Book review: A Project Guide to UX Design

Book Reviews

Johnny's reviews of great UX books.

See all posts

UX, experience designer, experience strategy … as far as words go, right now everything around UX design is still up for grabs. However, by focusing on the process ‘The Project Guide to UX Design: For User Experience Designers in the Field or in the Making’ by Russ Unger and Carolyn Chandler neatly sidesteps these sticky issues to deliver a fantastic handbook on the topic.

The (digital) experience designer

What initially struck me about this book is that, unlike other books that focus on techniques or the field, it focuses on the process and thus the role of being a UX designer (the UX of UXD, if you like). I haven’t seen a description of a UX designer before, and loved theirs:

Curiosity, passion, and empathy are traits that user experience designers share [along with] a desire to achieve balance … most notably between logic and emotion ….To create truly memorable and satisfying experiences, a UX designer needs to understand how to create a logical and viable structure for the experience and needs to understand the elements that are importance to creating an emotional connection with the product’s users.
– p6

Though UX designers can in theory do anything ranging from software interfaces to installations, the authors focus on “‘the design of digital experiences”. This specifically means websites (which they define as falling into six categories: brand presence, marketing campaign, content source, task-based applications, e-commerce, e-learning, or social networking applications), so expect chapters on SEO rather than interfaces.

A project guide, with all the realities

Ah, the realities of being a designer. Often many of the issues you have to deal with are nothing to do with design, and little things can make or break your project. This book goes a long way towards spelling out this reality. Along with the expected things you might read about (the different hats you have to wear, making up personas and wireframing), it covers less talked about topics such as writing proposals, dealing with team friction and what happens after a site is launched.

I have to admit I was surprised to find several pages dedicated to sloppy mistakes in wireframes. However, this attention to detail could well be justified, given a point made by UX designer Dante Murphy that inexperienced designers often suffer from “below par …. polish and aesthetic quality of their deliverables”. Other than that, I found all the other sections varied but relevant. I was however surprised that they didn’t touch on accessibility.

Read, browse, surf, snorkle, deep dive

‘A Project Guide’ achieves the difficult balance of being both a useful reference and easy read (even in such arcane moments as explaining the nuances of SEO). What’s more, each chapter is full of pointers to more in-depth resources (in case you miss the introductory text , they’re coded as ‘surf’, ‘snorkle’, or ‘deep dive’ depending on the length of the article) – including a paper by fellow Johnnie Steve Baty. Thankfully, they’ve put all the links up online.

The verdict

‘A Project Guide to UX Design’ is a must have for those starting out in the field of experience design as a brief but comprehensive guide to realising a web design project. For experienced practictioners, it’s a useful compendium of techniques and other resources. The only thing I’d add is a mention about accessibility standards.

Book details
A Project Guide to UX Design: For User Experience Designers in the Field or in the Making
author: Russ Unger, Carolyn Chandler
published: New Riders, 2009
details: 288 pages, softcover

Vicky Teinaki

An England-based Kiwi, Vicky is doing a PhD at Northumbria University into how designers can better talk about touch and products. When not researching or keeping Johnny Holland running, she does the odd bit of web development, pretends her TV licence money goes only to Steven Moffatt shows, and tweets prolifically about all of the above as @vickytnz.

3 comments on this article

  1. Hi Vicky,

    Thanks so much for writing the review of the book. I wanted to provide you some input around this portion of your review:

    “I have to admit I was surprised to find several pages dedicated to sloppy mistakes in wireframes.”

    One of the reason I spent time highlighting some of the sloppy mistakes in deliverables–and I believe you’re referencing Chapter 10: Site Maps & Task Flows (pp. 171-174)–is because of the portfolios and examples I have reviewed of others in the field over the years.

    Believe me, I’ve learned a lot myself, but I also reflected upon old work that I’d created and recognized that a lack of attention to detail in the quality of work product can result in the lack of ability to find work. To this day, I still see these types of mistakes being made, so I think it’s important to highlight the issues.

    Thanks again for the review!


    Russ Unger

  2. Pingback: pp softcover

  3. Pingback: The structure of Web design | Ondřej Válka