The ULTIMATE List of 24 Free eBooks on UX and Interface Design


The ultimate list of 24 free eBooks on UX and interface design will help you be a UX rock-star. Study from gurus for free!

Ultimate List of 24 Free eBooks on UX and Interface Design from UsefulUsability.comWant to be a UX rock star like Nick Finck of Amazon Web Services, Dave Garr of, Jan Jursa of the mighty @IATV or even Jacob Nielsen, the ultimate UX guru?

Then you should study the UX subjects they and other smart UX practitioners know.

But why pay for all that great UX and interface design information when you can get it for free?

Yes, free!

Many UX books, guides and research studies are now available free as eBooks.

I’ve compiled the ULTIMATE list of free UX and Interface Design eBooks so that you have this handy list to help you improve your UX guru-ness.

And even more good news!

There is additional bonus material at the end of this article, carefully curated by me and including some of the top gurus and thought leaders of UX and interface design including:

Here’s the concept of this article in a nutshell:

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Without further ado, I present to you…

The ULTIMATE List of 24 Free eBooks on UX and Interface Design

1. The Elements of Typographic Style Applied to the Web by Richard Rutter (updated 2014)

Elements of Typographic Style Applied to the Web image from UsefulUsability.comContent is king, right? And that content almost always takes the form of text, right? So knowing how best to use text on the web or apps is really important, right?

My friends, study this eBook (which is helpfully presented in web format) and you’ll be the king or queen of good content and great readability.

Presented by FontDeck and Clearleft founder Richard Rutter, this is an excellent source of top-notch typographic style information.

Do NOT make the mistake of assuming all text presented in default mode is good text.

Learn the correct way to present text and typographic style and you’ll progress your UX and interface design career farther, higher and better than ever.

2. Six Circles – An experience design framework by James Kelway (2012)

Six Circles An Experience Design Framework image from UsefulUsability.comHave you noticed how UX and consumer products or services are quickly becoming intertwined, basically the same thing?

Do you think Steve Jobs was onto something when he went waaaaay out of his way to create satisfying and simple experiences?

If yes, then read this book, which will provide you with a framework for how to create and utilize an experience design framework in your organization.

This is required reading for anyone that is designing or creating experiences for organizations, no matter whether an app, product or website.

Let’s face it…

3. Designing Mobile Interfaces by Steven Hoober and Eric Berkman (2011)

Design Mobile Interfaces image from UsefulUsability.comBe sure to scroll down on the page to find all the great mobile patterns!

The book “Designing Mobile Interfaces” is great and is a must read for mobile interface fans. But the authors have created an excellent mobile UI patterns wiki with notes since publication, which can be found on their Designing Mobile Interfaces Wiki.

If you’re into mobile, then don’t try to recreate the wheel.

Save yourself time, energy and frustration and read and use Hoober and Berkman’s great content and mobile patterns. You won’t be sorry!

4. eBook Readers: User Satisfaction and Usability Issues by John V. Richardson Jr., Professor of Information Studies and Khalid Mahmood (2011)

eBook Readers User Satisfaction and Usability image from UsefulUsability.comAre you reading your eBooks on an eBook Reader? If yes, and you’re curious about their design, then this is good research for you!

It’s seldom that we actually have access to free information on the pros and cons of various devices, so this eBook on eReaders is worth reading.

Designing the user experience for multiple device consumption is the new realm of UX, and so it makes sense for you to be thoroughly acquainted with the user satisfaction and usability issues of eReaders, which are rapidly becoming a major way all over the world to access and consume content.

5. Human Computer Interaction Course Notes by Dr. Keith Andrews (2011)

Human Computer Interaction Notes image from UsefulUsability.comHuman Computer Interaction professor Dr. Keith Andrews has been a virtual HCI and UX guru at Graz University of Technology and other notable institutions.

Sadly, I’ve never had the opportunity to become better educated about HCI at his courses, but I have the next best thing, his notes! And now you do too!

Now you too can follow along with course notes in HCI and build a foundation of the principles of UX.

Well worth reading for UX beginners and advance UXers as well!

6. UX Storytellers – Connecting the Dots by 42 UX Masterminds (2010)

UX StoryTellers Connecting the Dots image from UsefulUsability.comThis is a compilation of stories from 42 UX gurus as they share their personal experiences of being a User Experience professional.

Edited by Jan Jursa, Stephen Kover and Jutta Grunewald you’ll read personal anecdotes from the likes of; Aaron Marcus, Andrew Hinton, Daniel Szuc, Deborah Mayhew and many more.

It’s a good read and well worth your time. UX stories from practitioners are an excellent way to add to your UX knowledge.

And of course the price is right (it’s free)!

7. Designing for the web by Five Simple Steps and Mark Boulton (2009)

Designing For The Web image from UsefulUsability.comDesigning for the web is not as easy as just writing some copy and throwing a few pictures around for good measure. No, not at all!

Or at least so says Mark Boulton.

It takes an approach that includes researching the usage of the site, understanding typography, utilizing color for navigation as well as presentation and creating a usable and satisfying layout.

This guide, “A Practical Guide to Designing for the Web” will teach you the best techniques for designing your website, using the tried and true principles of graphic design.

8. Getting Real by 37signals aka BaseCamp (2009)

Getting Real image from UsefulUsability.comOver 15 Million people use BaseCamp, the project and communication software which is what the company formerly known as 37signals created.

15,000,000 people!

That kind of success doesn’t happen often, so when the team that created BaseCamp writes a FREE eBook on the right way to build a successful web application, you should read it!

The Getting Real book has sold more than 30,000 copies at $19 online, and is still selling the paperback version at $20. This free eBook includes 16 chapters and 93 essay articles, and did I mention that this is 100% free?

9. Search User Interfaces by Marti A. Hearst (2009)

Search User Interfaces image from UsefulUsability.comPop quiz!

What’s the number one way users try to find information on your site after your website navigation fails? And BTW, it fails a LOT more than you think.

Answer, your website search of course!

The VAST MAJORITY of UX designers and developers rarely, if ever, spend real and valuable time ensuring their search function and interfaces are maximized for success!

Why risk losing your valuable visitors because your search interface sucks? Remember the golden rule of usability…

10. Taking Your Talent to the Web by Jeffrey Zeldman (Updated 2009)

Taking Your Talent to the Web image from UsefulUsability.comThis book, “Taking Your Talent to the Web” has been RATED FIVE STARS at since the day it was published!

Yes, it’s that good!

And now dear reader, it’s absolutely free to you.

The book was originally written in the dark eon of 2001 by guru Jeffrey Zeldman, founder of Happy Cog Studios, for print designers whose clients want websites, print art directors who’d like to move into full–time web and interaction design, homepage creators who are ready to turn pro, and professionals who seek to deepen their web skills and understanding.

11. User Centered Design – The Fable of the User-Centred Designer by David Travis (2009)

The Fable of the User Centred Designer image from UsefulUsability.comI heart Userfocus, and so should you. They know their usability.

So when they (meaning Dr. David Travis) write a short, interesting journey of one young man as he learns the three secrets of good user-centered design, it’s something you can and should read and leverage.

It’s only 40 pages long.

But after reading it, you will have a much better comprehension for the framework of the user-centered approach to UX and interface design, and be able to apply it at will.

Live the fable, read the eBook!

12. Building Accessible Websites by Joe Clark (2008)

Building Accessible Websites image from UsefulUsability.comThe odds are VERY high that you either have a family member, or know of someone at least one degree connected who has some form of disability. Accessibility is probably pretty important to that person.

Yet, and this is odd, many website and application designs are developed with little or no regard to ensuring good accessibility.

I say ‘odd’ because 15% of the world’s population have significant physical or mental disability (according to the World Bank and World Health Organization). Why EXCLUDE 15% of your target audience just due to lack of accessible websites?

This free eBook by Joe Clark will not only help you help that target 15%, but will make your website or application easier for everyone else to use as well.

13. Converting the Believers by Usereffect (2008)

Converting the Believers image from UsefulUsability.comI love Dr. Pete. Well, not in THAT way. But you know what I mean.

Most people know him as the SEO guru and frequent (and highly funny) tweeter ( @dr_pete).

But this guy ALSO knows usability backwards and forwards!

He actually is a cognitive psychologist, and lifelong programmer (now apparently reformed).

If you want good conversion (and we all do), then reading “Converting the Believers How to Turn Website Visitors into Buyers” is a must read.

14. Introduction to Good Usability by Peterpixel (2008)

Introduction to Good Usability image from UsefulUsability.comPeter Conradie, aka @peterpixel is a PhD student at Ghent University, and something of a long time usability proponent.

His writings about good usability and design guidelines have been compiled into a short but interesting free eBook.

For user-centered design or usability learners, this is a good reference to get you into the amazing and fun-filled world of UX.

It’s definitely worth anyone, whether a beginner or advanced practitioner, to freshen up from time to time on the subject.

15. The Best & Worst of the Mobile Web by (2008)

Best and Worst of the Mobile Web image from UsefulUsability.comDon’t you just love a good horror story?

You know, like the ones where a young couple is making out in the back seat of a car, so involved in their passion that they don’t see the horrible monster of bad user experience and usability about to jump at them through the interface of their smart phone or iPad!

Hide my eyes, I can’t look!

Well, there are other monsters, and beauties, in the form of mobile web usability. This is a great book if you want to be reminded on what to do, and not do, when designing the UX or interface for mobile usage.

16. Just Ask: Integrating Accessibility Throughout Design by Shawn L. Henry (2007)

Just Ask image from UsefulUsability.comWe all know that there’s no such thing as asking a dumb question.

There are only dumb answers, right?

So this free eBook, “Just Ask, Integrating Accessibility Throughout Design” is one you should definitely NOT be afraid to ask for and tell about.

Let’s face it, with 15% of the world’s population having significant physical or mental disabilities, knowing the right way to make the UX more accessible is a benefit for you, your visitors and your firm.

17. Time Management for Creative People by Mark McGuinness (2007)

Time Management for Creative People image from UsefulUsability.comWant to be a UX or interface design rock star?

Then manage your time, because all of us, and I’m including myself as well, are wasting time that we NEVER GET BACK.

You simply cannot be a UX or interface design rock star if you squander time, or worse, cause others to waste their time.

Think about it. As you read this, the seconds of your life are literally ticking away, never to return, moving you inexorably toward that great UX lab in the sky.

But don’t get depressed about it. Instead, use this free eBook to manage your time better! It’s been downloaded over 100,000 times, so I am confident it’ll help you be a more efficient and effective UXer.

18. Designing Interfaces – Patterns for Effective Interaction Design by Jenifer Tidwell (2006)

Designing Interfaces image from UsefulUsability.comConsidered a classic and a UX library must have, “Designing Interfaces” is certainly required reading for anyone that fancies themselves a web designer.

The good news here is there is a free set of patterns that the author, Jenifer Tidwell, has made available to all.

Remember, don’t recreate the wheel, start your designs by using one of these complete patterns, and you’ll be that much closer to a UX victory.

19. Web Designers Success Guide: How To Profit From Freelance Web Design by Kevin Airgid (2006)

Web Designers Success Guide image from UsefulUsability.comIs the entrepreneurial spirit, like the Force, strong in you? If so, you may be contemplating, acting on or already involved in running your own freelance web design business.

Here is some sage advice that might help you help your freelance business become a real success.

Don’t make mistakes or trip over landmines that you can in fact avoid!

The step by step instructions in this eBook will help you be a better freelancer.

And even if you’ve been in the freelance web design business for a while, there’s some great tips here that should help you improve your business and services.

20. Knock Knock: An Incomplete Guide to Building a Web Site that Works by Seth Grodin (2005)

Knock Knoch Seth Godin Book image from UsefulUsability.comSeth Godin is to marketing Gurus as Jacob Nielsen is to Usability gurus. Except he potentially has slightly less hair.

Among Seth Godin’s 17 books there are VERY famous marketing books include “Permission Marketing” and “Unleashing the Ideavirus.”

These books are considered mandatory reading in the dubious marketing gangs circles in which I hang out in.

But less well known is his free eBook; “Knock Knock: Seth Godin’s Incomplete Guide to Building a Web Site that Works” which he used to sell online for $9, but which is now (as I mentioned earlier in this rather long sentence) completely free.

Seth shares in this book his thoughts and insights, based on his own experience, of developing winning websites.

21. How to Recruit Participants for Usability Studies by Deborah Hinderer Sova and Jacob Nielsen (2003)

How to Recruit Participants for Usability Studies image from UsefulUsability.comJacob Nielsen, the Guru of all things Usability and User Experience, provides plenty of free and practical advice in his Alertbox articles. He also provides, for a price, in-person training at his many events.

However, he has ALSO written an excellent resource that is completely free, the “How to Recruit Participants for Usability Studies.”

Whether you’re just starting out in usability, or a long time veteran, you no doubt face the same hurdle of where to find and recruit good usability participants. This free eBook will show you how.

22. Web Style Guide by Patrick J. Lynch and Sarah Horton (1999)

Web Style Guide image from UsefulUsability.comOK, I know what you are thinking.

“Jeez Craig, this is from 1999 for crying out loud. I mean, that was before that whole Y2K thingy, before Twitter, before FaceBook. Bill Clinton was President! Are you SURE this book is relevant today? Really sure?”

Yes. I’m sure.

Inside this free eBook are some basic principles of design that have stood the test of time, because they are central to best practices. Sure, the technology mentioned may be as funny looking as watching an old silent movie, but the information contained is relevant.

You could do FAR worse than reading “Web Style Guide.” Trust me on that one!

23. Task-Centered User Interface Design by Clayton Lewis and John Rieman (1994)

Task Centered User Interface Design image from UsefulUsability.comAgain, don’t let the age of this report fool you, there are excellent ideas here.

This ‘report’ which is actually a very detailed ‘how to’ will walk you through the steps of designing systems based on user-centered tasks, something more software companies should consider.

If you want to know how to design, create, test and execute something that users actually ENJOY using, then this is the guide for you.

Oh, and it’s actually shareware with a suggested donation of $5 to the authors (which they fully deserve, although you can donate as much or as little as you prefer).

24. Mental Models in Human-Computer Interaction by John M. Carroll and Judith Reitman Olson (1987)

Mental Models in Human Computer Interaction image from UsefulUsability.comAnother in the ageless series of eBooks that is relevant today is “Mental Models in Human Computer Interaction.”

HCI in this case refers to users, and their mental models of how they approach interaction with computer based systems.

This is a great reference and good reminder that we don’t build systems for designers, for the product department, for the CTO or even for the CEO.

Bonus UX and Interface Design Material!

Want to know what the UX rock stars consider important or influential books? Want to learn from the best?

Listed below are picks of favorite books or websites where you can read UX rock star advice.

Reading their recommendations or content is a GREAT way to improve your UX and interface design knowledge.


Dave Garr

Usability testing success stories from – Let’s face it, selling usability and usability testing internally is hard. Typically your internal Doubting Thomas’ want ‘proof’ that this whole new fangled use-a-whatever testing actually works.

Well look no further, because the case studies from Dave Garr and the team at will help you address those needs for real proof that usability testing works.

And, Dave has added his favorite book to this list, and here it is…

Don’t Make Me Think, Revised – It’s a GREAT way to easily and efficiently explain what usability and usability testing is to anyone. It’s a classic and MUST HAVE.

Nick Finck

Nick Finck’s inspiration Blog – Good UX and design comes I think from good inspiration coupled with the ability to see the world in a new way from someone else’s eyes.

When that someone else is a UX expert, founder of several UX design shops, a frequent UX and design industry speaker and now one of the head UX honchos at Amazon Web Services (by the name of Nick Finck) then you could do far worse than visit Nick’s blog to catch some cool inspiration.

And Nick has several book recommendations for you, including…

A Project Guide to UX Design, 2nd ed – for those who need to work with UXers (Devs, PMs, etc).

Cadence & Slang – for those who are doing UX and really need to better understand “craft” & “rigger” in their work to produce better results.

Design is a Job – for those young UXers who get upset at clients and have an ego that needs a bit of taming perhaps.

Jan Jursa

Jan Jursa’s fire hose of UX Tweets – Anyone more than casually interested in UX or design no doubt has heard of Jan Jursa and his @IATV twitter feed and IA Television blog.

If not, make sure you connect!

His twitter feed is a non-stop fire hose of useful UX and design (AND IA, AND usability, AND analytics, etc. etc. etc.) information.

He also is the guy of Europe’s premiere mobile UX summit: mobX

Rich Gunther

Rich Gunther, founder of Ovo Studios and 2013 UXPA President shared a few books he considers worth of mention, here’s what he has to say…

Human Factors Psychology – Even though it’s a bit dated and broader than just traditional UX modalities like software, websites, etc., I find that most of the chapters in this book have been earmarked in some fashion throughout my career. The examples are not going to feature things like smartphones, of course, but with a little squinting the lessons still apply well.

Global UX: Design and Research in a Connected World – As UX has spread worldwide, we practitioners have had to become much more, well, worldly. This book discusses a lot of the ins-and-outs of this.

Nielsen Norman Group

Nielsen Norman Group Alertbox – I included it above, but just in case here it is again. Guru UX thinking from the guru of UX and usability, Jacob Nielsen and the Nielsen Norman Group.

Daniel Szuc

Daniel Szuc is head of Apogee Asia and founder of the UXPA Hong Kong, along with a noted speaker and UX celebrity. Here are his recommendations for UX books…

Interviewing Users: How to Uncover Compelling Insights – Interviewing Users provides invaluable interviewing techniques and tools that enable you to conduct informative interviews with anyone.

This is Service Design Thinking: Basics, Tools, Cases – If you have two coffee shops right next to each other, and each sell the exact same coffee at the exact same price, service design is what makes you walk into one and not the other.

Global UX: Design and Research in a Connected World – As UX has spread worldwide, we practitioners have had to become much more, well, worldly. This book discusses a lot of the ins-and-outs of this.

Conclusion: The ULTIMATE List of 24 Free eBooks on UX and Interface Design

This then is the ULTIMATE list of 24 free eBooks on UX, Interface Design, the Universe and everything.

There are plenty of other UX celebs I didn’t mention in this post, but because this is now over four thousand words, and because your eyes are probably crossed with all the reading, let’s agree to stop for now.

But what do YOU think?

Did I mention your favorite?

If not, leave it in the comments!

Other UX and Usability Articles You May Find Useful:

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5 Radical Ideas from Usability Presentations

14 Usability Testing Tools Matrix and Comprehensive Reviews

Image courtesy Samantha Marx via Flickr Creative Commons

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