Your guide to enterprise UX - Chapter 3

10 must have skills for UX designers

March 02, 2019
top skills for ux designers try want to climb ladders

With user experience design becoming more popular and in demand, the need to diversify skills is clear. Here are 10 must have skills for UX designers

No serious UX designer wants to be a jack of all trades, master of none. But there are a number of skills within UX design that will set any budding designer up for success.

From using a wireframing tool like Justinmind to understanding the ins and out of behavioral psychology, there’s something for everyone in user experience design. Sometimes it helps to have your fingers in all the pies.

Food analogies aside, UX design is a diverse industry and it’s not uncommon to find people who have specializations in various competencies. This can lead to a little confusion, especially if you’re just getting started out in UX design and don’t know what knowledge you need to be a success.

So, if you’ve asked yourself: what skills do you need to be a good UX designer? Look no further. Here are 10 must-have skills for UX designers, in no particular order.

UX research

You need to step up your skills in UX research if you want to be taken seriously as a UX designer. There’s a lot that goes into creating a mobile app or website, and many of the decisions UXers make are not just plucked from thin air but are meticulously thought out, studied and researched.

UX research is always a top skill for designers

From cognitive psychology to computer science there’s always something for the budding UXer to learn and use in their research process.

Collaboration

No man is an island. And it’s the same for UXers. Unless you know how to code, design, manage projects, understand product and marketing, you’re going to need to collaborate with others in the design process, especially if you want to be successful.

collaboration is a top skill for ux designers that work in agencies or large departments

Research can only take you so far. But collaborating is your opportunity to work in other areas and apply what you’ve learned with different people whose skills complement your own. If you work within a large organization, go ahead and check out our full guide on enterprise UX – it’s got plenty of useful information on collaboration in large teams.

Wireframing and UI prototyping

If you want to convince people of your UX acumen, you need to get used to wireframing and prototyping.

employers look for wireframing and UI design as top skill for ux designers

App prototyping is a great way to understand key functionality of your design before being built by developers. Justinmind is perfect for iterating those sparks of genius that come to you in the middle of the night and just for getting an idea of the direction your app or website may be going. Using a prototyping tool can be a great way to impact investment, too.

UX writing

Writing is the unsung hero of UX. People speak highly of coding, which is a skill that shouldn’t be dismissed, but writing is a talent that can be nurtured over less time to create brilliant user experiences. Pick up your phone and look at any of your apps and it will be filled with perfectly crafted words.

designers recognize that UX writing is a top skill

Microcopy is also a powerful tool to create a good experience for users – and it comes with it’s own tricks and hacks. On our blog post, you can find examples of microcopy with awesome UX – in case you want to see great UX writing in action.

You might never have noticed before but that’s because good UX writing should go unnoticed. Great examples include Apple, MailChimp and Dropbox.

Note: You find read more about the increasingly important role UX writing plays in the sector in this article entitled Forget Coding: Writing is Design's 'Unicorn Skill'.

Visual communication

No UX designer will get very far without being fully versed in visual communication. It’s at the heart of UX.

among top skills for ux designers is visual design

Humans are visual animals – neurons dedicated to processing visual stimuli can take up to 30% of the cortex. To put that into perspective, consider that only 3% of the cortex processes hearing.

So brushing up your UI design skills will help you when you need to create interactive prototypes and mockups that will have a real impact on users.

Note: Check out this great post on the science behind the human brain and its relationship with sight: Humans are Visual Creatures.

User empathy

Being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes means understanding their problems. When you understand someone’s problems better, you’re more equipped when it comes to finding a solution to their problem.

top skills for ux design: user empathy

That’s why empathy is such a vital skill within UX design. When you’re detached from your end users, you fail to design for their needs and feelings which can create a terrible user experience.

Interaction design

It’s one thing to create an aesthetically pleasing design but it’s another thing to understand how users will interact with that design. There’s a lot of crossover between UX and interaction design.

interaction design is a top skill in the UX field

Interaction design is more concerned with how a user interacts with a product or service, which is why interactive prototypes are a great tool to combine when iterating interactions.

Note: Here's a helpful post from the Interaction Design Foundation What is interaction design?

Coding

Most UX designers are multidisciplinary, and in a world that’s starving for tech designers maybe design-developers are the answer to this need.

Side note: That's what Ken Yeung wondered. In his blog post, Yeung points towards a new type of design that derives from this merger of UX design and coding: computational design.

The Design in Tech report 2017 notes that one third of designers had engineering training, so the lines are blurring between designer and developer anyway – so brushing up on your rusty coding skills might not be a bad idea. Plus no one said you had to be a full stack developer!

Analytics

When you create an app or website, you want to test it. You want to know how well your design will perform. Analytics are the road to better understand your design and the user. Perhaps even more importantly, with analytics you can understand the relationship between product and user.

interpreting analytics is a crucial top skill for UX designers

So, understanding numbers, percentages and ratios is a real must when you want to get your head around the performance of your design. Many UXers fear numbers but there’s nothing to fear – they’re there to help you.

Applying analytical information to your design can help you iterate better designs, backed up by real numbers. After all, knowing how to perfect your product ain’t easy, and requires a real foundation of data.

Communication skills

Having core skills like research or design is really important – so are business skills like project and time management. But aside from these, UXers can really stand based on their communication skills.

communication is a top skill for ux designers everywhere

Think public speaking and presentations. Trying to convey design ideas to non-design people is already tough – this escalates even more when you add investors and financing into the equation. Grasping design concepts can be tricky, and as a consequence so is communication for a UX designer.

Note: Here's a really helpful blog post to check out. It's entitled Common Mistakes When Presenting Design Ideas to Clients, and How to Avoid Them.

But knowing how to present and speak confidently to audiences can really help you avoid communication pitfalls and make a positive impact. Being articulate and descriptive doesn’t come naturally to many of us, but luckily is a skill that you can build on over time.

PROTOTYPE · COMMUNICATE · VALIDATE
Show off your great UX skills with awesome prototypes
Rebeca Costa
In-house writer, usability enthusiast and patron of all sleep-deprived designers