UX research, wireframing, prototyping, user interview tactics, Figma/Adobe XD/Sketch – everyone could learn those. The beauty of UX and the reason it has become so popular is that, unlike other design disciplines, it could be taught and almost anyone with a degree could start practicing and learning.
This is the reason why they’re so many brilliant, mediocre, and catastrophic examples of UX design on the market – anyone can give it a go.
So what really will make a difference for a UX designer is mastering their soft skills and going a bit deeper with their hard skills.
I’ve put a list of what I think a good UX designer really needs in 2020, apart from what their tutor and job description say.
1. Learn to take criticism
There’s no way your work is always amazing. Ditch your ego, so you can analyse what went wrong and keep improving. Humble designers are also much more fun to work with and become better over time.
UX as a discipline changes every day. There’s no place for the “I know it all” mindset. What you have to learn is that you have to keep learning, if you want to stay in the game.
2. Business over UX
Here’s how I approach a UX challenge. I start by trying to understand the business and its needs, then – the user needs, and last – I move to my hypotheses and assumptions that could get us closers to a product that caters for both – business and user.
Recently, it has become very common for UX designers to get obsessed with the user, almost ignoring that there’s no point in building the perfect user journey if this doesn’t work for the overall business strategy. UX can’t work in isolation and it should not become a designer & user love romance.
Researching the industry and getting familiar with the business model and metrics and detaching yourself from the user as a start, will give you a great competitive advantage. UX should serve the business needs. The other way around sounds idealistic and great on paper, but it doesn’t work in the real world.
3. Listen more than you talk
The smartest person in the room syndrome is a death penalty for a UX designer. Ask, listen, think, solve. Rushing to suggest solutions without asking the right questions first and thinking through the answers you hear might lead you in the wrong direction.
4. Be ready for a fight
You have to be prepared to convince more senior people why a UX decision has been taken, without falling victim to the HiPPO* syndrome (the highest-paid person’s opinion). People will argue, question your decisions, raise eyebrows, and have 100 reasons why something might not work. Don’t get intimidated, have your 100 answers ready and let the user tests have the final word.
You can’t be a “yes man” in this field, as many things are subjective until you have the proof.
5. Improve your people skills
Emotional intelligence and the ability to “read” people is useful in any field, but even more critical for UX designers. Understanding human emotions and personality types is critical for dealing with users and stakeholders. I’m still working on it.
6. Stop reading theories. Start practicing.
You can draw hundreds of diagrams and read all UX laws, but the real learning comes from improving real products.
I often work on projects started by other UX designers, who had spent weeks, sometimes even months on research, drawing user stories, documenting endless user interviews and tests. Extensive user research is only worth it if it’s successfully translated into live products. You won’t get far with quoting smart theories in front of a whiteboard.
7. Get comfortable with data
Data and product analysis skills will have a massive impact on your project outcomes and are a huge competitive advantage. Most designers still get intimidated when they hear the word “data” and struggle to translate product insights into meaningful design decisions.
If you’re not sure where to start from, have a look at this article on 8 Practical Ways and Tools to Make Use Of Data as a Designer.
8. Work on your UI skills
The best UX design is done with the final version of the product in mind. Understanding typography, colours, visual hierarchy, interactions is critical to building seamless user journeys.
As a UX designer, you don’t need to be a brilliant visual designer, but you should be at least an ok UI designer.
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