Over the past 20 years, user experience has been growing significantly. If your new to UX design or you aspire to get into this expanding industry, here, in this article, i have written about the top 10 skills that will help you becoming a better UX designer. Before delving into the nitty-gritties of UX, let us first understand what the role itself entails…
What is UX?
The role of a UX designer, is the process that a team of designers take, to make the experience of different products that users engage with more meaningful and significant. Which means designing the entirety of the process and making it more valuable for the user’s needs. This involves integrating the product, including aspects of branding, design, usability and function. Think of some of your favourite products; iPad, iPhone and Apple watch, these are all designed to provide fun, pleasure and efficiency as well as product consumption. A good UX designer meets a particular user’s needs in the specific context for the product. They consider the Why, What and How of the product use. The Why involves the motivation for the product. Do they relate to the task themselves that needs to be performed? And to the values and views the users share when associating with the product. The What addresses the functionality of the product- what can users do, with this specific product? Lastly, the How relates to the design functionality- as well as this being aesthetically pleasing, is this product accessible? UX designers, always start with the Why and then move onto the What and How.
The difference between UX & UI
It is important to understand that UX and UI both go hand in hand; you can’t have one without the other. However, possessing UI design skills is not mandatory to become a UX designer and vice-versa. Both roles require different skills with separate tasks. The main difference is to understand that UX is about the user’s experience, whereas the UI design is about the products interfaces look and function.
A UX designer takes the initiative to understand the process of a user’s entire journey just to solve one particular issue. By asking questions such as, how straightforward is the experience? In other words, will the user be able to easily understand the product. A lot of their work focuses on finding out what problems users come up against and how a certain product may help them. They will conduct extensive user research to find out their target audience and what their needs are in relation to a certain product. They focus on information architecture and what features the user may need, eventually creating a wireframe.
After receiving the wireframe, the UI designer steps in to bring the paper to life. The UI designer then maps out all the visual aspects including touchpoints that the user may encounter. Whilst scrolling through a page, the UI designer influences the designs of the page itself and other aspects such as an image gallery. The UI designer focuses on the details of making the UX user journey become possible. The UI designer role is not to just aesthetically please but making the page more accessible and inclusive. Asking questions such as what colour paintings will help cater to blindness? To summarise:
- UX comes first in the development process followed by UI
- UX design helps identify user problems, UI design is about creating intuitive, aesthetically-pleasing, interactive interfaces.
- UX can be applied to any product or service whereas UI only applies to digital products and experiences.
Must-Have skills for a UX Designer
In order to become a great UX designer it is important to have a broad-range skill set. This includes having a soft skill set, industry skills and crossover skills.
Soft skill set: include having communication skills and collaborative skills, along with having empathy curiosity and critical thinking. These skills are not what usually are taught but often inherited in other work or life experiences, which will be beneficial with continuous refinement.
Industry skill set: this skill set is often learnt from attending a UX design course, boot-camp: user research, UX writing and many more.
Cross-over skill set: this skill set often takes place over time and constant dedication in studying and opening the learning horizon. This skill set includes research, analytics, customer service, coding and web development.
10 must-have skills for UX designers
So earlier in the article, I write about the skills you have to acquire to become a good designer. Here is a list of 10 skills; in no particular order.
- Wireframe and UI Prototyping-
Proto-typing is a great way of understanding key functionality of your design, before being built by developers. Prototyping allows you to test those assumptions you arrive at from your user research. By creating this prototype, you can then validate the accuracy with user testing. It helps you catch mistakes before the coding takes place and has to be corrected. So, using this technique is a best way to start and good practise to have.
- User Research-
Before finalising a product, UX designers meticulously conduct research and well thought-out plans and information. UX research can be useful for both user research and user testing. The user testing, identifies target audiences, creating user persona’s, and gathering data to make informed design decisions. The user testing, involves creating prototypes and wireframes to test on users as well as carrying out user interviews, and performing website heat maps.
- UX Writing-
As well as coding, writing is the disguised champion of UX; which shouldn’t go dismissed. Having a brilliant coding background is great but nurtured writing is a talent that can create a brilliant user experience. When searching through your phone, ipad and laptop, you will experience on several apps, the use of perfectly crafted words. UX designer skills cover information architecture, which determines the order in what your content is displayed to your users. UX writers also creates copies that speak to your users mental models which helps them understand your product better.
“Rome wasn’t built in a day, but they were laying bricks every hour-Unknown”
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 an important trait to have as a UX designer as it helps you communicate to your clients to ensure the result of the product meets both business goals and user expectation. This is your opportunity as UX designer to work in other areas and apply what you have learnt with different people whose skills will complement your own.
- Visual communication-
The heart of UX design involves being well versed in visual communication. Being on top of your UI design skills will help you when you need to create interactive prototypes and mock ups. In design, visual communication covers everything from white spaces, visual hierarchy, to making elements look clickable, so the user doesn’t feel the need to follow a written guide/ instruction.
- User Empathy-
“True empathy requires that you step outside your own emotions to view things entirely from the perspective of the other person”
To be able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes means you can also understand their problem. Once understanding one’s perspective, solutions follow naturally. That is why empathy is a vital skill to inherit in this field. When disconnected from the user’s experience and needs, it can create a dreadful level of proficiency. To build empathetic skills with the correct research and data, can help comprehend the user’s requirements.
- Interaction design-
Creating visually beautiful designs is great but another thing is to be able to understand how users may interact with the design. Creating interactive prototypes are a great tool to combine when inventing interactions, but these interactions should be able to help your user determine something simple as a scroll or a swipe.
Learning languages such as HTML, CSS, Java-script and jQuery can help you understand from a technological perspective for your development as a designer. A world that is aching for tech designers, UX designers learning these languages may be the key.
An app prototyping tool, not only allows you to create the apps you want but better yet, test it. If you want to know how well your design will perform, Analytics is the best option. Analytics can help you understand your design and the user. Even more importantly, you can understand the relationship between the product and the user. Testing the performance of your product will rely on your understanding of numbers, percentages and ratios. The trick is to know that the numbers are there to help you, so do not be afraid to practise getting better at this. Applying analytics to these designs will help you with better designs with the support of real numbers. Having a foundation of data will help perfect your product.
- Communication skills-
Lastly communication skills, public speaking and presentations will benefit you as UX designer as trying to convey design ideas to non-design people is hard- but this will escalate when trying to add investors into the equation. Grasping communication skills is a must, knowing how to present and speak confidently to audiences can really help avoid pitfalls whilst making a positive impact.
The UX industry is a rising field and is more and more important as each year passes. Up-skilling can make this rewarding career a dream come true. Do you think UX is for you?