When you think of UX design, you might think of technical elements of the job such as sketching, wireframing, making mock-ups, and using an array of design tools to create prototypes. And while these UX skills are foundational to the UX design profession, there’s more to being an effective UX designer than just technical design skills.
Springboard spoke with UX designers from Google, Facebook, Instacart, Zendesk, and Couchsurfing to gather insights on the additional skills every UX designer should have if they want to succeed in the field. Below are five key qualities that can impress a hiring manager, separate a newcomer from the crowd, and further propel a UX designer’s career.
Skill 1: Know how to document and communicate
It’s one thing to be a strong designer who can create both functional and aesthetic designs that meet everyone’s needs. It’s another to be able to clearly document and communicate the designs and the rationale behind them. Both skills are equally important, according to Zendesk UX designer Alexa Herasimchuk.
“[It’s] maybe a little bit underrated,” Hersimchuk said. “Being able to document and communicate design work is supercritical, especially for someone like me who works on a very international team. There’s a lot of back and forth between time zones and different cultures and different areas within the product, so it’s really important for us to be documenting, simplifying down a lot of the decisions, and making it so that we’re able to hand it off and communicate it to people all the way across the world.”
Skill 2: Make tough decisions
Regardless of whether you’re in a managerial role, the most effective UX designers are the ones who can make decisions and aren’t stumped by choice, according to Quynh Nguyen, a UX designer who has worked at Couchsurfing and Luma Health.
“Most of the time, you’re going to have to make that call,” Nguyen said of UX designers. “Everyone sees you as the technical expert for what looks good and what works well. So, you can end up making four to five designs and showing it to your colleagues, but at the end of the day, it’s you who has to decide which design you should go for, [and you’re the ones who has] to articulate clearly why you made the decision that you did.”
Skill 3: Take feedback in stride
Being amenable to feedback seems like an obvious skill that every UX designer needs, and yet, many designers struggle to separate criticism of their work with criticism for themselves, according to Facebook designer lead Avinash Parida.
“I was someone initially who would be very reluctant to take feedback and would go with my ideas and be like, ‘Hey, someone didn’t like my ideas. I’m not a good designer’,” Parida said. But conflating the two wasn’t productive, and the most effective designers are able to have their work critiqued without taking it personally. “Being able to separate the feedback [on the work] from who you are as a designer is very important,” he said.
Skill 4: Collaborate and know when to compromise
UX designers play a highly collaborative role within the design process—they work alongside UX researchers, product developers, software engineers, and information architects; they answer to product managers, team leaders, and company executives; they juggle the needs and expectations of users, stakeholders, and their fellow designers—which is why collaboration and compromise are such important skills to master.
“For me, a great UX designer has to be a great collaborator and a great compromiser, and, of course, a great advocate for the user,” according to Google designer Sandy Woodruff. “Design skills are easier to learn than people’s skills, and I think a huge part of my job is just interacting with different stakeholders, like product engineering, and you have to know how to kind of speak their language. [You also have to be] a compromiser because they say that good design is invisible, but I think good designers are also invisible, not in a bad way, but in a way that you should be comfortable with sharing your sketch files with other designers and collaborating on something and not being too tied to one idea. It’s important to be able to always bring back what’s best for the user and being right is less important than advocating for the user.”
Skill 5: Understand business goals
What sets the best UX designers apart from everyone else is an understanding of both user and stakeholder needs, according to Instacart designer Christine Chun, who emphasized the importance of both understanding an organization’s business goals and being able to draw a connection between those goals and the design solutions you’ve created.
“If you’re just pushing for [a] great user experience but you’re not really shedding light on why the company should be focused on that, then you’re not doing your job as a UX designer,” Chun said. “I think of it this way: the business goal is this, and this is what the users want. I’m kind of in the middle making everyone happy. And user research plays a huge role in that as well. So I think it always goes back to, am I meeting the business goals? Because that’s my employer. And so am I meeting the business goals while making the users happy?”
Ready to switch careers to UI/UX Design?
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