The Need-to-Know Skills of User Experience and User Interface Design


If you’re a designer, writer, product person or developer, you’re probably already doing some UX Design whether you know it or not.

In this article, I will cover some things you can do to become a UX designer. I’ll also touch on some of the need-to-know skills of User Interface Design, so you can get on the way to starting your new career.

This guide is broken down into three main steps for you. If you’d like to skip ahead to one of them, simply use the clickable menu:

  1. Build need-to-know core skills
  2. Get agency experience
  3. Read books, magazines, and blogs
  4. Final thoughts

1. Build need-to-know core skills

The scope of UX Design is massive, which is great because it gives you a large number of possible areas you can specialise in and become an expert at.

In our complete guide to UX skills, we isolated 12 main ones, divided up between industry skills, soft skills, and crossover skills. These crossover (or non-design) skills are important ones particularly for career-changers to remember, but let’s focus on the industry ones here.

If you’re a generalist, taking projects from end-to-end, you will need the following skills to deliver a lean UX project:

Strategy & Content

Knowing your objectives is a good place to start. There are three main factors:

  1. Business Objectives
    In a nutshell, what are your client’s business goals? What are they trying to achieve? How are you going to measure this? What are the metrics to use?
  2. User Objectives
    Who would be the potential users of the system? What are their goals, frustrations and motivations?
  3. User Flow
    Another factor you need to consider is the user flow, which is the path a user takes through your app, website or other system to complete a task. For example, request an invite, make a purchase, or book a reservation.

Wireframing & Prototyping

You will need to outline the scope of the project and list metadata for the different sections of the app in order to begin wireframing and prototyping. In my experience, UXPin is the best tool for both the beginner and seasoned expert as it can show responsive designs, it is a collaborative tool and it’s quick and easy to use—no coding required!

Visual Design

Visual design is the process of transforming your wireframe ideas into mockups. It is important to consider the platform you’re designing in order to understand the needs of the developers.

My top tip is to seek out some nice icon sets online. My personal preferences are those with a flat, minimal style. I also refer to to keep up to date with the latest trends in app design.

Metrics & Analytics

Once the team has launched an initial iteration of your product it is important to measure the effectiveness of the initiative. UX pioneer Grace Hopper says:

“One accurate measurement is worth more than a thousand expert opinions.”

Effectively, what matters most is not how it looks, but how it works.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • How is it performing in terms of task completion rates?
  • What are the bounce rates?
  • What is the churn rate?

Generally, these questions will circle back to the business objectives you identified in the initial phases of the project. You should work to continually measure and to optimise.

2. Get agency experience

I was working in agencies before I became a full-time freelancer. It was the best thing that ever happened to me. I got an insight into the different personnel required to launch a successful app or website. I also gained an insight into how to go about working as a UX Designer and what tools to use etc.

In my experience the most important lesson I learned was the standard of work that is required to succeed. Your work will be the launchpad for landing future projects, so make sure that each time you do something it’s of top notch quality.

Ask yourself: “Is this of agency quality? Am I proud to call this my own?” Always give it your best.

3. Read books, magazines, and blogs

Books, magazines & blogs are another good way to learn some of the need to know skills of UX/UI Design.

Below you’ll find the books that have helped me on real world projects:

  • Information Architecture for the World Wide Web – Morville & Rosenfeld
  • A Project Guide to UX Design – Unger & Chandler
  • About Face 3 – The Essentials of Interaction Design – Cooper
  • Communicating Design – Brown
  • Observing the User Experience – Goodman, Kuniavsky, Moed
  • Prototyping – Zaki Warfel
  • Designing Interfaces – Tidwell

If you’re looking for some more recommended reading, check out our article on the best UX design books.

4. Final thoughts

I hope this article has helped you to get some idea of how to go about getting some practical experience in UI/UX design. The most important thing to remember is to understand the needs of the user and different stakeholders of the project and to design in a way that avoids functional bloat, so that simplicity can be achieved.

CareerFoundry offers a great curriculum to get you up to speed across all fronts. If you’re itching to establish yourself in UX sooner rather than later, check the UX Design and UI Design program.

Read up on someone with firsthand experience into career changing into UX design with this profile on CareerFoundry graduate Sophie Lepinoy.

And in this webinar transcript, Hannah Alvarez, the lead content strategist at UserTesting, discusses how to design your user interface to maximize user satisfaction.

If you’d prefer to read more about the world of UX and UI, then these articles may be of interest:

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