Having spent the majority of 2011 in intense self-study to finish my transition from developer/project manager to UX engineer, I thought it would be useful for others out there to share my reading list and some brief thoughts.
The best book for a quick introduction to user experience is this first one. You’ll find that Steve Krug (along with Jakob Nielsen) is the guy who writes all the forwards for all of the other books.
I would recommend that you read this book first. It has nothing to do with websites, but it’s a wonderful introduction to the design process and thinking about usability
Nielsen and Tahir are also pretty big. This book is old, but it’s basically a picture book and is a quick and easy read. Most of the principles still apply, but get this one at the library.
Nielsen also wrote this great overview book that touches on all the different parts of UX. It’s quite a bit more in depth, but well worth reading.
This book is a very detailed look at the user centered design process. It’s almost too detailed, because rarely does one go through the entire process in the real world. However, it’s useful to get a detailed look at every step so that if you’re abbreviating the process, you know what’s missing.
If you’re interested in information architecture, this book is about as detailed as I have found. It’s pretty dense reading, but it covers not only traditional IA, but also searching and card sorting (which is kind of like user testing for IA).
This is a reference book, which basically contains a bunch of design patterns. It’s well worth reading, and it warrants a few pages of notes (I ended up with six). However, once you’ve internalized these patterns, the book doesn’t get a lot of use. If you have read through some of the intro books, this is a great book to look through just to start building a mental map of use cases and best practices.
An in-depth introduction to visual design principles, structured in an interesting way. The author creates a list of essential design principles (for example, affordances, cognitive dissonance, color theory, etc.), and dedicates about two pages to each principle. This is a must read book for those of us who came to user experience from an engineering background instead of design school.
That’s about 4 months worth of reading right there, if you’re reading for comprehension and not just skimming.