In such a fast-changing industry, it seems the list of competencies grows every day. Plus, with the growth of technology, some design tasks currently performed by humans may eventually be automated. There are several design colleges in Jaipur like CODE VGU that have high-ranking user experience design courses. However, to start, let us understand what technical and personality skills one should have to work as a UX Designer.
The good news is the foundational UX skills don’t change, and only real people (not robots, not yet) can do them well. Some are technical skills (like interface design and prototyping), while others are soft skills (like creating value and selling UX). The ability to balance both sides is a great designer’s secret sauce.
Coined by Tim Brown of IDEO, the T-shaped designer has light knowledge in a broad array of disciplines, as well as a deep expertise in a single one (or a few). Having breadth of knowledge breeds respect among colleagues, allows us to understand each other’s work, and fuels collaboration and creativity. Humans crave mastery, though, so going deeper on one or a few disciplines leads to better work and a stronger sense of purpose.
Whether you’re trying to learn how to become a UX designer or building a team of T-shaped talent with complementary UX skills, consider these 10 competencies to ensure you have all the ingredients for success.
The 10 Competencies of UX Design
1. Identifying the “why”
When a company is looking for help improving their product or service, they often want to begin brainstorming or designing solutions right away. However, they’re asking for the most difficult task and rarest UX skills: ideation and problem solving. You often see beautiful products and seamless experiences, but not the amount of research, thinking, and strategy that went into them. And it all begins with knowing the “why.”
As Simon Sinek put it so well in his TED Talk, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” Whether your customer is the end consumer or internal stakeholders, they need to understand the purpose behind your work in order to buy in.
The first questions every designer should ask when working on a new experience or task are:
- Why are you creating this product / service / experience / feature?
- How will it make your business and users’ lives better?
- What difference will it make in the world?
- Why should your customers and stakeholders care about it?
Knowing and sharing the “why” is essential for inspiring your team to build a meaningful experience and motivating your customers to buy it.
2. Creating a vision of the desired outcome
Your vision builds on the “why.” It acknowledges the problem you’re solving, then gives an inspirational glimpse of your proposed solution and how it will lead to better outcomes.
Your vision answers questions like:
- What user problem or pain point will this solve?
- How will you solve it in a unique way?
- What will the experience be like?
- What will the outcomes be when your vision is realized?
It’s tempting to ignore this competency so you can focus more on technical skills and “doing the work.” But by quickly articulating your design philosophy (starting with your “why” and vision), you will be able to make faster and easier decisions, stay aligned, and build experiences that bring your vision to life.
3. Understanding your audience through empathy and research
Most of us think we know our users, but do our perceptions match reality? And how do their attitudes and behaviours change based on what’s going on in their lives, their interactions with our products and services, and everything else that affects their mood?
Empathizing in particular is one of the most commonly skipped steps in the design process. Yet it often makes the biggest difference in producing positive results and avoiding major mistakes that cost money, reputations, and even lives. That’s why it’s such an essential UX competency.
4. Measuring audience experience success
Measurement is a vital ingredient to UX success because, as Peter Drucker once said, ”What gets measured, gets managed.” It makes design more objective, concrete, and valuable to a business by answering the questions:
- What’s the goal?
- How will you track progress and know when you’re successful?
- When will it be achieved?
5. Reducing friction with context, structure, and flow
Reducing friction with context, structure, and flow is also known as information architecture, this competency is the practice of deciding how to arrange all the individual parts into something that users understand. It helps answers questions like:
- What are the users’ primary goals, and how can they achieve them using your product or service?
- How will a person flow through the experience?
- How will they find the information they’re looking for and accomplish their tasks?
- What’s the fastest and easiest way to get them from place to place?
- What’s going on in the user’s environment that affects their experience? What rules exist that users have to work around, and how will they do so?
This competency requires a strong sense of empathy for the user so you can see the world and the experience through their eyes. It also demands a strategic mindset to see how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together, plus basic technical skills to create visuals such as sitemaps, wireframes, and diagrams so you can show that puzzle to others.
6. The art of interaction design
We interact with devices all day long: some physical and some digital. Although you can’t remember the first time you used a light switch, you had to learn what it is, how it works, and what it helps you accomplish.
The same goes for digital products. We don’t think twice about the websites, apps, and technology we use throughout the day, but at some point, we discovered them and learned how to interact with them. That was possible because their designers were skilled at interaction design.
This discipline answers several questions for the user:
- What can be done with this product or service?
- What just occurred?
- What’s happening now?
- How do I accomplish my task or goal?
The art of interaction design turns mechanical technology into an intuitive experience. It allows people to quickly get familiar with your product, easily achieve their objective, and remember how to do it again when they come back later. By understanding your users, their goals, and their context, you can design interactions that help them easily discover your product and enjoy using it.
7. Interface design and prototyping
A picture is worth a thousand words, and a feeling is worth a million. Rather than trying to tell someone a concept or idea with words, your ability to show it through interface design and prototyping is a must-have UX skill.
These competencies require you to anticipate what users might need to do, and ensure the interface has elements they need to do it quickly and easily. Interface designs and prototypes answer questions like:
- What might the ideal solution look, sound, and feel like?
- How might it work?
- Are you sure you’re solving the right problem?
- How will your idea meet our users’ needs and relieve their pains?
- Is your solution technically feasible?
This is one of the more technical UX competencies, with lots of tools available: the Adobe suite, Sketch, InVision, Axure, Proto.io, various coding languages, Heroku, Ruby on Rails, GitHub, and more. But don’t let the endless list of tools deter you. It’s all about the outcomes and value you produce, not the tools you use to produce them. And in many cases, a simple paper-and-pen sketch can do wonders!
8. Writing for meaningful experiences (UX writing)
The world is riddled with gorgeous websites, apps, products, and experiences. But without useful, usable, and engaging content underneath the slick design, they’re destined to fail. UX veteran Jeffrey Zeldman says it well: “Content informs design. Design without content is decoration.” That’s why writing is a key UX competency.
UX writing involves crafting copy for user interfaces so people know how to use and interact with the product. It includes instructional copy, buttons, menu labels, error messages, form copy, terms and conditions, and more, answering questions like:
- What should each screen say?
- How can you guide users step by step through the interface so they can successfully accomplish their task?
- How do you infuse your brand’s personality into the content?
- How can you convey the necessary message in as few words and characters as possible?
- How can you reinforce the value of the product or service at each step?
9. Infusing assistance and intelligence
Technology has sparked some of the greatest advancements in history, but also created unexpected psychological, social, and health challenges. Many people are no longer looking for more technology, but rather, better technology that improves their lives.
Consequently, UX designers need to know when and how to incorporate assistance and intelligence, answering questions like:
- How can you use technology to customize each user’s experience based on their context (their location, environment, feelings, etc.)?
- How can you give people the convenience of technology, with looking at or interacting with a screen?
- Of all the ways you could add assistance and intelligence, which ones align with your business strategy and user needs?
The Apple Watch is a great example. As a wearable, it inherently provides the convenience of technology without sitting in front of a screen. Its smart notifications also do a great job of serving the right information at the right moment, without taking over your life (unless you want them to).
10. Championing the value of UX
Design used to be considered a purely creative discipline that was focused on how something looks. But now, technology has disrupted design, leading to fragmentation of specialties, exponentially faster timelines, and higher demands from both users and businesses.
As a result, the role of a design professional has had to change too. No longer can we just create products that look pretty and call it a day. Pretty products may impress someone for a moment, but they don’t create lasting value.
That’s why great UX designers focus on value over vanity, and know how to convey the business case for their work. They have a combination of business knowledge and communication skills that allow them to answer common questions and objections from stakeholders with ease, such as:
- Why should we invest in this?
- How will this support our business goals?
- How will this improve the user experience?
- What’s the ROI?
- What’s the risk if we don’tinvest in this?
- We don’t have the budget / time for that.
- We have other projects that take priority.
- We’re not interested at this time.
Having great ideas is one thing, but without the ability to convey those ideas and get buy-in, you’ll only get so far. The designers who have strong business, communication, and storytelling skills are the ones who will earn and keep their seat at the table.