” for him was to have fun and hopefully improve his game along the way. Throughout the season he and the rest of his team did just that, they even won a few games in the process.

Entering into the play-offs, we hoped they would win at least one game but didn’t expect much more. It wasn’t until they won the third game in a row, by quite a bit I might add, that I suddenly realized; something more was going on. When it was all said and done, they came in first place and won the championship game!

I started to think, what was it that made a difference in the play-offs? While the boys had certainly improved their skills throughout the season, so had most the other boys on other teams.

Make it Simple.

The coach didn’t give the team instructions as a whole, instead, he gave each kid very specific instructions. For example, the 2nd baseman might be told to make sure to step on your bag, whereas the pitcher would be told to throw to 1st base. At the same time, the 3rd baseman was told to hold the ball. Each kid, before each batter was told exactly what to do. So, very simple!

No longer did they have to think about what they were going to do with the ball after they got it. Of course, this wasn’t 100 percent fool proof, but it helped so much. The coach knew the only way to end an inning is to make outs, and one by one, that’s just what the boys did.

I then immediately started to realize all the different ways this translates into product user experience.

Target The Content

Targeting content to specific users requires having very specific personas. You’ve got to know who your users really are and have instructions specific to the task they are trying to accomplish. For example, on an edit page generic instructional text that says, “here’s where you create and edit items” simply isn’t enough. Instead, tell them WHY they need to create such items and then specifically HOW to best use them.

Limit Choices

When working on a very technically complicated product recently, we were struggling with the user defaults and how they flow through some wizards. At first we thought they can make edits to all certain parts of the particular item. However, we started to realize, did we want the user to make all these various edits, could they break something if they did it wrong?

We then started to talk more about what the 80% of user would want to edit and set up the path for that use case. The advanced editable options were left in for those users who wanted more control but in a collapsed section that was not in the way of most-common use case. Just because you CAN edit something doesn’t mean you NEED to be able to edit it at all times.


Parents and kids alike weren’t just happy with the season; we were ecstatic! I now try to think about this at the start of any project, the goal is to not just create a happy path for the user, but what is it going to take to hit it out of the ballpark and get that championship trophy!

Do you really know who your users are?


Personas can be a huge asset to the when designing user experiences. They can help target your features and streamline the screens if used correctly. However, most persona’s I’ve seen are pretty generic, thirty-something year old woman, with a average name like Sally or a middle management guy named Bob, each with a few stats about how long they have worked for the company. It’s enough information to start but is that really enough to go on?

Lego People

I was once told the sales people where out in the field and they talked to the end users all the time. The products managers also talked to the customers, and gathered feedback. Management knew exactly who the end user was, and what they wanted.

The persona we were told to design for was particularly technically savvy. They had worked for these companies for a long time and were extremely comfortable with the latest technologies and online common best practices. This was after all, an internal only product.

So, off we would go and take our best guess at creating the user experience.

When is the last time you talked to an actual user?

The first time I was finally able to talk the end user directly, not a manager, not a director, but a person who’s sole job responsibility was to use the software we were creating, it was a huge eye opening experience.

Lets just call her Mabel. She looked like a Mabel. She was in her mid to late 50’s and yes, she had worked there for over 18 years but that doesn’t mean she knew what she was doing. We talked for just a bit about the way she currently does her job and what does she do when she can’t find the answer she needs with the current system. She kind of shrugged and admitted that happened often and she would ask the people around her for help, sometimes.

The best way to demo the new proposed product was to show her an Axure clickable prototype off a Mac. Mabel looked more then a little nervous, I don’t think she’s ever seen a Mac. Even though we encouraged her to click around, that nothing she did could be wrong, she hesitated at every click.

Simply put, Mabel reminded me of my Mom, who I love dearly, but at times has problems connecting to this thing we call “the internet”.

Get Specific!

Was Mabel the edge use case? I wish I had the answer to that. I often wondered how many other employees were much like Mable.

I would suggest to really get to know your users and find out everything you can about them, not just their age and their employment history but what their habits are out side of work and what their passion is. You can even use their actual LinkedIn profile as a starting point.

Given the chance I would have loved to set up a fun yet detailed poll to a large set of employees to find out exactly where their skill set lies and more about how they used the product and others to do their job.

Now What? The 80/20 rule

Products can get pretty complicated fairly quickly. I was always taught to design for 80 percent of your users while being aware of the other 20 percent and their needs.

And of course once you have an idea of what might work for the 80 percent, show it to them! Not a manager, not a director, but the actual people at the ground level using the product daily. Rinse and repeat!