Ashlee M Boyer

Dog mom to Trooper | Engineer of software | Lover of learning | Partner of Zach | She/her/hers | HOH 👂🏻

Looking upwards into a tall silo of books stacked like bricks.

The Top Five Books on my TBR

May 08, 20196 minute read

I hate reading more than one book at a time, but here I am, reading three. I think? I can't even be sure. This is why I should practice self-control and only do one at a time.

Since discovering how much I love studying user experience and accessibility, I've come across several books that had to be added to my list of books to read. Some are about UX and design, others are about creation and productivity.

For each, I've linked the Amazon listing and also pasted the synopsis. I love, love, LOVE reading, so if you have any recommendations or lists of your own, please share them! My already-full bookshelf won't appreciate it, but I sure will. 😊

1. Mike Monteiro's Ruined by Design

The world is working exactly as designed. The combustion engine which is destroying our planet’s atmosphere and rapidly making it inhospitable is working exactly as we designed it. Guns, which lead to so much death, work exactly as they’re designed to work. And every time we “improve” their design, they get better at killing. Facebook’s privacy settings, which have outed gay teens to their conservative parents, are working exactly as designed. Their “real names” initiative, which makes it easier for stalkers to re-find their victims, is working exactly as designed. Twitter’s toxicity and lack of civil discourse is working exactly as it’s designed to work. The world is working exactly as designed. And it’s not working very well. Which means we need to do a better job of designing it. Design is a craft with an amazing amount of power. The power to choose. The power to influence. As designers, we need to see ourselves as gatekeepers of what we are bringing into the world, and what we choose not to bring into the world. Design is a craft with responsibility. The responsibility to help create a better world for all. Design is also a craft with a lot of blood on its hands. Every cigarette ad is on us. Every gun is on us. Every ballot that a voter cannot understand is on us. Every time social network’s interface allows a stalker to find their victim, that’s on us. The monsters we unleash into the world will carry your name. This book will make you see that design is a political act. What we choose to design is a political act. Who we choose to work for is a political act. Who we choose to work with is a political act. And, most importantly, the people we’ve excluded from these decisions is the biggest (and stupidest) political act we’ve made as a society. If you’re a designer, this book might make you angry. It should make you angry. But it will also give you the tools you need to make better decisions. You will learn how to evaluate the potential benefits and harm of what you’re working on. You’ll learn how to present your concerns. You’ll learn the importance of building and working with diverse teams who can approach problems from multiple points-of-view. You’ll learn how to make a case using data and good storytelling. You’ll learn to say NO in a way that’ll make people listen. But mostly, this book will fill you with the confidence to do the job the way you always wanted to be able to do it. This book will help you understand your responsibilities.

2. Erika Hall's Just Enough Research

Design research is a hard slog that takes years to learn and time away from the real work of design, right? Wrong. Good research is about asking more and better questions, and thinking critically about the answers. It's something every member of your team can and should do, and which everyone can learn, quickly. And done well, it will save you time and money by reducing unknowns and creating a solid foundation to build the right thing, in the most effective way. In Just Enough Research, co-founder of Mule Design Erika Hall distills her experience into a brief cookbook of research methods. Learn how to discover your competitive advantages, spot your own blind spots and biases, understand and harness your findings, and why you should never, ever hold a focus group. You'll start doing good research faster than you can plan your next pitch. Erika Hall has been working in web design and development since the late 20th century. In 2001, she co-founded Mule Design Studio where she directs the research, interaction design, and strategy practices. Erika speaks and writes frequently about cross-disciplinary collaboration and the importance of natural language in user interfaces. In her spare time, she battles empty corporate jargon at Unsuck It. She also co-hosts Running from the Law, a weekly podcast on business law and endurance fitness, and can probably outrun you.

3. Steven Pressfield's The War of Art

Think of The War of Art as tough love... for yourself. Since 2002, The War of Art has inspired people around the world to defeat "Resistance"; to recognize and knock down dream-blocking barriers and to silence the naysayers within us. Resistance kicks everyone's butt, and the desire to defeat it is equally as universal. The War of Art identifies the enemy that every one of us must face, outlines a battle plan to conquer this internal foe, then pinpoints just how to achieve the greatest success. Though it was written for writers, it has been embraced by business entrepreneurs, actors, dancers, painters, photographers, filmmakers, military service members and thousands of others around the world.

4. Laura Klein's UX for Lean Startups

Great user experiences (UX) are essential for products today, but designing one can be a lengthy and expensive process. With this practical, hands-on book, you’ll learn how to do it faster and smarter using Lean UX techniques. UX expert Laura Klein shows you what it takes to gather valuable input from customers, build something they’ll truly love, and reduce the time it takes to get your product to market.

No prior experience in UX or design is necessary to get started. If you’re an entrepreneur or an innovator, this book puts you right to work with proven tips and tools for researching, identifying, and designing an intuitive, easy-to-use product.

  • Determine whether people will buy your product before you build it
  • Listen to your customers throughout the product’s lifecycle
  • Understand why you should design a test before you design a product
  • Get nine tools that are critical to designing your product
  • Discern the difference between necessary features and nice-to-haves
  • Learn how a Minimum Viable Product affects your UX decisions
  • Use A/B testing in conjunction with good UX practices
  • Speed up your product development process without sacrificing quality

5. Jeremy Baines's & Clive Howard's UX Lifecycle

This book is for organisations starting their UX journey. It will help to address the basics such as defining what UX is; the importance of research; how UX is a process and not a job title; and where business value comes from improving efficiency, effectiveness, and satisfaction. There is practical guidance for building a business case and identifying the key investments required in people and process that will bring about the change needed to deliver success. Implementing UX is brought to life through the UX Lifecycle, a methodology framework that was born out of real life successes. At the heart of the UX process is the most important stakeholder - the user! Clive and Jeremy have helped businesses from start-ups to enterprises derive value from UX. While running their own UX consultancy they created and applied the UX Lifecycle. Since then they have both continued to grow their knowledge through implementing UX solutions and learning from others. This book will answer the questions that they have been asked time and again by businesses seeking to embrace and leverage UX.


Image by Lysander Yuen on Unsplash