Career
5 Strengths That Make a Successful UX Designer
September 11, 2020
by Maddy Beard

UX is a fairly popular industry to get into these days, and as it grows in popularity, the field also becomes more competitive. There are tons of online courses and boot camps available, which is great! But it also makes it difficult for students to focus on the strengths they need to cultivate and puts more emphasis on the certificates and resume builders.

Whenever students ask me what they can do to get into UX, I always recommend honing your skills and strengths to help you stand out from the crowd.

Develop a Problem-Solving Mindset

The number one strength of a UX designer (and certainly the most cliché) is problem-solving. After all, you’re not just trying to make things pretty or create features just for the heck of it. Your job is to solve real problems using design. This is a skill that you can cultivate through practicing within design projects, but also throughout your daily life.

How to Improve

For an entire day, jot down all of the problems that you notice around you. These can be tiny problems or huge problems that definitely can’t be solved in one day. You don’t have to worry about how you’re going to solve them. Just write them all down. This will really help you hone your skills for recognizing problems and defining what real problems are.

This is helpful because within design projects, defining the problem statement is one of the most important things throughout the whole process. It’s a statement you can always come back to in order to make sure that your solution is really addressing the true problem that people are having.

Next, circle one that you think you want to come up with some solutions for. You don’t have to actually design or build out these solutions, but just choose the problem, grab some sticky notes, and brainstorm solutions. Your solutions don’t have to involve an app or even technology at all. Write down as many possible solutions as you can with no judgments. Whether the solution is good or bad, this is the first step in really developing your problem-solving mindset.

Be Process-Driven

Successful designers are very process-driven. They have a process that they’ve honed over the years, (and are probably still improving) and they tweak it to fit each project.

Organization and detail orientation are helpful in keeping the process moving efficiently. Every step of the process should be documented neatly so that you can come back to any research, quotes, insights, sketches, etc. and show your work when necessary. You’ll likely need to present findings, ideas, designs, and prototypes to a team or stakeholders, so keeping all of your output tidy is extremely important.

How to Improve

If you’re someone who is naturally more free-flowing with your process, document whatever process you DO have. Go back to a recent project, really think about the steps you took, and jot them down. Include as much detail as possible.

Then go back and do some evaluation. What worked? What didn’t? What would you do differently next time?

Now you have something to work from. Try to follow that same process, but with whatever tweaks you feel are necessary, and keep making notes, evaluating, and improving from there. As you gain more experience, if you make an effort to do this, you’ll have an effective process that you’re not only able to repeat, but that you’re also able to articulate to others.

Be Inquisitive

Great UX designers ask tons of questions and can determine the right questions to ask. Whether they’re asking questions to their users, stakeholders, or managers, they’re listening to understand and not to respond. (Also a great tip for life ;)

Inquisitive also means not being attached to your first or second or even favorite idea. Instead, it’s being curious about what could be improved. What isn’t working? Why? How can you make it work better?

How to Improve

Question your assumptions. Think back to a recent project. What assumptions did you make? Jot them down. Then jot down hypothetical next steps. If you were to go back and do this project again, how would you improve it? Who would you talk to? What questions would you ask? Who would you show it to that you didn’t think of before? What kind of feedback do you need to challenge your assumptions?

Look at your work with a critical eye and question every decision you made.

Have Great Communication Skills

Both verbal and nonverbal communication are extremely important in UX design. Unless you’re going to work with a dedicated UX writer on every single thing you do, learning how to write succinctly and effectively is an important skill to have.

This will also help you when it comes to articulating your design decisions to stakeholders and teams.

If you’re not a great writer, don’t worry! It takes practice. Try out this exercise to sharpen your verbal communication skills.

How to Improve

Choose an app you use often. Practice creating an onboarding sequence for the app. The goal is to communicate the value of the app and how to get started using it. Practice being concise, to the point, and you can even try to write in the style you think fits with the experience.

Many onboarding sequences are very visual, and for good reason! So with this exercise, feel free to combine words AND visuals to get your point across. All that matters is clear communication.

Conclusion

If you want to be a UX designer, you have to genuinely care about the humans you’re designing for. Lead with empathy. That’s all I have to say about that… no tips… just please care.