New Year, New Books


As the holidays come to a close you may find yourself with a small stack of gift cards burning a hole in your pocket. Maybe you wound up with a wad of cash that you just can’t figure out how to use.  It’s just sitting there on your dresser, taunting you, begging to be spent and spent quickly.  Whatever the case may be, there are plenty of new books that are queued up or have recently been printed and they are demanding your gift card/cash bounty in exchange for making you a better designer.

Below are 5 books (in no particular order) that have either been recently printed or are scheduled for release in the coming year that I am looking forward to flipping through.  I have not had the chance to read any of them yet so these blurbs are not reviews.



1)  Doorbells, Danger and Dead Batteries – User Research War Stories

by Steve Portigal

Published December 2016 by Rosenfeld Media.  Pick up the book here.

“User research war stories are personal accounts of the challenges researchers encounter out in the field, where mishaps are inevitable, yet incredibly instructive. Doorbells, Danger, and Dead Batteries is a diverse compilation of war stories that range from comically bizarre to astonishingly tragic, tied together with valuable lessons from expert user researcher Steve Portigal.” – Rosenfeld Media synopsis 

Being able to read horror stories from the front lines of the User Experience design process will, I hope, allow me to better prepare for interviews while learning it the easy way and not the hard way.  While the methods of User Research may change over time, the practice itself will always remain a cornerstone of the UX design process.  Anything that you can do, read or listen to that will help you handle the potential curve balls should be deemed essential.



2)  Designing Voice User Interfaces – Principles of Conversational Experiences

by Cathy Pearl

Published December 2016 by O’Reilly.  Pick up the book here.

“Voice user interfaces (VUIs) are becoming all the rage today. But how do you build one that people can actually converse with? Whether you’re designing a mobile app, a toy, or a device such as a home assistant, this practical book guides you through basic VUI design principles, helps you choose the right speech recognition engine, and shows you how to measure your VUI’s performance and improve upon it.”  – O’Reilly synopsis

Smart Devices and AI personal assistants got bigger and bigger as 2016 rolled on.  In 2017 they are going to play an even bigger role in everyday life.  As with all new technologies, adoption depends on several key factors but having bad scores on usability undercut any potential benefit to the user right out of the gate.  Learning the intricacies of a growing sector of the design field is a good move, especially for all of you “futurists” out there.  I’m still not sold on the idea that yelling ‘ALEXA!’ in an empty room is a great experience but I digress…


3)  Atomic Design

by Brad Frost

Published December 2016 by… Brad Frost!  Pick up the book here.

“Atomic Design details all that goes into creating and maintaining robust design systems, allowing you to roll out higher quality, more consistent UIs faster than ever before. This book introduces a methodology for thinking of our UIs as thoughtful hierarchies, discusses the qualities of effective pattern libraries, and showcases techniques to transform your team’s design and development workflow.” – synopsis

My new-ish gig has me working on a massive, sprawling enterprise web app and maintaining / updating out design system is something that I am having to deal with every minute of the day.  For me, this is a very personal selection, it has nothing to do with trends or new technologies, I just really want to read it!

Backing up, do you not know what a design system is?  Danelle Bailey has a really great primer on her site breaking down her approach to read through while you wait for your copy of Atomic Design to show up.



4) Design For Understanding

by Stephen Anderson & Karl Fast

To be published in 2017 by Rosenfeld Media

“Design for Understanding will look at various ways you can help people make sense of confusing information. Bridging theory from cognitive sciences with dozens of practical examples, you’ll learn how to design rich, visual interactions that encourage people to play with and explore difficult concepts.” – Rosenfeld Media synopsis 

Regardless of how you feel about the Affordable Care Act, we can all agree that the language associated with Healthcare plans is the worst plain and simple.  The plans were written in a looping zig zag fashion by lawyers who have a sole purpose of minimizing payouts.  At no point in time has that language be translated to anything remotely close to English, Spanish, German, etc etc.

IF we as designers can design a method of delivery or an experience that makes mind-numbingly complex concepts understandable, then we will be helping all of society and not just the specific users of a specific product.

Also, maybe we can come up with a way to educate and inform about all of our different caucuses, primaries, colleges and cabinets so that everyone understands them.  Just an idea.  Just a really really great idea.



5)  Designing Across Senses – A Multimodal Approach To User Experience Design

by Christine W. Park & John Alderman

To be published May 2017 by O’Reilly.  Early release Ebook available here.

“Since we experience the world through our senses, it’s time to start designing for them. This practical guide shows you how new technologies can enable devices to encompass a fuller range of human experience through a new approach: multimodal design. This approach takes advantage of how we use our senses to understand information and interact with the world.

With this book, you’ll explore the technologies that can be used to enable interactions for different senses, like gesture, voice recognition, and haptic feedback. You’ll learn how we use sets of senses for different activities and how to design experiences that support them.”  – O’Reilly synopsis

Similarly to ‘Designing Voice User Interfaces’, we’re increasingly having to consider interactions and experiences outside the confines of a computer screen.  Wearables, autonomous smart cars, AI, AR, VR… we’ve only tapped the surface of the potential that these devices and platforms hold.  2017 may not be the year that they take off, but they’ll definitely go further than any time before.

This book is coming out in May but you can purchase the early release ebook from O’Reilly.  What is an early release ebook?  “With Early Release ebooks, you get books in their earliest form—the author’s raw and unedited content as he or she writes—so you can take advantage of these technologies long before the official release of these titles. You’ll also receive updates when significant changes are made, new chapters are available, and the final ebook bundle is released.”


SO, what did I miss?  I know I missed a bunch and it wasn’t intentional.  Let me know what you’re looking forward to checking out in the coming year or let me know what you though of the books mentioned that have already been released!