In the world of user experience (UX) design, technical skills like wireframing and prototyping are certainly important, but they aren’t the only skills that matter. Soft skills, such as communication and empathy, play an equally important role in creating successful user experiences. In fact, some would argue that soft skills are even more important than technical skills.
In this blog, we’ll explore five essential soft skills that every UX designer should possess in order to succeed in their role. We’ll dive into each skill and discuss why it’s so critical to the UX design process.
First, we’ll talk about empathy, which is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. We’ll explain why empathy is crucial to UX designers, who need to create experiences that resonate with users on a personal level.
Next, we’ll discuss communication, another vital skill for UX designers. We’ll talk about the different forms of communication that designers need to be proficient in, such as verbal and written communication, as well as nonverbal cues.
We’ll also explore the importance of collaboration and teamwork, as well as adaptability and a growth mindset. All of these soft skills are essential for UX designers, who need to work with diverse teams and be open to feedback and criticism in order to improve their designs.
By the end of this blog, readers will have a clear understanding of why soft skills are so critical to success in UX design, as well as some practical tips for developing these skills in themselves. Whether you’re a seasoned UX designer or just starting out in the field, this blog is a must-read.
1. Collaborating with other UX disciplines
Collaborating is a key skill for UX designers. Whether you work in a small or large-size company, research and content design are and will always be two of the most essential disciplines in UX that will determine the impact and value of your design.
Content designers, also known as UX writers, are responsible for the microcopy and overall messaging that lives on the UI. It’s what makes the design come to life and is the bridge between the product and the users’ comprehension in navigating it.
UX researchers are the foundational pillars of a successful product as their role engages at the frontlines of the product. UX researchers speak to the users and uncover user needs, pain points, and opportunity areas.
2. Facilitation skills
Facilitation skills are key to excelling in the UX ladder and within your own projects. Facilitation can be applied to meetings, design workshops, brainstorming sessions, stakeholder meetings, and more. When intentionally planned and appropriately applied, workshops can uncover diverse perspectives, foster mutual understanding of ideas, and promote inclusive decision-making.
Successful facilitation allows for collaboration, inclusive thought partnership, depth and diversity in ideas, and actionable next steps. All of these can help you progress in your project and help you gain leadership skills if seniority or higher is in your goal path.
3. Project management
Your company may have an actual project manager staffed for the larger project itself, but ultimately, the success and the timeline of your design pipeline fall in your hands and are fully owned by you, the designer.
Project management is a skill that is essential to prevent you from falling behind in your projects. No one is going to hold your hand, check to make sure you’re dedicating the right number of hours to your designs, and turning in your work on time. You’re an adult and you will be project managing your own work.
To successfully manage your work:
- Develop a good gauge on how long it takes for you to complete certain tasks so that you can plan ahead accordingly. Once you identified it, add 1–2 more business days to that as a buffer. Trust me, you’ll thank yourself later.
- Create a system for yourself in tracking your work. Many teams including my own use Jira, Asana, and other software to manage complex projects. Despite that, I found a personal system that works for me while still utilizing team-wide software for visibility. Find what works for you.
4. Knowing when to say no
As many of you can relate, bandwidth is always an issue, no matter the UX discipline, and no matter the role. In fact, the majority of the conversations you’re probably having with your product manager are just negotiating timelines and bandwidth.
Don’t let your capacity be negotiated. Know when to say no.
You are the owner of your work and you know best how much time you need to complete a design without compromising quality. If you find this conversation recurring frequently between you and your PM or other stakeholders, it is likely a prioritization issue at the product level. The other scenario is that you should talk to your manager in case you need to assess how this design process is going for you and if adjustments need to be made. But still, at the end of the day, you can’t negotiate your capacity, but you can learn how to work smarter.
5. Learning and knowledge management
This is a combination of learning new things and also knowing how to receive constructive feedback. If you’re not frequently and consistently up-skilling yourself, you will find yourself falling behind in a matter of a few months.
We’re designers, we’re not perfect humans. The field is growing and evolving rapidly right before our eyes, so it’s only natural that the existing knowledge and technical skills we have will eventually become obsolete.
You might find yourself in a situation where you need to improve a skill or learn a new one but don’t know where or how to do so.
If we don’t catch our own mistakes, someone else will.
Here are some ways to learn new skills and seek feedback:
- Ask your teammates for advice on what they do best; this is especially useful if they’re experts in their field! A good way is by asking them questions about what works well for them, as well as finding out which tools/techniques are most effective for certain tasks (this can also help reduce stress).
- Read articles online about similar topics related to yours — this helps increase knowledge by exposing yourself inside out through different perspectives which makes things easier when trying something new later on down the road.
- Ask your manager to give you feedback on what skills they think you can improve on. Sometimes, direct feedback is just the formula we need to know exactly where to start.