The Elements of User Experience APR 14 2003
For some years now, we web designers have been operating with a rough idea of exactly what it is we do. By mimicking the practices of other disciplines, sharing knowledge via web sites & mailing lists, reading industry magazines, following design gurus, and a whole lot of making it up as we go along, we've managed to get quite a bit done. That said, in order to move forward, there's tremendous value in concisely presenting all that we've learned in one place, and that's exactly what Jesse James Garrett has done with The Elements of User Experience (Amazon link).
And he does this without pushing a trademarked process or holding himself up as a guru with all the answers. Instead, he simply describes the process that web designers have been using to get things done. I say "simply", but that word belies the clarity and thoroughness of the book in its description of user experience design. One of the book's most valuable contributions is the explanation of exactly how the various specialties fit into the larger process. Information design, information architecture, visual design, interface design, interaction design; they're all represented in Jesse's model of user experience design (shown at right).
Highly recommended for anyone involved in web design and developments, especially for managers and technical folk to get an idea of what us designers actually do. Here's chapter 2 of the book in PDF format to get you started.