Go to www.Google.com. Now, go to www.hdfcbank.com. How are you feeling? If Google gave you a sense of ease and comfort, while HDFC bank left you confused and overwhelmed, it’s because of one fundamental difference: UI/UX design. Good UI/UX design not only makes the experience easier for the user but also enjoyable. Building such experiences need stellar UI UX design skills — research, visual design, testing and more.
Good UI/UX is not just limited to making the screen pretty or the buttons work. It is about knowing the user, giving them what they need and solving their problem in a manner that they will keep coming back to you. Google, being one of the world’s largest internet advertising companies does not put ads on its homepage. Because they know that showing ads even before knowing why the customer is here is bad user experience. Knowing this needs much more skill than you’d imagine. In this blog post, we’ll explore those skills. From design thinking to user interaction, we’ll explore a range of skill sets that would make you an excellent UI/UX designer. Let’s get started.
UI UX Design Skills You Need to Land a Job
Before getting into specific skill sets and how you can gain them, you need to understand the range of work a UI/UX designer does and how it might impact the product they are designing.
What Does a UI/UX Designer Do?
UI/UX designer jobs are a unique combination of both user experience design and user interface design. In the UX design part of their job, they understand the user, identify their problems, devise solutions, and find ways to build digital products to deliver those solutions. In the UI design part of the job, they visualise the presentation of information and create user interactions.
In fact, UI/UX jobs offer the opportunity to design digital solutions end-to-end, making it some of the most sought after roles in the country. Look at this job description for a UI/UX designer at Nykaa, for example:
A role like this would offer a holistic experience of designing for users across multiple digital platforms. It would allow you to collaborate with some of the best technology minds in the country, gaining valuable experience for a future in UI/UX design. Naturally, landing a job such as this would also have intense competition — only the best of the best stand a chance. This isn’t just those with great photoshop or HTML skills, but a well-rounded understanding of the role of design in the lives of the user. Impactful UI/UX designers are those who focus on solving user problems before building digital products.
Let’s explore what UI UX design skills you might need for this and how you can gain them to make yourself competitive for top UI/UX jobs in the country.
UI/UX Design Skills: The Three Sets of Skills That will Make you Stand Out
There are three key groups of skills that a good UI/UX designer needs: Research, design and soft skills. Each of them is important. But, a good balance of the three can be a unique differentiator in the job market.
1. UI/UX Design Skills: Research
Before you design the user experience, it is important to understand the user, their challenges, needs, behaviour, etc. To do this, a UI/UX designer needs to develop research and analytical skills for conducting surveys, focus groups, observational research, interviews, etc. before the design stage. Once the design is ready, they need research skills for collecting feedback and synthesising findings to make enhancements to the UI/UX design.
Some of the most sought after UI/UX research skills are:
- Design thinking: Along with human-centered design, this is the philosophical foundation of most product designs today. It outlines ways in which designers must understand users, context, and problems to build the right solutions.
- Observational empathy: This is the process of research that helps understand user behaviour, even if it is not explicitly stated. For instance, in a survey, you might ask “how easy was it to find the ‘pay’ button” and they might say “somewhat easy”. But watching them use the platform will show you where all they looked before finding it. The ability to observe a user, notice their non-verbal cues and empathise with their experience is critical for a UI/UX designer.
- Creating personas: Identifying the right customer is the first step to building products for them. You will need to speak to a wide range of target customers and build specific personas for whom you’re solving problems.
- Writing user stories: In the agile development world, a user story is a feature, but it is told from the point of view of the user. It helps clarify needs, articulate context and identify solutions.
- Web and mobile analytics: Usage analytics like Google Analytics, CrazyEgg, Kissinsights, etc. are a great source of data for a UX researcher. Knowing these tools and techniques will help understand insights and take appropriate action.
- Identifying and writing problem statements: To find the right answer, you need to ask the right questions. Writing problem statements are exactly that. Articulating the problem in such a manner that it inspires clear and actionable solutions.
- Identifying appropriate research methods: Surveys, focus groups, personal interviews, games, shadowing — there are myriad ways in which you can research something. Knowing which method is best for which problem saves time and energy in finding solutions.
- Usability testing: Research is not a one-time activity. A UX researcher must also be able to take prototypes and products to beta users and bring back meaningful findings.
- Latest trends in UI/UX design: As the digital world evolves, UI/UX will also change. Keeping an eye on trends will not only help adapt faster, but also in making the decision when not to ride the wave.
There are several books and online resources to learn UX research. After getting a grasp of the theory, you must apply your research skills to practice. An internship at a UI/UX design firm would be the best way to achieve this. It will give access to users, as well as supervision of seniors to guide you.
2. Design skills
Having an eye for design and intuition for the logical flow of information is fundamental to being a great UI/UX designer. In this case, design isn’t just about the way things look, but the way things work as well. For instance, the job of a UI/UX designer is about designing how the button on a mobile app will look, as well as what would happen when someone clicks on it. You might design the button in orange colour to indicate urgency, rounded corners to show smooth comfort, and with micro-animations when someone hovers over it to appear dynamic and attention-grabbing. This is important.
What is also important is what happens when the user clicks on it. Does it open a popup/overlay/new page? Is the information the user needs already on this page or do they need to take further action? Is the UX writing on the page clear enough to inform the user, while also being inspiring enough for the user to take action?
A good UI/UX designer will think this through end-to-end. In fact, they would even go as far as to connect this user experience to business outcomes for the long-term. To achieve this, every UI/UX designer needs:
- Understanding of basic design principles
- Knowledge of branding and brand design
- Proficiency with design tools like Photoshop, Sketch, Illustrator, etc.
- Ability to design micro-animations
- Rapid prototyping and wireframing
- Building the information architecture
- UX writing
- Acquaintance of accessibility and other design best practices
Much of design is intuition. Understanding colours, shapes, contrast, balance, etc. mostly become intuitive to a designer. You can develop this intuition by actively observing designs around you, learning from them, and applying those lessons in your designs. There are online courses and books available too. Regular and persistent practice is also helpful.
3. Soft skills
Creativity, problem-solving, communication, etc. are important parts of UI/UX designer jobs. A UI/UX designer will regularly communicate with product managers, business analysts, developers, users, etc. They need persuasion skills to probe and understand users’ motivations and preferences. They need creative problem-solving skills to look beyond what’s obvious and find unique solutions. They also need collaboration skills to work with multi-functional teams.
Some specific soft skills you’ll need for a UI/UX career are:
- Writing — for both UX writing and user stories
- Giving and receiving feedback
- Attention to detail
- Logical reasoning
- Appetite for learning and continuous improvement
Gaining soft skills can be accelerated by a good coach or mentor who regularly reviews and corrects your output. Making presentations or writing is best learned through practice and pointed feedback for improvement.
If you’re looking to build a career in UI/UX design, consider Springboard UI/UX design career track. This 9-month program offers comprehensive learning across all the above skills sets, as well as 1:1 mentorship, personal career coaching and a job guarantee!