97 Things Every UX Practitioner Should Know, edited by Dan Berlin, O’Reilly Media, 2021

Kay Corry Aubrey reviews 97 Things Every UX Practitioner Should Know. QRCA member and UXer Dan Berlin edited this highly insightful and absorbable collection of short essays by seasoned UX practitioners on a vast range of UX topics.

Reviewed by Kay Corry Aubrey, UX Researcher and Trainer, Usability Resources Inc., Bedford, Massachusetts, kay@usabilityresources.net

This book is a group of ninety-seven brief essays that were written by seasoned user experience (UX) practitioners. It was edited by QRCA member Dan Berlin, who is immersed in the UX world. Berlin is the former head of experience research for MadPow, one of the first big UX consulting agencies in the United States. He is also the founder and currently a principal at Watch City Research, which specializes in UX.

Though the UX field is young, these essays suggest the mindset and canon of knowledge that one needs to master to be a successful practitioner. By reading this book, you’ll get a clearer understanding of what exactly is UX, a field of work that is often mysterious to outsiders.

By perusing the essay titles, you get a sense of the UX field and how it is different from the broader qualitative research world. Each essay explores a unique aspect of the work UX practitioners do. I absorbed information just by thumbing through its table of contents. Some titles that stood out for me were “Don’t Forget about Information Architecture,” “User Experience Extends Beyond the Digital Realm,” and “When Prototyping, Consider Both Visual Fidelity and Functional Fidelity.”

97 Things is organized into five sections—Career, Strategy, Design, Content, and Research. The Career section offers insights from practitioners on what it is like to work in the field and how to position yourself for good assignments. Advice includes mastering the art of storytelling, understanding the language of UX, ways to expand your network to find opportunities, the importance of having a solid portfolio, and what this portfolio should contain. The section on Strategy looks at areas such as service design, approaches for defining the interaction of products that span the digital and physical world, the need for thinking about the larger user’s context when designing individual features, and how to make your work and the work of your team visible to the overall organization.

The Design section covers areas of UX design such as information architecture, visual design, design systems, and prototyping. Many of the essays in the Content section explore how to develop and design content to communicate effectively with an audience covering areas such as terminology, organization, tone, and multiculturalism.

QRCs might find the most value in the Research section. Highly skilled UX researchers cover foundational areas such as persona and journey map research, how to frame questions and activities that deliver the best user feedback, moderating a UX study, working with stakeholders to gain buy-in, and recruiting for UX studies. The essays in the Research section offer a heartening glimpse into the unique and polished skills that seasoned qualitative researchers would bring to UX research. Though the articles are focused on technology research, the message “whatever you do, keep things human at every touchpoint” is a theme through most of the material.

Other essays describe the need for empathy, learning how to recognize your own ignorance as you work on a project, practical tips for dealing with a diverse and multicultural user base, and how to work more effectively with stakeholders.

As someone who has worked in user experience for a few decades, I learned a lot from reading this book, especially from the essays within the Content section, which provided the link between good UX and good communication in our digital world. It was useful to hear the thoughts of others who do work that is similar to what I do.

Readers wanting to enter the field, as well as qualitative researchers considering a career transition, might also find 97 Things Every UX Practitioner Should Know valuable for its manageable overview of UX and pointers to topics that need further study.