We spend a lot of time looking at the practical skills for UX designers here at the Interaction Design Foundation; we think that’s natural because we want to help equip UX designers to be the best that they can be. However, it might be time to take a quick peek at the soft skills that you need in order to carry out the role of UX designer successfully. So let’s take a look:
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There’s probably not a job on earth where communication skills hold some importance but for UX designer’s it’s a key requirement of the job. You need to be able to brief stakeholders, users, project teams, etc. on your findings and your needs. If you can’t communicate properly at all levels of an organization then you’re going to struggle to get things done. Your written communication skills are as important as your verbal communication skills too.
As a subset of communication skills; presentation skills are very much high up on the UX designer’s list. Unfortunately, this is an area that a lot of people are terrified of. In fact, it’s said that more people are scared of public speaking than are scared of spiders! If you find presenting a struggle then you might consider joining Toastmasters which is a cheap and sociable way of developing your skills. There are branches of Toastmasters nearly everywhere in the world.
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Getting things done when you work in a team always requires the ability to negotiate. That doesn’t mean the ability to bully people into getting them to do what you want but rather working with them so that you get as close to solving all their problems as you get to their own. Sometimes you’re going to need to compromise to get the right results. So developing your negotiating talents in the right direction is very much the order of the day.
Empathy’s probably something that’s more innate than something you can learn but UX designers need to be able to step into other people’s shoes and see the world through their eyes constantly. You have to be able to feel for your users and for your team and for your business. You can’t meet their need if you can’t understand what they’re going through. Empathy should naturally develop in any role which requires constant human interaction but the occasional reminder to try and see things from a different perspective can help speed the process up.
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There’s no more valuable skill in any job than active listening. It’s a process of more than shutting your mouth and opening your ears. It’s about questioning people to demonstrate your understanding or to clarify things that they have said. It’s about repeating back information to ensure that you have really got a handle on it. In short, it’s about taking an active interest in what people have to say and rather less of an interest in anticipating what they are going to say.
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