Tutorial 4: The Skills You Need To Be A UX Designer
“Welcome to the fourth tutorial in our UX Design for Beginners course. I’m Tobias, a Director of Design at a Berlin agency with over 20 years of experience in the UX and digital design space. I’m also a Senior UX Mentor with CareerFoundry 🤓. What does that mean? That means I guide students from beginner to professional on the full UX Design Course through regular calls and consultations on their design work. CareerFoundry has one of the most engaged and successful communities of mentors and students in the world. If you’re enjoying this course, I really recommend joining the full course!”
What are we going to do today?
Considering you signed up for this course, you probably like the sound of a career as a UX designer. But what types of skills are required to become one? Look no further! That’s exactly the topic of today’s tutorial. From the soft to the hard, we’ll take a look at every skill you’ll need if you have hopes of becoming a UX designer. As UX design is an incredibly diverse field, UX designers themselves tend to boast a wide variety of skills—and it’s quite likely you already possess at least a few of them.
What are soft skills, and which are the most important for a UX designer?
Soft skills are a combination of personal attributes and social and communication skills. They’re harder to measure than technical skills, but are increasingly valued in the workplace. As a UX designer, you’ll often work on cross-team and cross-functional projects. This is where soft skills can make the most impact. Let’s look at each of the most important soft skills as a UX designer.
UX designers spend a great deal of time presenting to clients and stakeholders, interviewing users, drawing design solutions, and collaborating with the members of their team. For this reason, the number one skill to have as a UX designer is communication—and it goes both ways! Whether written, verbal, or visual, UX designers need to be able to articulate their ideas clearly while also being an active and engaged listener.
As a UX designer, anywhere decisions are being made about the direction of a product or service, you are the voice of your users. It’s your duty to advocate for them, and you need to be able to view the product through their eyes to do so. What are their pain points? What are their goals? What do they want? Empathizing with your users will allow you and anyone else you’re working with to make better design decisions.
Want to read more?
Claire has written about the importance of empathy in UX design—and how her experience as a nurse has contributed to her career in design—in an enlightening article for our blog.
UX designers work with a great many documents and design deliverables in their role. This can be everything from design briefs, research findings, and interview results to wireframes, prototypes, and design specifications. It’s therefore essential that a UX designer be highly organized. Not only will this save their own sanity, it’ll save their colleagues’ sanity too — nearly all of their work is eventually distributed to other team members and stakeholders.
What are hard skills, and which are the most important for a UX designer?
Hard skills are technical and functional skills required by a job. Unlike soft skills, they’re job-specific, and they’re usually measured by performance. Let’s take a look at some of the most sought-after skillsets of a UX designer—hopefully you’ll recognise some of the terminology from Claire’s tutorials.
Thorough research can be the determining factor between a great experience and a terrible experience. User research (and your analysis of this research) plays a crucial role in discovering user needs. It also plays a pivotal part in the UX design process. Tasks include (but are not limited to) user testing, interviews, surveys, questionnaires, and focus groups.
Information architecture refers to the organization of information in an effective, accessible, and meaningful way. With the sheer amount of information now available to us on the web, the role of information architecture has become all the more significant. A good information architecture ensures that whenever a user enters your site or app, they know exactly where to go for the information they need and can easily navigate to it. Tasks in this skillset include producing and implementing site maps, labelling systems, and organizing navigational structures in ways that would feel intuitive to a user.
Wireframing & Prototyping
Wireframes and prototypes are a crucial component of any design process. They allow UX designers to quickly communicate and test their ideas with teammates, stakeholders, and potential users. Wireframes and prototypes can be as simple as a Post-It note of a single mobile screen to a high-fidelity digital mockup of an entire product.
Sharing and testing wireframes and prototypes allows designers to receive valuable feedback and incorporate it into their designs—before time and money are poured into the product’s visual design and development.
A Common Misconception
A lot of us equate being a designer to having a natural eye for aesthetics or being a whiz with a sketchbook. But in truth, creating a beautiful and functional app goes far beyond visual aesthetics alone.
More than an end product, UX is about the process of design and how you channel your users’ needs. In fact, the final (visual) stage of the design process is oftentimes completed by a UI (user interface) designer.
A UI designer is more likely to be responsible for the aesthetics of a product (color scheme, fonts, imagery, illustrations, etc.). This is because a UI designer possesses different skills from a UX designer. That being said, there’s still significant overlap between the two fields. A popular analogy used to demonstrate this is that of a house: The UX of the house consists of the foundations, structure, and framing, while the UI components consist of the wallpaper, paint, and interior design. Dain Miller, meanwhile, evokes the experience of riding a horse:
For more information, check out this hugely popular article on the topic of the differences between UX and UI design from our blog.
Are you ready to start thinking like a UX designer?
Before Will, one of our Student Advisors, takes over in your fifth tutorial, take some time out to revise what you’ve learned so far. Imagine yourself ten months in the future. You’ve just started your first UX design job as a junior UX designer and someone asks you what you do. When you say “UX design” they look perplexed. How would you answer the following questions?
- What is UX design?
- What does a UX designer actually do?
- How is UX design different from other design fields?
As ever, feel free to get back to us with your answers and we’ll review and give feedback on them. Good luck with the quiz, and enjoy the the final two tutorials of the course.
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