Preface: This Book Truly Practices What It Preaches

It started as an email newsletter, grew into a blog, became viral, and now you have it. The format of the book is based on science and research with real readers. It was then reviewed by some of the industry’s leading UXers—all to make it as engaging and useful as possible. We even gathered feedback from the Internet while we were writing it!

This Book Exists Because It Is Needed

(i.e., My “user research” uncovered a problem.)

Originally, these lessons were an email newsletter. Throughout my time working with startups, famous global brands, and in-house product teams, I was asked the same basic UX questions over and over, everywhere I worked. So, I decided to start a newsletter of UX ProTips, for my coworkers.

Once a week, I would write a short, funny lesson about one simple UX thing and email it to the company. These people were busy, and not experts, and they needed to be entertained if I expected them to learn about someone else’s job (mine).

In other words, they were beginners.

At first, I was worried about seeming arrogant or annoying, but everybody loved it! They even started sending me questions to answer. It didn’t take long before I started hearing my answers being repeated to clients in meetings, and people outside of our company would reply, asking how they could subscribe!

Soon after that, I noticed that the most popular question in UX forums was “What should I read to get started in UX?” And thus, my ProTips became a blog: My first big project for the blog was the UX Crash Course. Thirty-one daily lessons about the most fundamental things in UX, which I posted every day in January, 2014. It was a huge success. Much bigger than expected. That Crash Course has now been read over a million times without paying a cent for promotion.

That blog is the motivation for this book. And if you want even more proof that there was a need, consider this: we were able to use the title UX for Beginners because it had never been used! And we’re talking about a job that was ranked fourteenth on a list of the most in-demand jobs in America in 2015!

Who Is This Book For?

(i.e., My “user profiles”)

Even if you still don’t understand what I mean by “UX”—it’s short for User eXperience, by the way—you’re in the right place. This book is written for three types of people: non-designers who want to become designers, managers of UX designers, and experienced people from other jobs who want to learn more about UX.

If you’re a non-designer, this book is specifically for you. My mission is to create more designers by teaching the fundamentals in a simple way—something that is surprisingly hard to find. This isn’t just a book about “thinking like a designer” or “the UX mentality,” it is a practical set of lessons that teach what to do; how to be a UX designer on the first day of your first job. If you’re a student, or an intern, or a recent graduate that feels intimidated by doing UX “for real,” welcome. We need you.

If you manage UX designers, you’re either a designer yourself or you have the authority to enable or disable the designers on your team. Either way, the more time you spend managing design, the less time you spend doing design, so a refresher is always useful, especially an easy, funny one like this. But, more important, being a manager also means that you are in a position to teach UX, and this book has been created for that reason, too. Use it as a reference or as a way to kick-start conversations with your team. Sometimes the most valuable thing is a good book that backs you up.

And finally, you might have experience in something relevant, like programming, or project management, or sales, but now you need to know more about UX design. Thanks for realizing that UX is a core element in all digital products and services! This book is a great place for you to initiate yourself and learn to “talk the talk” while building a solid understanding of the people who “walk the walk.” And if you aspire to go sideways into a design position in the future, fantastic!

How the Book Is Structured

(i.e., The “Information Architecture” of this book)

There are 100 lessons, grouped into sections, and they roughly follow the real process of doing UX on a real project. So if you are sitting at your first UX job right now, just start reading and it will feel like we’re working on it together. Also, try not to laugh too loud at my jokes, people will think you’re a weirdo.

You won’t find any long case studies, or complex diagrams, or chapters that do a “deep dive” on a specific topic. This book is designed to be a quick-and-dirty introduction to User Experience design. The lessons are short, and did I mention how funny and modest I am?

Although it’s quick, this book covers a lot. It may not be every UX-related topic in the world, but it introduces plenty. I have specifically focused on things that a beginner needs, so more advanced ideas like iteration or “lean” and “agile” processes, or contextual design, or design critiques, or accessibility and stuff like that are not covered in detail. That’s for designers with more experience. You can Google those things or read one of the other fine books that O’Reilly offers on those subjects.

All of the 100 lessons are self-contained: you don’t have to read them in order if you don’t want to. If there is something special you want to learn or if you want to keep it on your desk as a reference, do it! It’s also great to just have “around” for people to read on a coffee break.

The lessons are grouped into 14 sections:

  • First, in the section called Key Ideas, you will learn some basic concepts. UX design can be counterintuitive sometimes, and a lot of your “common sense” will lead you in the wrong direction. If you have never designed anything before, take the time to read each of those lessons and think about them before continuing.

  • In the section called Before You Start, you’ll learn some practical stuff that will prepare you for conversations later in the process. If you work in a big company, those parts will bite you in the ass if you skip them.

  • In Behavior Basics, User Research, and The Limits of Our Minds, you will learn the fundamentals of understanding how and why humans do what they do, and how to investigate when your users do something you don’t expect.

  • The sections Information Architecture and Designing Behavior start to combine the basic ideas from the previous sections into your craft. The process and science of User Experience design. For a lot of people that might be a whole new way of thinking about design in general.

Then you start to actually design things:

  • Visual Design Principles come before the Wireframing & Prototypes in this book, because making good wireframes—your main document as a UX designer—requires an understanding of how design works, not just what it looks like. After you understand how the size, color, and layout of your design can influence the user, you will learn how to make wireframes, and how not to make wireframes.

  • In Psychology of Usability and Content, you will learn how to make your designs feel easier and more persuasive, so more people will use them.

  • The Moment of Truth is critical: the launch.

  • After the launch, any good UX designer will measure how their design works in the real world, with real users. You’ll learn about that in the section called Data for Designers. Don’t worry, there are no equations or anything... it’s mostly pictures. ;)

  • And finally, in Get A Job You Dirty Hippy, you’ll learn a few things about what UX role is right for you, what should be in your portfolio, and what you might actually do all day at your first design job.

We even threw in some amazing illustrations to make it more visual, easier to understand, more fun, and because every great author needs a few rubber ducks to get their point across. Obviously.

I always include rubber ducks. Always.”—Ernest Hemingway

The Main Goals of this Book

Like any good UX project, this book has two goals:

  • To make more UX designers

  • To make me a millionaire

In other words, a user goal and a business goal.


I only achieve goal #2 if I achieve goal #1 in a spectacular way. The better I am at turning you into a great UX designer, the more you will share and discuss this book with others, making even more UX designers, and giving me the funds I need to finally have a llama farm in my backyard.

Every designer’s dream, am I right?

So I needed to make this book a great experience for you if I really want to start my million-dollar llama empire. If I succeed, we both win. If I fail, we both lose. That’s the way UX should be. Some people call that “empathy.” I just think it’s how good product design works.

If you think the book could be better in any way, or if you have a story about how it helped you be a better designer, please tell me on Twitter:

And seriously, share this book with someone if you like it. Those llamas aren’t going to feed themselves.



This book could not have been made without the UX community itself, my most curious students, my most talented interns, and every colleague I have had over the past decade or so. Their questions, feedback, interest, and general lack of attention span (haha) have all come together in this book and the work related to it.

Thanks to my girlfriend, Camilla, for dealing with all the mornings when I got up to write a daily UX Crash Course lesson (and therefore barely spoke to her), and to my friends for not rolling their eyes when I begin a sentence with “On my blog...” or “In my book...”

I would also like to acknowledge anyone and everyone who actually takes the time to be a really good UX designer, whether you start here or not.

We, my friends, are defining the future in real time.

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