Creating a digital product is full of rewards and challenges. No two projects are ever the same, meaning that each individual one must be approached from all angles. There are certain skills that are crucial if one wants to be a successful designer. Skills like wireframing and prototyping are key, but soft skills are just as essential to good design.
The following soft skills are a necessary part of every UX Designer’s toolkit.
How can you build a product that accomplishes a users’ goals if you don’t understand their needs and desires? In order to be a successful UX Designer, it is paramount that you put yourself in the users’ shoes so you can truly design with their needs in mind.
You have to be able to design and solve for various types of users. Learning to empathize with them is a skill that will develop over time, but you have to feel what your users feel in order to shed light on what will be most beneficial for them.
One of the best ways to begin implementing this into your everyday practice is to speak directly to your users, whether it’s through surveys, user interviews, or usability tests.
For example, the core of a usability test is not about understanding your product, but about understanding how your users use your product. What is the path they take to get from A to B? What frustrates them the most? What makes them happy?
Another great technique for getting to know your users is observation. Immerse yourself in their environment. It is your responsibility as a UX Designer to be empathetic toward all users of the product and make certain that their goals and needs are met.
2. Effective Collaboration
You have probably found yourself in a situation where you were wearing a variety of different hats as a designer. You also most likely realized that relying on yourself to perform all these jobs was quite challenging or nearly impossible. This is because an individual cannot build a successful product on their own. It’s a team effort, encompassing roles from UX Designers to Product Managers to Developers to Marketing and so on.
As a UX Designer, you will have to collaborate with other teams on a daily basis. You will partner with developers to understand constraints, or connect with the marketing team to ensure you are consistent in how you communicate the value of the product to your users.
Integrating with other teams means you sometimes have to rely on others to guarantee that everything goes smoothly. This is why collaboration is a skill you must possess in order to be an effective team member. If you know how to best utilize each team’s specialized skill and vice versa, you will create a mutual respect for each other. This will allow you to create an environment for the product to flourish and reach its full potential.
3. Adaptive Work Ethics
The world is constantly shifting, which means that the most popular trends today are waiting to be replaced by tomorrow’s fads. There is a good chance that what excites a user now will bore them next week. As a UX Designer, how can you combat this unpredictability? First, it is your duty to plan and be aware of the malleability of trends in technology. It is critical to stay informed and up-to-date with the latest craze, while also not losing sight of what is truly important.
In order to keep yourself from drowning in a sea of uncertainty, ensure you are listening to UX/technology podcasts, reading recent articles, or planning lunch-and-learns with your team. Remember to not become too wrapped up in the “now” because that is likely to change. Instead, stay informed and keep that information in your pocket so that you are prepared for any situation.
Each project brings new challenges that you may not be able to plan for. It’s important to not become frustrated or overwhelmed if some aspect does not go exactly as planned. If you craft a solution for a product and it does implement as intended, then have backup solutions. There is more than one answer to the problem, and planning for the unexpected will help you adapt more quickly. While it is nearly impossible to know every single problem that could emerge, you can be aware of these potential issues and plan out how you will solve them. You should be equipped with the necessary skills and mindset that will allow you the flexibility to make changes during any stage of the process.
While being passionate is applicable in any field, it is especially relevant to UX; as a UX Designer, a lack of interest will seep through into the product. If you don’t have a passion for creating and solving problems, then you won’t be an effective UX Designer.
It takes a lot of patience to craft the right solution and you have to crave thinking outside the box and digging deep. You may need to come up with 100 different solutions before you have your “aha” moment. This probably means gathering more research, running tests, analyzing data, and creating wireframes. You have to possess that inner drive to create (and iterate and then iterate again). You can grow to love the field of UX, but this “soft skill” is more of an innate passion for design that you should already possess.
5. Open-Minded Approach
This may not be a skill that immediately jumps into your head when you think of UX Design. Yet, if all UX Designers were narrow-minded, then it would be impossible to ever accomplish anything. How can you create a great product if you are not open to new ideas and other points of view?
You need to listen to your team members—and your users—and know when and how to utilize their ideas. You also have to be open to trying solutions that are unprecedented. The same solution is not going to work for every problem, so learning how to be accepting of new methods will go a long way. Be comfortable with the unknown and receptive to other ideas.
Tolerance for other perspectives is what separates a beginner from an expert. Think critically, but withhold judgment. Be inventive, without boundaries.
Soft skills are equally as important as technical skills, if not more vital. Being able to empathize with users or collaborate productively with your team is what will ultimately drive results and culminate a great product. As a UX Designer, you will be constantly faced with new challenges which force you to think outside the box.
Possessing these soft skills will help you clearly align your user’s goals with critical business objectives. Therefore, raising the bar on your overall successes as you continue to learn and grow as a UX Designer.
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