The Best UX Resources For Researchers and Designers (Updated for 2020)
The most useful resources for UR and UX pros…bookmark now, thank us later.
The research world moves fast. Keeping pace is mental cardio.
Luckily, there are a lot of resources out there.
Unluckily, half of them are Udemy courses that won’t take you beyond the basics. Or communities spammed with portfolio links and project surveys. Or super-useful-sounding webinars that spend most of their airtime pushing a product.
But there are still a few safe places that you can mine for genuinely helpful insights.
We’ve vetted what’s out there to find the good stuff.
Best for quick hits of advice and inspiration
Metric: The User Experience Podcast
If you’re curious about what UX can learn from Ouija Boards or what groundhogs can teach us about product design (we were!)—give Metric a listen. These bite-sized 15-20 minute episodes are a great way to up a few novel ideas during a short commute, or a coffee break.
Best for “sitting down to chat” with industry leaders
Dollars to Donuts
Steve Portigal sits down and talks shop with some of our favorite researchers in the biz. These interviews can go thoroughly “in the weeds”—giving you a deep-dive look at how leaders in UXRs tackle structural challenges (ie. the creation of research repositories), and personal growth opportunities (like management tactics and opportunities for self-critique)
Best for creative approaches for creative challenges
It’s Worth Doing Right
It’s Worth Doing Right is a podcast chiefly concerned with “the creative side of strategy,” which not infrequently falls into the domain of experience design. Beyond that, the show is useful for anyone who deals with the challenges to unique working at the intersection of creative strategy and tech—from dealing with discomfort, to building design systems, to navigating company politics.
Best for new perspectives, and raising a glass
What Is Wrong with UX – Users Know
Take an hour from time to time to hear a few smart people having a few well-paired drinks and debating what’s new, what’s right, and (of course) what’s wrong with UX today. Laura Klein and Kate Rutter are honest, personable, animated, and sometimes tastefully buzzed. They cover topics that matter not just for your UX research, but for the field as a whole—tackling the root of motivation, the problem with job descriptions, and how to make long-term decisions when the future is moving faster than ever.
Best for “how-to”s and “why-you-should”s
Mixed Methods is a community first, a podcast second, and a half dozen other things third through eighth. The brainchild of Aryel Cianflone—UX researcher at LinkedIn—the podcast covers both the practical, on-the-ground aspects of UX work and a more explorative take on the new ideas entering the field. Interview subjects range from Jared Spool of UIE to mindfulness consultant Thomas McConkie. You can get the episodes, read the blog, and request an invite to the Slack channel here.
Best for chats-over-coffee style interviews, and saving the day
Thought leadership meets a theme—what’s not to love? Jason Ogle talks with user-defending “superheroes”—folks who are both interesting as UXers and people—about their sidekicks, villains, and origin stories. The style is conversational. The interviewees are passionate. And there’s a good mix of content here for both beginning and advanced practitioners—across disciplines.
A few other programs worth a listen:
UX Podcast: A solid, consistent resource that’ll keep you up-to-date with what’s happening in UX-land. Updated every other week.
Hacking UI: Geared more towards the designer/dev community—Hacking UI features an impressive lineup of guests from the likes of Facebook, Intercom, and Invision.
99% Invisible: Long-running inspiration fodder hosted by Roman Mars, 99% Invisible dives into the aspects of design, architecture, and activity that we rely on but overlook.
Method Podcast (Google Design): The design team at Google makes stuff. They’re good at doing it. They tell you about it. You’ll learn a thing. It’s worth checking out.
Best for things you want to know, but wouldn’t know to look for
IDEO’s The Octopus
IDEO’s the Octopus (Much like the global design firm that writes it) casts a pretty wide, very multi-disciplinary net. From “just plain interesting” profiles of technologists and iconoclasts, to in-the-weeds walkthroughs for building research practices, cultures, and leadership—The Octopus offers a lot that’s inspiring and actionable.
Best for quick reads and peer perspectives
Reading UX Collective is like reading the minds of other researchers—just better curated. Sourced from fellow designers and makers, the Medium publication covers a lot of ground—everything from new tech, to career readiness, to design tactics, to a good-old-fashioned industry rant. It’s sometimes actionable, sometimes philosophical—but generally digestible, and always interesting. And it’s a chance to hear the ideas making their way across the field (but only the good ones)
Best for filling a knowledge gap
The Nielsen Norman Group content library speaks for itself. They’ve been around for nearly as long as the internet. (For fun, click on their most popular articles. You’ll find pieces written originally in ‘94). If there’s something specific you have a hard time wrapping your head around—a design challenge, a research methodology, a best practice—you’re likely to find some insight there. Content over at the NN/group is a bit less narrative, and a bit more “to-the-point.” So it’s a good place to go looking when you have a question you need to get answered and would rather forgo the fluff.
Best fodder for career (and personal) growth
Design Better and Inside Design by Invision
Both of Invision’s publications lean a bit more towards research-backed design, design thinking, and product design, than they do UXR. But they still contain plenty of incredibly useful nuggets for researchers. Check out the conversations on Design Better for chats with industry leaders on the ethics of big data, design thinking for inclusivity, machine learning and bias, and leadership in design research spaces. Hit up Inside Design for practical tips for optimizing your day-to-day workflow, and for mapping your overall career trajectory.
Best for inspiration and thought leadership
Yes, yes, we know. This is the blog you’re on. Bragging looks ugly on us—but give us three sentences to explain why we’re worth your time. Rather than make People Nerds a place where we “tell you how to do your job”—we write to remind you “why you bother to do your job.” Sometimes in a sea of “hows,” we lose track of “whys.” So at People Nerds, we cover what makes user research special, which trailblazers are pushing the field forward, and the little human moments that drive the best tech. So, subscribe?
A few other sites worth a browse:
A List Apart: From the same folks behind excellent A Book Apart publishing company, updates on A List Apart are infrequent but highly comprehensive.
Smashing Magazine: Smashing Magazine is an institution, and a great resource for web-focused UXers looking to get into the nitty-gritty of design decision-making.
UX Booth: UX Booth has a similar vibe to User Collective. They publish slightly less frequently, and slightly more formally.
UX Matters: Expect a couple of new posts from UXMatters every Monday. They have a particularly robust selection on the “business” side of user research.
Best for getting advice on “getting it all done”
You’ll be hard-pressed to ask a question that Research Ops slack can’t answer. As the name implies, the channel dedicates quite a bit of space to discussing research operations and tools. But it’s also grown into a vibrant community that chats on every aspect of the user research process—from the methodological to philosophical. Beyond that, the group regularly meets for community calls and to be a part of crowdsourced community research projects.
Best for community and clout
Even if you stray more towards the “research side” of UX—Designer Hangout is the hangout (if you can get an invite). It calls itself UX’s best-kept secret, but with 15,000+ members, we’d say the secret’s out. DH is a solid place for network-building, career-navigating, and critique-soliciting. It’s where your favorite research “influencers” hang out, it’s a touchpoint for local meetups and events, and it’s got a waitlist almost a thousand people long. So it’s probably best to send your request to join now.
Best for asks and answers
Content + UX
The Content + UX community is just plain helpful. Questions about tools, methods, and best practices become long, polite, insightful debate threads. There’s an active, standardized job-posting channel that operates to encourage rate transparency. There are entire channels devoted to inclusivity and accessibility in UX and in design. And forums for newbies looking for a place to get started. It does lean slightly more on the “content strategy” side than the “user research” side from time to time—but there’s enough activity for either party to find the platform genuinely useful.
Best for access and activity
The UX Mastery Slack is a solid community that’s easy to join. It’s not constantly buzzing, but most questions do get answered—either there, or at their community site. Twice a month they host a “ask the UXperts”—which functions as a user experience AMA. They also host a popular peer mentoring program. Matches start at the beginning of the month, and thought-sharing is prompted by regular check-ins from the channel’s donut-bot.
Other channels worth dropping into:
Ethnography hangout: Co-founded by EPIC, Ethnography Matters, and Anthrodesign—ethnography hangout is an excellent community for a big, old-fashioned, researcher nerd out. Chat all things applied-ethno here.
The Designership: The “research and testing” channel on the Designership doesn’t get a ton of love, but this is still an active community you might be able to ping for insight.
Online Geniuses: OG is certainly more of a hub for internet generalists—but there are occasional job listings for UI/UX researcher folks in “hiring”—and active discussions on the usability side of research in the CRO subchannel.
Social Media Communities:
Best for a “What’s up in UX now” rundown
The Reddit upvote feature is a lifesaver here, and the moderators do their jobs well. You’ll get big, popular threads on the common career questions everyone wants answered. There’s a designated space for portfolio techniques. And there are constantly rotating discussions and debates on everything from “doing research with a personality” to “What’s the value in user personas anyway?”
Best for tactic swapping with researchers who get it
User Research Collective (Facebook)
The questions you see tossed around in the User Research Collective are a little more substantial than you come across elsewhere online. It’s less “How do I start a research career?” and more “I’m starting to do research in a new niche—have any best practices?” Or: “My new company doesn’t have this tool I used—what’s a good alternative?” Or “How do you store your research securely—but still make it accessible to your stakeholders?” They’re also really strict on spam-posting surveys and self-promotion, so you don’t have to filter through the noise to hear the conversation.
Best for access to your “must reads” and “must attends”
EPIC People (LinkedIn)
There’s a lot of link blasting on professional forums. But links shared on the EPIC Linkedin group are genuinely pretty interesting. The conversation is obviously curated by the EPIC (Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Community) team. But we’ve found them to be pretty good conversation starters. There are also regular job postings, award opportunities, and panel engagements offered here.
Other online communities you might consider joining:
UXPA - User Experience Professionals Organization (Facebook): UXPA on Facebook hosts some really interesting discussions on UX and ethics, UX and business development, and UX and emerging technologies. There’s some self-promotion, and some posts that get crickets. But it’s definitely worth keeping an eye on.
Give Good UX: Called a “company of friends,” the Give Good UX group is a solid, engaged community for beginning practitioners. There’s slightly less discussion on anything too “in-the-weeds.”
Other places and things the People Nerds Community loves:
We’ve already seen some very comprehensive lists of UXR books and conferences, but we still wanted to highlight a few of our favorites below. If you’re looking for more gatherings and reads, we highly recommend you checkout this Airtable of UX books and this roundup of 2020 conferences.
- Mismatch: How Inclusion Shapes Design by Kat Holmes (details)
- Practical Empathy by Indi Young (details)
- Quantifying the User Experience: Practical Statistics for User Research by Jeff Sauros (details)
- Just Enough Research by Erika Hall (details)
- Universal Methods of Design: 100 Ways to Research Complex Problems, Develop Innovative Ideas, and Design Effective Solutions by Bruce Hanington (details)
- Interviewing Users: How to Uncover Compelling Insights by Steve Portigal (details)
- UXR Conference 2020 (details)
- Advancing Research 2020 - New York (details)
- People Nerds 2020 - San Francisco (details)
- Midwest UX - Columbus (details)
- UXPA International - Baltimore (details)
- EPIC 2020 - Melbourne (details)
- UX Ya’ll 2019 - Durham (details)