Things to Know Before Starting Your UX Career I — Soft Skills
Looking back, there were many things I wish I knew before my designer journey. So, it might be helpful to list them down and share them with you. This article is about soft UX skills and I will write another one for technical skills soon.
1. Articulating Design
You may hear that design is subjective. To be honest, it is. However, as a designer, it is our job to find the best solution. How to articulating them becomes one of the keys to success.
- Be confident. Your confidence can influence your audience.
- List down evidence to support your ideas. It can be the outcome of an A/B experiment, findings from data analysts or a full-funnel user test. Read this book.
- Write it down before presenting it. Take your audience through your thought journey. Tell them how user/business/technical needs shape your design. For a bigger project, you may write a pitch.
- Visualize all the possibilities and bring them with you. When a stakeholder asks why not trying A, you can show A and explain why it doesn’t work. It is easier to articulate with something people can see directly.
2. Self-driven & Independent
Usually, designers are expected to contribute more than just design. We are not only an executor but also a user advocate who makes sure everything the company delivers is user-friendly.
- Don’t wait for tasks. Be proactive and find things to work on. I am sure many known UX problems are deprioritized to solve. Choose the ones that have big user impact and roll up your sleeves.
- Discover new issues and dig into them. Reach out to sources where you can gain user insights (e.g. CS ticket, Usabilla feedback, Google Analytics flow) If you find a problem, make some sketches and bring them to the team.
- Being independent doesn’t mean you can’t ask for help. But you should work out everything you could first. Instead of reaching out to people with nothing in your hands, make several solutions and ask which direction to continue and why.
3. Take Ownership
As designers, we are not just a session in-between product and development. On the contrary, we drive. We prioritize tasks with product owners, and we sit together with developers to monitor executions.
- Don’t move to the next task completely after you finish the current one. Follow it up. How is the implementation going? Are the metrics moving in the way you anticipated? What can you learn from the result? Does it require another iteration?
- You own a product, not just a task. Whenever you find something to improve, start conversations with stakeholders. It doesn’t matter whether this problem falls into your scope or not. Your responsibility is to work with everyone and deliver a great user experience.
- Own a topic that you can deliver something end to end — From ideation to defining the scope; from business discussion to making design; from implementation to measure the result. By doing so, you understand how to land a concept on the product.
4. Stakeholder & Time Management
We work with people from different disciplines to achieve the same goal. It is important to have cross-function communication skills.
- Understand that your stakeholders are not designers and explain things in their languages. When presenting your design, tell the reason that can benefit them. To do so, you need knowledge from their field and know what they care about. Read this book.
- It happens often when you are told to design something by your stakeholders. Ask why first and understand their reason and perspectives. Your solution should come from the reason. Don’t be afraid to push back if you find a request invalid or not user-friendly.
- Always ask what is the expectation. Prioritize your task based on the impact, urgency, and nature of work. Confirm with your stakeholders about what to deliver and when to deliver. Also, keep them posted about your progress. If you find things are all over the place, maintain a spreadsheet to help you follow your projects.
- Involve your stakeholders early. If a task is teach-heavy, ask developers to join the discussion and make choice with them. If a task is to reach a business goal, co-design with your product owner. In this way, your design becomes more convincing.
5. Feedback & Reflections
Feedback helps us grow. Don’t take feedback personally and focus on action items that can help you improve.
- Ask feedback frequently, and don’t wait for others to give you. You can ask people during 1:1 meetings or send out a form. Come up with things you plan to do, and follow up with people to check you if you are improving.
- Make reflecting one of your habits. You can reflect on a weekly basis or even just when you realize something could have been better. Think about what you should do next time in a similar situation. Or find what you are lacking at and consciously develop them at your daily work.
To sum up, it all comes to the will to grow faster and be better. Keep it up, learn from people around you, and eventually, you will get there!
The next article ‘Things to Know Before Starting Your UX Career II’ will be about craft & technical skills, stay tuned :)
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Other articles from Mei:
- Build a UX Knowledge System for Yourself
- Product Design Principles in a Single Card
- List or Grid, It Is Not Important
Things to Know Before Starting Your UX Career I — Soft Skills was originally published in UX Planet on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.