UX Design

5 underrated skills you need to succeed as a UX Designer

As the digital world succumbs to the developments of modern technology, UX Designers are seeing an increased demand for their services. 

While the job market and opportunities grow, it’s important for UX Designers to be shoulder to shoulder  with the expectations that can arise in a workplace in terms of their work ethic and skill set. This is mainly in relation to the fundamental skills that one must have, such as being able to excel in what you do through diverse and versatile approaches. After all, with growing popularity in UX careers, it is important to make sure you stand out. If you blend in with the rest, you might never be able to receive the satisfaction you desire from your role. 

So – the simple question arises, “What are the basic skills that can help me succeed as a UX Designer?” 

To start with, improve your skill set. Whether you’re just starting out in your career or trying to do more in your job role, you need to turn being a UX Designer into mastery. How do you do that, you ask? 

We will take you through the intricate details of the skills that not a lot of people talk about, but are still quite necessary to succeed. 

01 – Curiosity 

You might be wondering – curiosity? Does that even count as a skill? 

To be perfectly honest, yes. It does. In fact it is one of the most essential UX design skills.

Asking questions at the right time can help you learn much quicker than usual and the ability to ask the right questions is a skill developed with time. Think of it this way – you’re working as a UX Designer in an agency that you were looking forward to joining, however, as soon as you’re there, you simply follow the textbook, finish your work and go home. While this, too, is okay, it doesn’t make your work any different from your colleague. 

On the other hand, if you were working as a UX Designer who is constantly asking questions, thinking about what can be different in design, you might be the reason for your product’s updated and user-friendly design. This automatically gives you a doorway to tap on the user’s needs and own the shaping of the product including strategy.

In fact, there are quite a few questions that you can ask different members of your team to ensure that everyone’s thoughts are aligned and on the same page. For example, questions like “Why does this feature matter?” “Why are we choosing to implement this now?” “How do we track the success of this implementation?” “Why would the user care about this feature?” “Will it be intuitive for the target audience to use this feature?” and more could help you fill the gaps and establish clarity.

Similarly, outcomes from curious conceptualizations informed by intensive research can become out-of-the-box/revolutionary solutions.

When your curiosity is helping you find your way out of the unknown, you will have an answer to every ‘why’ of your decisions.

02 – Observation

If there is one must have UX design skill  – it is observation! To create, one needs to not just see – but observe.

While the skill seems rather simple to understand, the complexities lie in the layers of its use.

For example, in terms of design – you will need to observe the product you want to create. This observation will matter in means of research, analysis, competitive breakdown, color theory and more. When you just ‘see’ the product, you don’t try to understand the depth or the intensity of it. The observation you make – sets you apart. 

On the other hand, observation matters in the way you view people and users. What do they have to say? What problems are they facing? What are their behavior patterns like? Do they even have a need for the product you are creating? If not, which part of their life could your simplify? Has your design catered to the infrastructure needed? You cannot find answers to these questions by simply asking them. You need to observe, learn and connect the dots to derive meaningful insights.

Getting a deeper look into your competitors can help you get better insights and even a better understanding of how users react to their product. By understanding this, you get input on how you can differentiate your product.

Better observation skills, better insights. 

03 – Communication

A designer is responsible for aligning all the stakeholders. And this demands strong communication skills at all levels be it fellow designers, product owner, developers, users or any other member participating in the building of the product. 

Design decisions depend on the way the articulation is done. If you fail to explain exactly why your design will be more user-friendly, or the reason behind your decisions, you will not be able to bring all the stakeholders on the same page. Now, the problem here isn’t in your design – it’s the way you explain it, which, in turn, is the result of bad communication. 

By becoming a strong communicator in design, you will be able to open doors to a whole new world of possibilities! Not only will you be able to critique better, but you will also be able to question the existence of a design, answer the questions of a client, debate feedback that doesn’t fit. 

Good communication skills will allow you to master the art of possibilities and storytelling. 

04 – Zooming

One of the most common skills that a designer has is being meticulous. ‘Zoom in’ to the intricate details of the design to feed into the intuitiveness of your product. 

By zooming in, you gain insights into the icons, the interactions, the hover states, the labels, the tiny, tiny details that define your product’s intuitiveness. While not every user is going to notice every detail that you focus on, collectively they do impact the usability of the product. This is why it’s important to nail down all the details of your design.

Similarly, it’s also important to ‘Zoom out’ and look at the bigger picture. This is relevant from ideation to execution. What would the end-to-end user journey be? What is the ultimate goal we are trying to achieve through this product? How will the market receive this product? Will the overall system architecture match the user’s mental model?

Be prepared for a consistent cycle of zooming in and zooming out if you want to connect the dots to weave a usable product. By covering all these pointers, you can ensure that you can cater to businesses, users and technology. 

05 – Management

We’ve all got a manager in us. 

Even when we work alone, we manage our own tasks and submit them at the right time to maintain deadlines. But when it comes to being a leader in the project you’re working on – you might want to go the extra step. 

As a UX Designer, if you’re able to master the skill of management, you will automatically be deemed a leader. It is one of the most important skills in your UX design career. While it’s easy to feel like going the extra mile can be unnecessary, if you want to stand out – this is the way to go. 

Help manage tasks better by guiding your team or even work on managing a project better yourself. For a UX Designer, it’s important to be as independent as you can be. It is not just about designing, but it is equally important to deliver on time. Since you will be dealing with multiple teams and stakeholders, you will be questioned in multiple ways about different parts of your product design. However, if you’re able to master the art of management, you can lead a team and grow your career in no time. 

Master management and you’ll be able to master growth. 

This set of skills are recommended from my experience. Of course, having strong design skills is a must, but these are skills that could set you apart and help you shine.

Wishing you a great UX Career Journey!

Bhakti Dudhara
Co-Founder and Chief Design Officer at Aubergine. Working daily as a user experience specialist, designing products that make a dent in the universe, and building a team capable of taking the legacy forward. Always eager to meet innovative product owners and mentoring designers since the day we started Aubergine in 2013. My philosophy of design lies in asking the right questions.