UX design is one of the most multifaceted fields out there, calling for a highly diverse skill set.
As a budding UX designer, one of the biggest challenges you’ll face is how best to market yourself. What are employers looking for? What kinds of skills will help you stand out?
When it comes to the UX job hunt, there’s a tendency to focus on honing that killer portfolio. Of course, this is crucial—employers want to see that you’ve mastered your craft. However, great design skills alone will seldom be enough to land you your dream role.
It’s important to recognize that, in the eyes of the hiring manager, you’re not “just” a UX designer. You are key to ensuring the success of the brand and helping the business to achieve its goals.
So, in addition to first-class design skills, you’ll need to stand out in other areas too.
What are the essential skills of a UX designer? Keep reading to find out.
You can’t market yourself as a UX designer until you’ve mastered the fundamentals. What counts as “essential” or “desirable” will vary depending on both the company and on the specifics of the role—but here are the skills that appear most frequently in UX Designer job descriptions:
- Proficiency in creating user stories, personas, sitemaps, wireframes, prototypes and storyboards
- Ability to plan and conduct user testing, surveys, and formal evaluations
- Ability to iterate your work based on user testing data and qualitative feedback
- Understanding of interaction design principles and information architecture
- Knowledge of industry tools: Sketch, InVision, Adobe InDesign, Illustrator, Zeplin, OmniGraffle (to name just a few!)
Not only do you need the technical know-how to design great products; UX designers also need to be somewhat business-savvy. It’s important to understand how the products you design impact the wider business goals.
Employers want to see that you can design with their company objectives in mind—and, if you’re applying for in-house roles, that you can thrive in and contribute to the business environment. When searching for UX positions, you’ll often come across the following requirements:
- Ability to translate goals, objectives, and data into digital experiences
- Understanding of business metrics, and how your designs contribute to performance
- Ability to collaborate in cross-departmental teams
- Strong project management and time management skills
- Ability to plan, facilitate and lead workshops in order to make UX a company-wide mentality
- Strong communication and presentation skills; an ability to articulate and discuss your design decisions with clients and stakeholders
If you’re applying for your first ever in-house UX design role, you might be wondering how you can showcase such skills without any previous experience. However, many of the competencies listed above stem from a range of soft skills, which we’ll look at next.
Before we delve into soft skills, it’s important to point out that there’s no specific persona that is best suited to a career in UX design. We’ve seen all different kinds of people with all different kinds of backgrounds take to UX like a duck to water.
With that said, there are certain personal attributes that go a long way in the UX design field. Even if you’ve never worked as a UX designer before, you will no doubt have demonstrated the most sought-after soft skills in other areas of your life. In addition to the necessary technical skills, employers will also be on the lookout for:
- Excellent written and verbal communication: for presenting your ideas and communicating every aspect of your designs to the relevant departments.
- Flexibility and adaptability: UX design is extremely fast-paced, and will require you to wear many hats. You need to be ready to adapt to different situations and think on your feet.
- Empathy: UX design is all about the user, so empathy is an absolute must. Here, nurse-turned-UX designer Claire explains why.
- Teamwork: from UI designers to developers, from stakeholders to customer service reps, you’ll spend a lot of your time working with others - so you need to show that you’re a team player.
- Problem-solving: UX designers are problem-solvers, so a natural knack for both creative and critical thinking will make it much easier to come up with those all-important design solutions.
Essential UX Design Skills: Where do I Start?!
As you can see, the list is long. If you’re only just embarking on your UX design journey, you may be wondering how on earth you’re ever going to master all of these skills!
But don’t panic. As you immerse yourself in the world of UX, you’ll pick up and develop many of these skills without even realizing. A good UX Design course will take care of all the design-specific methodologies and techniques and, as you work on your own projects, you’ll hone those soft skills you already possess.
The learning curve is steep, but most UX designers will tell you that it’s worth it! If you’re applying for your first UX design job, be sure to highlight these skills on your CV. If you’re still weighing up a career in UX, check out our 7-step guide to getting started—and don’t forget to try our free email short course.
What You Should Do Now
- If you’d like a step-by-step intro to find out if UX design is right for you - sign up here for our free 7-day UX short course.
- If you are interested in becoming a UX Designer check out our UX design course (you'll learn the essential skills employers need).
- Find out more about our graduates: their journeys, portfolio projects, and salary increases.
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