Communication – The Most Important UX Skill
The first and most important soft UX skill is communication. As a UX designer, you don’t create projects on your own, but you work for a client and with a design team. This is why you have to be able to gather requirements from the client, present your ideas, explain the reasoning behind your solutions, discuss the project and try to persuade stakeholders to your ideas. It takes time and practice to learn how to communicate effectively and clearly with various types of personalities, but you can accelerate this process by learning more about the background of the stakeholders you’re working with in order to able to “speak their language”. This is why it’s worth expanding your knowledge about the particular industry you are working in, as well as more generally about business and marketing.
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Domain Knowledge – The Second Core UX Design Skill
Whether you’re starting a project for banking, e-commerce, health, IoT or another field, having basic domain knowledge is key. The more you know about how your client’s industry operates, the more you can focus on solving their problems instead of asking questions that are easily Googlable. For example, in banking, you should know what types of products are offered by banks, what are the latest trends in the industry and what apps are commonly regarded as benchmarks of good design. To learn this, you can follow industry experts on social media (Twitter, LinkedIn) and listen to podcasts, conference presentations and video interviews with them. A more comprehensive way into acquiring domain knowledge is finding a book with an overview of a particular industry. For example, a great introduction to finances in Poland is the book Finansowy Ninja by Michał Szafrański. By having domain knowledge, you gain more respect from your client and you can come up with better design solutions.
Knowing How Business Works – An Important Skill for a UX Designer
It is often mentioned on UX forums that the UX skill that is most needed is understanding how business works, and many junior UX designers lack it. UX courses concentrate only on user needs, but in real projects you often have to balance them with business requirements, and sometimes these two contradict each other. To know how to reach a compromise or how to persuade the client to your solution, you have to understand their goals and motivations which are connected with growing their business. One way of filling this knowledge gap is reading a book like Business Essentials by Ronald J. Ebert and Ricky W. Griffin, which covers the basics of demand and supply, the types of companies and how they are financed and how they try to gain advantage over their competitors. Once you understand the basic rules of business, you know which elements of your design you can negotiate and which not, or how to find another solution that addresses both the user needs and the business requirements.
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The Basics of Marketing – A Helpful UX Skill
Another field that’s worth looking into is marketing. Without it, people won’t know about the existence of a new product, and your client won’t make money. In many ways UX design and marketing are similar: they both rely heavily on market research, identify target users/audience and try to fulfill their needs. Moreover, one of the most important concepts in marketing is the 4Ps, which divides marketing tools into four categories: the Product itself, its Price, Promotion, and the Place where it’s sold. So basically, when as a UX designer you’re designing a product, you’re also creating a part of its marketing. When the product itself is great, word of mouth may spread awareness about it. But you need to keep in mind that often you need to design a feature that will act as an incentive for people to spread knowledge about the product, for example offering a reward for recommending the product to a friend. It’s also important to remember that as a UX designer you need to keep the copy and the visuals consistent with the larger strategy of communication of the particular brand. You can improve this UX skill by reading a book with an introduction to marketing, for example Principles of Marketing by Philip Kotler and Gary Armstrong, or taking an e-learning course on this topic.
Curiosity – An Intrinsic UX Skill
Apart from learning about the particular fields mentioned above, it’s also often required from UX designers to be generally more curious and eager to learn. It’s an attitude to life in which we try out new apps and services just to know what innovations and trends are appearing on the market. When you have lived through various experiences, you have a back pocket of ideas which can inspire you when creating your product. The way to learn this is simple: Just do it! Any time an opportunity to do something new comes your way, accept it and gain new experience.
Proactivity – A Required UX Skill
Another important UX designer skill is proactivity. Actually this is more of an attitude than a skill, but it’s often expected of anyone who works in IT. The modern design process is agile, which means that it’s often modified and adjusted to address challenges that arise dynamically. Team members should be open to accept new, unplanned tasks and proactively look for things that need to be done rather than waiting until someone else notices them. Similar to curiosity, you can’t improve this UX skill by learning theory, you just need to practice such an attitude. As a reward you get a feeling of satisfaction that you’re getting things done and reciprocity when your teammates also proactively help you when you need it.