With great power comes great responsibility: How to keep your UX know-how in the know

5 min read Ashlea McKay

“Dear Optimal Workshop, I’ve been a front-end developer for >10 years. At the end of my parental leave, I decided to take on the challenge of switching to UX, which involves a 3-month training program at my company and an Interaction Design course. I’m one month into my training and I am already in love with the new job! I have the feeling that my ideas really matter and that I’m contributing to shape the future of our product.

On the other hand, ‘With great power comes great responsibility’, and sometimes I’m afraid I don’t know enough, or that I’m not good enough. Can you please share the books, blogs, and resources that will help me improve my know how? Thank you so much.” — Frappa

Dear Frappa,

First of all, I love your enthusiasm about UX — I feel it too! And I also know well those niggling doubts and worries. Girl, I’ve been there. But you know what? Ongoing professional development is something we all need to embrace, and you’ve got yourself a head start simply by recognising that. I have rifled through my handbag of tips and tricks and pulled together a list of my go-to books, blogs, and resources to keep my UX know-hard sharp as a tack.

6 must-have (must re-read) books for UX practitioners

I love books — real ones, e-ones, reference ones, and ones with a boatload of pictures that just totally make my day. When it comes to books that influence my UX practise, I always go back to the classics. These are books you can read over and over, at different times throughout your career, and still get new things from.

Universal Principles of Design

William Lidwell, Kristina Holden, Jill Butler, 2003

If you only have the means to buy one book, THIS IS IT. I discovered this absolute essential of a book back in my university days, and I still use it. It’s practical, easy to read, and great to refer back to.

The Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition

Don Norman, 2013 (1st ed. 1988)

An absolute classic for all UX professionals. THIS IS ALSO IT 🙂

Don’t Make Me Think, Revisited: A Common Sense Approach to Web (and mobile) Usability (3rd ed.)

Steve Krug, 2014 (1st ed. 2000)

Revised edition of the awesome original.

100 MORE Things Every Designer Has to Know About People

Susan Weinschenk, 2015

This one is hot off the press! It’s a sequel to 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know about People (which I own and it’s awesome) and covers the new developments that have occurred since the first book came out.

Get Started in UX

Matthew Magain and Luke Chambers

These guys are awesome — they run UX Mastery (which I talk about below) and they also write fantastic books for people at all stages of their career in UX.

Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Coloring Book

Johanna Basford, 2014

Yes, that is indeed a coloring book (and for the record I was colouring before it was cool). In all seriousness, nothing calms my mind like coloring in and the calmer my mind is, the more I can achieve. You should try it — it’s nowhere near as childish as it sounds!

9 incredible UX publications and blogs you should be reading

When I first started out in UX, I found blogs and other online publications to be an incredibly useful source of information. I always admired people who share their thoughts so openly with the world and UX blogs are some of the richest sources of valuable information.

So, in no particular order, here are 9 blogs every UXer should be reading (put them on your watchlist):

3 resources and communities for professional development

UX Mastery

As mentioned earlier, UX Mastery is without a doubt a must-see. They produce outstanding articles, write practical and helpful ebooks, and have the most comprehensive list of UX resources I have ever seen. But what really makes UX Mastery shine (in my eyes at least) is its online community. There’s nothing else out there like it, and it really is a place any UXer can call home. It’s a great way to connect with other professionals and gain advice in a safe and helpful environment where everyone is welcome.

Twitter

Twitter is the best friend you never knew you had. It’s free, easy to use, and puts a whole world of information at your fingertips. If you’re not using it already, this article lists 20 UX designers to follow on Twitter and is a good place to start. I’d recommend setting up an account just for tweeting about UX (so that means no tweeting about the latest season of The Bachelor!).

UXTraining.com

There are some incredible training courses out there, but UXTraining.com takes the cake and eats it too. It’s not actually a course — it’s an entire library of well presented, quality training videos that you can watch in any order you please. It suits all levels of experience, and, best of all, you can refer back to specific topics as needed.

To finish, Frappa I want you to reassure you that you’re not alone in your thinking. I’ve received a few letters on this very topic since picking up the pink-feathered pen of this Letter to the Editor series (and have penned a reply or two at that).

I wish you well 🙂

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Ashlea McKay

Ashlea McKay is a UX researcher, writer and keynote speaker with an industrial design background. She has more than a decade of professional experience spanning both the public and private sectors. Ashlea co-founded Optimal Workshop's UX advice column in 2015 and is based in Australia.