What Skills Does a UX Designer Need?

By BrainStation August 15, 2018
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User Experience (UX) Design is the process of creating digital products and experiences with the user in mind. As we’ve written about, this kind of focus on the user’s experience of products is what drives today’s best companies.

Unsurprisingly, UX Designers have become one of the most in-demand technology positions, with 87 percent of hiring managers claiming that hiring UX Designers is their top priority.

In the past, we’ve outlined these five general responsibilities of a UX Designer:

  • Conducting Research
  • Developing User Personas
  • Architecting Information
  • Wireframing Designs
  • Performing Usability Testing

A UX Designer’s skill set needs to be broad enough to handle these tasks and more. So what skills does a UX Designer need to be successful?

Here is a (not so brief) guide to some of the key technical, business, and transferable skills required to excel in UX Design.

Technical Skills

Strong technical design skills and mastery of popular industry tools are crucial for a UX Designer, and a requirement on most design-related job postings.  

User Research and Strategy

Research plays an important role in determining user needs, behaviour, and responsivity, meaning UX professionals must be well versed in research methods, including qualitative and quantitative data collection. UX Designer’s should understand how to plan and conduct research and interpret and analyze findings. According to the design team at IBM, conducting user research is a key method for identifying biases that could be detrimental to product success.

Wireframing and Prototyping

UX Designers need to be knowledgeable about how users navigate and interact with flows of information. They can then apply this usability expertise when designing products through wireframing and prototyping processes. Designers should also be competent with widely used industry tools, including Sketch and InVision, to bring their designs to life.

User Interface (UI) Design

According to a recent InVision survey, 66 percent of UX job postings require UI skills. Visual interface elements such as layout, typography, graphics, images, and animated motion are key to the user’s overall experience. While UX Designers may not be the ones putting the pieces together (this work is often done by User Interface or Interaction Design colleagues), they should have a strong sense of what design elements will optimize user interactions.

Responsive Web Design

In the realm of digital product design, UX Designers should be familiar with the concept of responsive design. Understanding design principles and patterns to ensure that designs are responsive across multiple screens will result in a superior user experience. With 52.2 percent of all global online traffic coming from mobile, designers need to be aware of how user experience changes on a smaller screen size.

Business Skills

UX Designers should also develop skills that serve the business side of product design to effectively manage relationships, and streamline the design process across multiple departments.

Project Management

Knowing how to take a project or design from ideation to delivery is important. As a UX Designer, you aren’t solely responsible for the product’s development, but the ability to lead, coordinate, and stay on schedule will result in a more efficient product development process.

Team and Stakeholder Management

UX Designers collaborate with a diverse group of individuals within an organization  including graphic designers, technology and development teams, product managers, and senior management to create products with optimal user function. When creating a product or service for a client, UX Designers need to be able to consider, address, and manage the expectations of stakeholders within and outside of the organization.

Transferable Skills

UX Design focuses on understanding the customer and working with diverse teams to create an effective, user-centric product. UX Designers can benefit from honing their transferable skills to streamline the work process and ultimately create better products.

Empathy

The ability to understand and identify with another person’s context, emotions, goals and motivations. One of the biggest challenges of user-centered design, as demonstrated by William Hudson, is a lack of understanding of how users think and act in a given situation.

Empathy, therefore, is the first step in the design thinking process, an iterative method used to understand users, challenge assumptions and find creative solutions, and the driving force behind UX Design. Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO, takes it a bit further, claiming that “Empathy is at the heart of design.”

Collaboration

Given that UX Designers must interact with various teams on a regular basis, the ability to effectively collaborate is essential. Active listening, taking initiative, eliciting the views of others, and brainstorming are all effective skills that enable successful teamwork. It’s also crucial that UX Designers collaborate with the right people at the right time. As explained in an article by Adobe, this enables you to receive important feedback at early stages of the project, which can eliminate roadblocks later on.

Communication

Developing skill in oral, written, and technical communication is necessary for each phase of UX Design to be successful. In almost every aspect of the job, UX Designers are communicating, whether it be with users, clients, or colleagues. As Usability Engineer Markus Weber explains, communication is essential for completing tasks within the UX process and to the overall success of a design project.

How Can I Develop UX Skills?

Some of these skills, including the transferable or “soft skills” are often mastered in the workplace, while more specific, technical skills may require more structured learning. One method to advance your UX knowledge is to participate in a training course. BrainStation offers both full-time diploma programs and part-time courses in UX Design that can give you the opportunity to gain hands-on experience.

UX Designers, however, must be lifelong learners, continuously staying on top of new trends, techniques, and tools. It’s a good idea. then, to take on small design projects,  and to familiarize yourself with new and widely used design tools. There are also many great design books and resources written by usability specialists, such as Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think.

UX Designers often come from different backgrounds, whether it be design, marketing, or development. What all UX Designers share is a distinct set of skills that enables them to recognize the needs of users and design efficient, seamless solutions to their problems. Becoming a successful UX Designer means learning to combine transferable, technical, and business skills to design digital products and create a flawless user experience.

If you’re interested in improving your functional design skills, BrainStation offers multiple course options in both UX and UI Design.