What Skills Does a UX Designer Need?
The skills a UX designer needs to get started in the industry cover everything from learning the basic principles of visual design, to designing an entire project on one’s own. UX designers are expected to have both hard and soft skills when they enter a new job in the industry.
Hard skills are teachable and measurable, and include things you’d likely learn through formal education. For UX designers, hard skills include the ability to use specific computer software programs, like Figma, Sketch, or Photoshop, and follow processes like sketching and wireframing.
Soft UX design skills can be a little harder to define, and are often a combination of personality traits and learned behaviors. They include things like empathy, active listening, effective communication, and even small talk and the ability to maintain a collaborative atmosphere.
Here’s a bit more information about the hard and soft skills that employers expect a UX designer to have in their repertoire.
Hard UX Design Skills
Visual and UI Design
UX designers need a baseline of visual and UI design skills. This includes the ability to create visual elements like buttons and icons, decide on color and typography, design visual hierarchy, develop a consistent visual language, and more. The ability to create pixel perfect designs quickly and systematically will also free up time for research and prototyping. Learning visual and UI design is the best way to start transitioning your career to UX design. With UX Academy Foundations, you'll work 1-on-1 with an expert mentor to learn key visual design concepts and practical skills.
Design Software Proficiency
This hard skill may seem like the most obvious, but UX designers need to be proficient in a variety of design software, like Figma, Sketch, and Adobe XD.
UX designers need to be able to prioritize and organize complex sets of information. Understanding how to organize information is what makes the difference between delightful navigation in an app, and a frustrating, bewildering product experience.
Research and Analysis
UX designers need to be able to investigate user needs and competitor products through structured quantitative and qualitative research. UX Design isn’t just all about the look and feel of a product, it’s also about usability and how a product can help users reach their goals — without UX Research, it isn’t truly UX design.
UX designers need both high-fidelity and low-fidelity wireframing skills. Low-fidelity wireframes might be used in the early stages of ideation, when rough ideas are being explored and prototyped. High-fidelity wireframes (which are closer to the final design) are often used later in a project, before adding visual polish.
Prototyping and Testing
UX designers are often responsible for creating low-fidelity prototypes of product concepts, which are then tested with user groups. Later in the process, once the high-fidelity visual and UI design work has been done, UX designers will lead the prototyping and testing of high-fidelity designs, gathering detailed user feedback on the product experience.
Designing for Development
UX designers need to understand how to create designs that mesh with development best practices. UX designers don’t need to know how to code, but they do need to have a basic understanding of developers’ work, and how their design work fits into that.
Soft UX Design Skills
UX designers need an interest in the unknown. If you’re naturally curious, wonderful! But curiosity can also be cultivated through deliberate practices. If it doesn’t come to you so easily, you could try adopting everyday routines that encourage you to explore the unknown.
Emotional Intelligence & Empathy
UX designers need to identify with the needs and feelings of other people. Empathy has a special importance in the UX design process, because it is a user-centered discipline by definition. “Empathize” is also the first step in the design thinking methodology.
Critical thinking is essential in figuring out what information you need, and then designing questions that are going to help you get to useful answers. At the analysis stage, critical thinking can also help you understand what the data is telling you.
UX designers need to work with many stakeholders—including users, product managers, and developers. There is hardly any aspect of UX designers’ work which isn’t collaborative. For example, when doing user research and testing, you’ll need to work closely with participants and gain their trust to create high-quality information about their needs.
Communication is key in design. For example, when it comes to getting a project launched, you need to be able to efficiently communicate the details of how a design should work, empowering development teams with the information they need.
Design is a discipline where there is something new to learn every day, from every person, on every project. On top of this, the industry is constantly shifting and evolving, with new standards, conventions, tools, platforms, and devices to keep on top of.
Problem-solvers are always highly valuable employees, and that’s especially true for designers, since design is essentially a process that moves both users and businesses from problem to solution.
Receptiveness to Feedback
The best way to improve the effectiveness of your designs is to always be seeking quality design feedback. Accepting feedback gracefully is a daily requirement throughout every designer’s career.