What tools do they use?
What books they read or have written?
Which school teaches modern UI/UX?
For best books, it depends on if you want to understand users or do implementation. But generally, I'd highly recommend Don Norman's The Design of Everyday Things to improve how you look at the world, and Steve Krug's Don't Make Me Think for simple and practical design tips.
For tools, the best is paper prototyping, where you have your team just draw it out on paper and simulate the UI. It's simple, fast, and cheap, and from a cognitive perspective, you can explore more of the design space (think breadth-first search instead of depth-first), and you don't get overly attached to your designs.
In my course on UX design, we also use Balsamiq and InVision, though other tools seem fine (e.g. Marvel, Figma, etc). One of our alums created this great chart comparing different prototyping tools: https://www.cooper.com/prototyping-tools
For schools, some to check out would be Georgia Tech, University of Washington's Master's of HCI, Indiana University, University of Michigan iSchool, and (of course) Carnegie Mellon's Master's of HCI.
And lastly, here's a slide deck I put together and used at my startup several years ago. It was intended as a short 1-hour crash course.
I see this transition in titles all over the place at big SF companies like Adobe, which is disheartening because now I'm expected to have a dribblesque visual/graphic design skill set (least interesting aspect of design imo) with less emphasis on design thinking, more on delivering assets, front-end code and letting UX researchers focus on generative (most interesting)/evaluative (mostly interesting) research to inform us designers on what visual assets to design for developers (so much for that HCI degree!).
I feel like a commodity more often than not when competing with generic 10-week General Assembly UX grads that can throw together a sleek graphic heavy portfolio while my HCI degree is collecting dust because no hiring manager is going to read the pages of user research that back up my design decisions and because I lack the flashy, material designed dribble UI polish that is largely an exercise in branding, typography, and basic color theory than actually understanding user needs through traditional UX methods based on best practices.
The exception is at larger companies like Amazon, Microsoft, and Google who appreciate HCI grads but their projects often relate to advertising or some obscure product platform I could care less about. Maybe it's time to throw in the towel? Maybe I'm burnt out working on the usability of legacy products and making it look nice with the latest material design trends on top.
I'm interested in working on/solving big, "wicked" problems through UX design like self driving cars or improving healthcare. Should I get a PhD in HCI and focus on something fulfilling rather than improving the UX of boring SaaS CRUD apps?
There is a design pyramid which unfortunately build on top of each other for the majority of business use cases:
Graphic Designer -> UI Designer -> UX Designer -> Product Design -> Service Design
These are the levels of the pyramid at which the design process revolves around, depending on the need, for most products or services:
Visuals -> Web -> Experience -> Product -> Service
The narrative of it closely mirrors the history of many orgs:
Visuals: Hey our website looks like a database written by engineers, maybe we can make it pretty?
UI -> hey, we really need it to look like it belongs on the web, not just a RISD grad's art project, let's get someone who understands web design
UX -> okay, now our site looks like every other site. But no one uses it because it's still just a database with lipstick. Let's get some experience designers in here to make it better.
Product -> Okay, now our site has some nice experiences... but they are all disjointed and random and don't account for business needs... Let's get some product designers in here.
Service -> Okay, our product now is pretty cohesive and quite good... but there's a whole realm of things we have to do outside our product (Customer Service, service processes) that suck and are bringing the user experience down as a whole. Let's get some service designers in here...
In my opinion, this is the way most businesses think about design.
The key is that you're far along enough in your career that you should never be applying blind. Always try to get a warm intro and always try and schedule an informal meeting with the hiring manager before you go through the formal interview process. That way, they're not just reading pages of user research, they're seeing how that user research affects your process & how you think about problems.
Almost nobody who is currently being hired to work on big wicked problems are getting there by throwing their resume into a pile so the process isn't designed to see those people out. The way to get those jobs is to be the only person they were ever even considering for that job.
They are getting closer, but not quite. Consider two analogies:
1. Craigslist v. AirBnB to get a short term rental apartment. Both are arguably the same "product", the differentiation is that AirBnB has a much better UX experience.
2. eBay v. Sothebys to put goods on auction. Here, it's not really UX that differentiates them, it's product-market fit.
In the second example, a product designer would arguably be a better fit for differentiating the technical and business processes. A UX designer would then implement those ideas in the precise user flow.
To me product designer means someone who's a hybrid, an alrounder - basically a UX designer with following traits:
- good research and analytical skills
- decent or great visual design skills
- ability to create sophisticated prototypes (not just creating hot-mapped images)
- someone who has good technical knowledge, so they don't design something that's going to be really difficult and expensive to build
- someone who considers product and business matters, i.e. ability to strike the balance between user and business needs.
What are you hoping a PhD will give you?
I'm not sure where you are, but if you want to use your skills for something good, why not try to help your government - improving their online services etc.
See for example what the UK did to their government sites - a great investment that made it easier for millions of people to understand and use their online services.
One example: https://beta.nhs.uk/service-manual/design-principles/
edit: formatting issues
For the most part, HCI professors don't care about healthcare and healthcare mostly doesn't care about HCI, for non-obvious reasons.
If you want to work on self-driving cars, maybe get a MS in machine learning and HCI (or human-centered AI if you can make that happen)? If you want to improve healthcare, maybe get a healthcare degree.
(Update: if I were a professor in HCI I might actually tell you yes, come work with/for me ;)
We need more people with these ambitions. Maybe you should be looking to create a forward-looking design firm focusing on the hard problems, rather than looking for a “job”.
Having said that, I know folks with master's degrees and PhD degrees who are great UX and product designers doing cool work on autonomous vehicles, drones, etc, so the path really depends on what you're most interested in as well as how lucky you are in finding a good match.
Material Design is especially bad on just about every level, including taste and animation accessibility. (People should do more research on animation accessibility before making things move on the page.)
If you want to focus on visual language, iconography, and how graphics communicate, an unconventional, yet highly-regarded choice is Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics. What Norman does for interaction, McCloud does for visual communication (and does so, appropriately, in the form of a comic book).
I'd also highly recommend Spence's own book: Information Visualisation. I don't work in HCI/UX at all, but I enjoyed it a lot; it does an excellent job of showing that it's much more than 'just' (sorry!) artsy design.
I'm familiar with the academic research in paper prototyping (for background, I have a Ph.D. in CS [HCI], have been a HCI course assistant, and published in academic HCI/design conferences).
To say that paper prototyping is the best implies a certain design philosophy, team structure, and organizational culture. It requires a certain buy-in, level of trust, and design pace that are not appropriate for all industries. There are reasons why most professional UI/UX design tools go to the pixel level, and why sketching interfaces never took off in practice.
That said, there are great benefits to paper, prototyping, and sketching skills. But there are also drawbacks which are not immediately obvious in reading the research literature or taking academic HCI classes.
Yes, you're right that it does suggest a certain kind of corporate culture and mindset. A common big challenge with UX is educating the rest of your company about best practices, and most importantly, demonstrating results.
Convincing (say) skeptical engineers of the value of user studies can be hard. A common technique is showing videos of user studies and people failing to use the product. Another common technique is to bring an engineer to a site visit and get first hand experience of the pain points.
I recently got his other book, Emotional Design, I just haven't gotten to it yet.
Its a short and easy 2 hour read but the level of paradigm change you receive if you're being exposed to hci for the first time is immense.
I even found its thinking useful from the developer side of things, as in, writing software libraries that were obvious and easy to use.
If you haven't guessed already, my background is engineering. So you read from that what you want, but I've crossed paths with a very large number of engineers who dismissed or diminished their own ability to form judgement on UX because of a general sense that the "consensus" was that engineers aren't good at that, and have seen several cases where the decision model in organizations was specifically tailored to tune out engineers from UX decisions. Both of these things are wrong from my pov. I certainly don't want to diminish the value of having UX as a specialization. However, I cannot recommend a title whose narrative champions one set of professionals at the expense of others.
Just last week, I had the very first design meeting for a new project and a veteran engineer was invited. He didn't even let the presenter finish before talking about how the backend should be built and how much time it would take. That wasn't helpful.
I think engineers who are good at design are immensely valuable, but most engineers suck at it.
Perhaps the engineer was contributing something crucial to the product design, you just couldn't grok it.
Product design is so much more than UI/UX, fwiw.
I worked on one product which involved a massive store of XML documents and a suite of somewhat complicated serializations and transformations. It was the right architecture for the project, for sure. And it was definitely the fundamental gene of the product; all of the product's design had to flow from this XML-heavy information architecture and backend.
But most of the products I've seen are not so unique. For the vast majority of web products out there, simple CRUD apps backed by a relational database, I don't think the information architecture needs to be front and center in product design conversations. People can make assumptions about this kind of app and they usually won't be too far off the mark.
Although, I can't walk through half the doors in the world it seems without going "why the hell does this pull door have a push handle!!", so there is that side effect.
As a graduate of University of Washington's Human Centered Design and Engineering (HCDE) master's program, I would recommend that if you are interested in understanding 'what' makes a good UI or UX instead of 'how' to make a good UI or UX.
How has HCI given you an advantage over a UX bootcamp grad that can speak the lingo and mastered Photoshop/sketch?
I think my advantage is being more aligned with the 'what'. A UX bootcamper could come in and whip something up quickly that looks pretty and win over the hearts and minds of the project sponsors, but (I assume) said bootcamp isn't teaching different theories of cognition or offering practical experience in designing studies in which to test some new interaction.
I even had my Software Engineering students read excepts this semester.
- The designers / developers thinking that they are typical users, and that they know how things work ("You are not the user" is the phrase we repeat a lot here at CMU)
- A lack of education about how to design things (e.g., basics of perception, design patterns, basic interaction principles, conventions)
- Time and money
- A common mentality that "we can fix the UI at the end"
- Legal requirements, marketing, corporate partnerships, etc, that is all of the cruft that doesn't focus on user experience
- For popular products, a very large user base, which means legacy support (people don't like change), and different people using different features (I once heard that people only use ~20% of features in MSWord, but it's a different 20% for different people)
Better UI/UX doesn't always lead to better business outcomes.. Sad, but true.
It's (arguably) a young[er] field, relative to software or hardware engineering. Maybe things will get better :)
If anything, the public(consumer)'s appetite for graphic/visual/UX design has gotten a lot stronger in the decade since research was done on paper prototyping. High-quality animations and subtle interaction techniques, explosion in form factors and devices / mobile operating system [versions], and the rise of non-technical app builders may have also encouraged the development of such tools.
Funny looking back at it now.
Most prototyping tools let you export to PDF on PNG, but they usually aren't going to be open source.
Well, [expletive deleted].
‘Sketching User Experiences’ by Bill Buxton https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/980280.Sketching_User_Ex... and ‘Mental Models’ by Indi Young: https://rosenfeldmedia.com/books/mental-models/ we’re both very influential to me as a young designer thinking about process and I believe they are still both relevant.
The only downside to the book is it will ruin every elevator, door handle and stereo amplifier you ever use. My wife tires of me explaining how a door that requires a “pull” sign is a major UX fail.
After reading the book it helped me understand the different models the creator and user have and has allowed me to recognize when I’m making design decisions that make a lot of sense to the creator and no sense to the user.
Most likely this submission was inspired by the thread yesterday (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18655224). The OP commented three times in that one.
It's cool, though, how a guerrilla marketing post like this still has the substantive discussion at the top rather than advertising spam.
This is what I love about HN. Comment threads are usually much more interesting than the discussed article, regardless of that article's quality.
Yet another reason why I consider adverising to be a cancer on society. You have to be suspicious of everything.
That spamming a board with book recommendations can generate an interesting discussion isn't an excuse for spamming a board.
> and good content marketing actually provides a lot of information.
Depending what you mean by "good content marketing". If you mean companies paying people to share their professional knowledge, no strings attached, and writing this off as a "marketing expense", sure it can be good, but that's because it's a form of UBI for the people sharing their knowledge. As for most of the things explicitly created as "content marketing", it's mostly garbage that's wasting your time. It's only meant to give you some tidbits to hook you and position you to further monetization efforts - and the content rarely does anything beyond that. Consider that every time you read a content marketing piece, you could have read a honest article instead, were it not pushed down in SERP by content marketing.
Also, I've worked with people doing content marketing professionally. I wouldn't trust a word from their work. It's not just waste of time, you're probably actively hurting your knowledge.
I'm not a designer but it really changed the way I think when I have to write any user interface.
It will not teach you how to make the perfect UX, but after reading it you will know how to avoid the most common and obvious mistakes. I would consider the minimum recommended for anybody that has to design any kind of UI.
Also, you will recognize all the issues in every thing you interact with, be it the door of your apartment or the coffee machine of your office (the name is really apt). I think you should read it even if you will never have to do any kind of UX work, because you will have to put up with somebody's else interface.
looking at the twitter stream of tips from 2017, there's some good stuff there ( https://twitter.com/i/moments/994601867987619840 ) not sure that translates well to the book or not, and it seems quite pricey, especially if you only end up making use of a couple of the tips.
I'm saying this as someone who loved Steve Schoger's amazing Twitter moments with those UI micro-tips; I'm on the site's mailing list, so I was aware that the book had just been released.
That being said, I'm a big fan of the author's work, so no harm no foul and I'll look the other way.
"Don't Make Me Think" is a good read, but the direct info is not really as important as the point it is trying to make. Aggressively reducing friction and decisions for the user at all points. If reading that book helps get that point across then it's worth the read. On how to do that...
If you are new to design, just pickup a used intro textbook on design. Something like "Design Basics" by Lauer and Pentak. Or really any intro book on design. They all cover the same basic concepts you'll need for UI/UX design. Fundamental stuff like visual hierarchy and composition. Honestly, just go find a used one for $8 and read through it. Most of them are pretty quick reads.
After that, although no one really goes out and tells you this, it involves a lot of following the trends and looking at past work and pulling in ideas and pieces together to create a new design. Another comment in this thread talks about how they don't write books and this is pretty accurate. A designer rarely just sits at a blank screen and starts from nothing. They usually have a list, whether formally or informally, of examples and ideas to start with. Then through iteration, critique and testing they mold something into a complete design/interface. But one typically needs some background learning in the basic fundamentals of design and typography to piece everything together. Remember, part of good UX is doing what the user expects. Which often means using conventions and design elements the user has already seen.
So pick up a book on typography and basic design and then find some design blogs that seem well written. For example Airbnb has a fairly nice one https://airbnb.design/. Best of luck!
Ways to Connect: On Interface and Product Design, Ryan Singer
Something on color theory
Design language books (Bauhaus, etc)
The entire Google design team has quite a few open resources: https://material.io/design/ and https://design.google
2. Lean Customer Development, Cindy Alvarez
Practical and immediately useful guide to interviewing and talking to users. Read after the Contextual Inquiry book above. If that book teaches what to understand about a user's workflow and environment, this one teaches how to elicit those answers from customers when talking to them.
3. About Face 3, alan cooper
If the previous two are about (a) what to look for when understanding a customer and (b) how to get the info you need to build solutions for those customers, then this book is about translating those learnings into user journeys and experiences.
Personally, I'm mostly using the `material-ui` package for React use, but you'll find other material based libraries for any number of frameworks and platforms. In general, I've been sticking to the overall guidelines with a few tweaks, and the responses in general for the application I'm currently working on have been incredibly positive.
If you want to learn interaction design it's best done with a bit of dedicated cooperation and experimentation. Use one of the big tech companies style guides to mock up a prototype and test it on your friends. Use blank HTML with images you can make easily in sketch.
Then iterate. That is most of interaction design. Most everything else people teach is either too localized or just not proven at scale.
You should have a look at these:
https://designcode.io/sketch-learn (if you're on Windows have a look at their Figma courses)
To learn more about UX, this is a good start
UXTools.com just relased the results of the 2018 Design Tools Survey .
In november, Jeff Sauro published "the methods ux professionals use" post . There, you can find an exaustive coverage of the most important methods and deliverables in the field.
→ "Sketching User Experiences", Bill Buxton
→ "The Elements of Typographic Style", Robert Bringhurst
→ "Understanding Comics", Scott McCloud
There are lots of books on concrete design methodologies and particular aspects of the field, but they tend to become dated rather quickly. If they are tied to specific technologies, they become dated even faster.
Having said that, a clear and concise introduction to the modern design process is:
→ "Designing for Interaction", Dan Saffer
The practical application of the principle is that space outside an element should be unambiguously larger than inner parts of the element, for the element to look like an integrated entity. This simply describes how human visual perception works.
This works on all scales, from typography to graphical design to layout, even architecture. For letter spacing, kerning, line spacing, margins—apply the rule. Space between letters is obviously smaller than letters, space between words is comparable to a letter, line spacing is smaller than a line so a paragraph doesn't fall apart, margins are larger than a letter (at the least). Margins outside an element's borders are larger than padding inside.
Need to pinpoint visual balance of some stuff? Consult the rule. Some things are related? Make them closer to each other than to other stuff. Bottom margin of a heading should be smaller than the top one, dammit. Margins of a list item should be larger than line spacing in it.
Learn to see and apply this principle, and you'll have no problem envisioning good design in monochrome.
As a side effect, you'll forever wonder why some desktop UI designers insist on separating things with noisy bars instead of empty space, seeing as the latter is hardwired in our brains.
The next hella useful thing to learn is how to graphically separate layers of information, to allow people to see some related stuff and ignore everything else, instead of seeing all things at once and noticing nothing. This is where monochrome and monotonous designs break. (Also map designers love this.)
I took a 2 hour General Assembly course and found it incredibly useful - it sounds crazy but I feel like I learned 50% of what I needed to know about UX in just those 2 hours.
I asked some UX peeps what books they recommended and I purchased 2 and never read a single page (they were The Lean Startup by Eric Ries and Sprint by Google Ventures).
For web app UX, I found this 30 minute video extremely useful (great to see how a non-design person might make something, then how that same non-design person can change the primitive app they made into something very nice!).
Design for Non-Designers:
This is the link to the course; it was called 'Intro to UX Design'
It's based on watercolor painting but I have to say that Making Color Sing by Jeanne Dobie has dramatically improved the UI of my applications through better use of color!
Also, if you like Dieter Rams, the film “Rams” by Gary Hustwit  is digitally available on Dec 14th.
is a good book, though its primary focus is more to do with how to work out what kind of UI to build not the specific details of the UI itself ( which is quite fickle ).
UX simply is the amount of interactions & how fine grained they are (when touch points are small = bad & multiply) to accomplish some goal. I know it's as bad as sloc but it's what I go by.
Firstly, I read the title and the sub-header sentence. I understood that the site had generic guide on concepts designing web. Okay, I'm interested.
Then I scrolled down to the 3 categories. The first one collects some tips. None of them is related to the grand project announced in the title, they seem much more restricted.
Looking inside the categories, I don't even understand their organization. What is specific about "Articles"? The first content inside "Articles" is named "7 practical tips…", so shouldn't it be under the "Design tips" category?
So I went back to the top of the page, thinking I had missed the more generic links. Hmm, of course, those blue words in the header sentence must be links… No they are not.
Now I don't even want to read the content.
Their book also just came out and looks great, albeit grossly overpriced.
For $249 (fake price anchor, I know) you can get all the classics from Tufte, Cooper and Norman, a bookshelve and a stool to sit your behind down and study first principles.
There is room for both and I’m sure you can find a lot of value in the applied examples as well, but at $249 RSP I would not recommend it.
I've read "The Design of Everyday Things"; I appreciate its role in providing a kind of philosophical grounding for HCI education. But if I were building product to compete in the same space as Robinhood, or Airbnb, that book wouldn't tell me a damn thing about how to design a UI that engages users. And increasingly, a lot of "engagement" comes down to whether or not the app "feels" like a premium experience.
Unfortunately that feeling isn't something you can recreate by reading about the circumstances in which a door would be designed to be push or pull based.
Very similar to how one could be very productive by glueing together stackoverflow snippets and random 3rd party modules for a while, but once the first tough problem arises it is a lost cause.
With code that is usually tangible in form of a bug or performance issue.
With design, it might still tick all the „look and feel“ boxes and yet be utterly broken.
„The design of everday things“ is often recommended because it is so relatable even for readers with no expertise in the field. This is not to say that reading it is sufficient to make you a capable designer.
I'm mostly a backend guy who does the Bootstrap thing. The techniques and examples in the content are gold for someone like me.
You can get a lot of his tips for free here in this curated Twitter Moment: https://twitter.com/i/moments/880688233641848832
But for a compilation of tweets in a PDF? There are renowned books that go for less than that. I got 3 hard back volumes of Knuth's The Art of Computer Programming for around £70. Is this book of that caliber?
I am interested because I find design books to be too theoretical, and at the end I'm left thinking "Yes and..?". I need practical examples. I think I would get $79 of value, but it would also last for 12 months before the content dates.
People come to HN to discuss things that hold real intellectual value and not to get subtle ads. Suggesting an e-book that was released yesterday looks like blatant advertising even if that's not your intention.
I really find hard to believe that someone can legitimately recommend and stand behind a book that was released yesterday, just because the author teased his/her Twitter followers with some of the book's potential content. Also, how can you objectively say that this book "Is the best UI actionable advice" when you already accepted that you haven't even read it yet?
Sorry, but the question is "What's the best book on modern UI/UX?". Suggesting something that was released in the last 48 hours feels very disingenuous.