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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 skillset 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.
Strong technical design skills and a mastery of popular industry tools are crucial for a UX Designer, and a requirement on most design-related job postings. These include:
User Research and Strategy
Research plays an important role in determining user needs, behavior, and responsivity, meaning UX professionals must be well versed in research methods, including qualitative and quantitative data collection. UX Designers 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 an 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
UX Designers should be familiar with the concept of responsive design, which ensures that designs are responsive across multiple screens. This is becoming more important with time, as 52.2 percent of all website traffic worldwide was generated through mobile phones in 2018.
UX Designers also need to develop skills that serve the business side of product design to effectively manage relationships, and streamline the design process across multiple departments. These business and operational skills include:
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.
UX Design focuses on understanding the customer and working with diverse teams to create an effective, user-centric product. Achieving this usually requires the following skills:
Empathy is the ability to understand and identify with another person’s context, emotions, goals, and motivations. One of the biggest challenges of user-centered design is in overcoming a lack of understanding of how users think and act in a given situation. The assumption is that “users will approach and solve problems in the same way as the Designers and Developers of an interactive solution. Extreme examples of this self-as-user outlook is the belief that interaction problems are either the direct fault of users or the failure of users to follow instructions,” wrote William Hudson.
Empathy is the driving force behind UX Design, or as Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO, describes it, “the heart of design.”
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.
Developing communication skills is fundamental for UX Designers, as they will need to rely on these skills in almost every aspect of the job. Whether presenting to clients and project stakeholders, interviewing users, or collaborating with teammates, UX designers need to be able to articulate ideas and listen to feedback.
How Can I Develop UX Skills?
Successful UX Designers must be lifelong learners, continuously staying on top of evolving trends, emerging techniques, and new tools. In fact, according to the 2019 BrainStation Digital Skills Survey, 77 percent have participated in workshops, seminars, or industry conferences.
Developing these skills, therefore, is an ongoing process that seasoned and aspiring UX designers can do through a combination of certificate courses, industry events, conferences, blogs, books (such as Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think), and more. The fun is in realizing there is always something new to learn.