A UX design project is never black or white – it comes with a lot of ambiguity and challenges at different phases in the design process. These challenges can only be tackled if a designer has certain soft skills to back one’s technical knowledge. The good news is, most of these skills can be developed and refined with practice and self-motivation.
Here are the top 10 soft-skills that differentiate a ‘great designer’ from a bunch of good ones in the market:
1. Excellent Communication Skills
Design, unlike art, is not just a representation of the designer’s own self or personal ideas. One cannot just get to work as soon as a brief is provided and then submit the design files once the work is done without any communication in between these phases.
A UX Designer has to be vocal right from the beginning –
- Ask relevant questions to understand the design brief better
- Communicate with users to conduct user research
- Coordinate with other departments like the developers and product managers to execute the project successfully
- To present the thought process behind coming up with the design solution, articulately.
- Conduct user tests to understand the pain-points of users while using the product
If you expect it to be a desk job, that doesn’t require much communication, then I am afraid, that is very far from the reality of what a design process entails.
2. Passion or hunger for excellence
And getting to that ‘Wow’ moment takes a considerable amount of time and effort. An innate passion for solving problems is a big plus in the field of UX. You have to be the kind of person that thinks design can change the world. Only that level of enthusiasm will keep you going in the seemingly never-ending Create-Iterate-Test cycles involved in Product design. A UX Designer will have test out multiple solutions to come up with the ‘Winner’ – For example – a landing page that gives you high conversions or sales.
And that leads us to our next soft skill – patience.
Patience is a virtue in any field, but in design, even more so!
Conducting multiple user tests, tweaking the product, constantly communicating with other teams, awaiting feedback from users until you come up with the perfect solution – all need a tremendous amount of patience.
You will, at all times, be thinking about ways to make a product better. And that requires constantly analyzing test results, and keeping an open mind about the fact that there is no such thing as a ‘perfect product’.
Even the best of the products in the market need to be repeatedly modified to make them better and relevant to the changing times.
4. Curiosity or an inquisitive mind
The field of User experience is always evolving. New concepts, ideas are always hitting the market. In order to keep up with these changes and incorporating them into your Design process, you need to have a sense of curiosity, and a hunger to keep learning.
Only a curious mind can constantly ask insightful questions to stakeholders, and engage in a more in-depth manner with various problems that crop up in making your product better.
5. Being a Team player
Product Design can never be a one-man show.
It involves collaboration between multiple stakeholders – designers, developers, product owners, marketing team and the users. You will have to engage with each one of these stakeholders at various points of the design process.
For this, you will have to be a collaborator who engages in respectful, insightful discussions with various teams.
Need to code your product a certain way? Talk to the developer. Require feedback on how your product is making life easier for your users? Engage your user through Users tests.
And these discussions will happen on a daily basis, during the design process, and one needs to be a collaborator, to keep up.
A true UX Leader is someone who can adapt to changing times. This involves keeping up with the ever-evolving technology trends, new design tools, changing user behavior and repeated iterations to the product based on analyzing user data.
Every Design project brings with it, new challenges. No two design processes can ever be identical.
The industry the product is based in, the user demographics, user’s interests, needs, aspirations and pain points, etc. are all factors that affect the design process. The UX designer has to be flexible enough to adapt to these changes.
What differentiates a UX Designer from a Marketer or an Artist is that they cannot be added to the left brain or right brain club. It always has to be a combination of the two – creativity accompanied by rationality.
Unlike an artist, a designer cannot only think about self-fulfillment, or like a Marketer – cannot only make decisions based on numbers. There has to be a middle ground – one that involves a lot of ambiguity.
This is because UX, at the end of the day, is human-centered – and designing for humans cannot be a black and white approach. This requires open-mindedness to try out new ideas and perspectives.
This quality is essential for most leadership roles. Assertiveness and standing up for oneself is something everyone could benefit from.
With respect to UX Designers, assertiveness becomes all the more important because of the sheer number of people you are dealing with – Product owners, development teams, marketers, etc. Imagine the amount of feedback and ideas that will be thrown at you to consider.
The UX person is like the advocate of the users and their needs. For a great product to be designed, a Designer has to be heard. And to be heard, they need to have a voice and be assertive.
Humility is a highly underrated virtue for a UX Designer.
It is very easy to fall in love with the product that you designed. It’s not always easy to welcome criticism. In such instances, humility is key.
Being a human-centric discipline, it is important that a Designer doesn’t come across as pushy during User tests. Humility makes users more comfortable to open up and point out problem areas in the product design. And this is vital in improving your product.
In today’s times, when the focus is shifting from IQ to EQ when it comes to designing Digital Products, empathy in a UX designer has become a skill that is as important as possessing technical skills. To create a product that makes the life of your user easier, you need to first, step into their shoes and think and feel like them. Simply put, empathy allows a designer to understand target users better. And that is the foundation upon which your entire Design process should be based on.
Here is a bonus skill that is a personal favorite –
Great User experiences tell great stories. It is an essential part of the design process – especially at the stage when you are creating User Experiences. The more detailed these character sketches and their back-stories are, the better.
Detailed narratives provide that much needed human touch to an otherwise technology-driven field.
Stories help document the needs, motivations and key pain-points or potential design flaws, and make you better equipped to design a solution keeping users at the center of the design process.
The key to being an effective UX Designer is not only about how skilled you are at Adobe XD, Balsamic of Sketch.
It’s about how you interact with various stakeholders, how involved and keen you are at trying out new ideas and concepts, how you react to feedback and how much of a human touch you can bring to an otherwise technical product design process.