UX design has become the standard recipe for success in the tech industry. It took a lot of time for UX to get the spotlight and now, after the phenomenal growth in technologies, products and services, there is no looking back.
However, jumping on the bandwagon, every designer claims to be a UX expert with mastery in design tools. But what matters is that are they actually skilled enough to match the pace and meet the challenges of the technical world?
UX expertise is not limited to being a design ninja; it also accounts for professionalism with ability to understand and perceive human nature and behavior.
A lot of companies are still blindfolded under the disguise of UX tag and hire amateur UX designers that make the firm go to the dogs. Besides that, they ruin the set value of good UX design with their vague approach.
So, cutting long story short; what actually qualifies a UX designer to be skilful? This post rightly answers the question and narrows down the skills that are a must for a good UX designer :-
1. User Research At Priority
An adept UX professional never compromises on user research and wants to know everything about the user before proceeding to design. User research can be conducted through various methods, but it basically means going out and meeting the actual users to study their behavior. One more thing, if you think usability testing is user research then I’m afraid, you are wrong. Usability testing is all about extracting reactions to a design. If a particular UX candidate initially shows interest in usability testing, start looking for another candidate. User research is quite proactive whereas usability testing is reactive.
If your candidate values user research and narrates effective strategies devised from it, you can easily tell whether it has been practiced earlier or will it be conducted for your future projects or not.
2. Background Influence
It is seen that talented UX designers have backgrounds in various disciplines. No doubt, many aspiring UX designers have studied graphic design and web development, but that doesn’t mean designers from other disciplines can’t become competent UX designers. Anyone can become a proficient designer provided they have the right training. And right training is not concerned with aesthetically pleasing graphics or button placement rather it is more about following the perceptions of real users. Any UX designer worth their skills should possess cognitive psychology in their respective disciplines.
3. The Responsive Art
Responsive design has become the utmost importance for compatibility with multiple devices. To meet the demand of recent times, it is crucial for the UX designers to be skilled in crafting responsive designs. Yes, this means building more of modular designs in which you shift straightaway from sketching to prototyping rather than sticking to the traditional wireframes to Photoshop PSDs approach.
The need of the hour demands the UX designers to be well versed technically. With more fluidity and responsiveness in designs, it is important for the designers to comprehend all the techniques and mechanisms that are essential to publish and transform content.
4. Command On Agile & Lean UX
Agile and lean software development has brought revolution in the tech world and is right here to stay. And why not? These are way better for creating design and software as against the traditional waterfall methods that are still dear to many design agencies.
To go with the flow, many UX designers are finding their place within an agile environment and honing themselves to deal with the challenges and difficulties it brings along. The duties of a UX designer are more extensive while working in an agile team as they are entrusted with the responsibility of design facilitator and conductor instead of the designer only.
5. The Right Strategist
Even if you are not able to find the root problem, the best that you can do is to tackle the wrong problem smartly. Most firms tend to fail in recognizing the problems their users are actually facing. Surprisingly, they first come up with a solution and then deliberately find a problem to combat it with the solution. This solution becomes all-time favorite and is pushed unnecessarily everywhere. UX is a systematic discipline that involves understanding the users’ issues from their outlook. The clear assessment of the problems gives proper direction for effectual solutions.
Putting the right amount of effort in user research and problem recognition can prove elementary is forming powerful UX strategies. Once you have right UX strategy at hand, bringing out useful solutions is not a big task. It becomes simple as task analysis during the problem definition stage reveals the task flow for the real users and the main tasks that have to be dealt with. If your candidate lacks in strategy management from user research and can’t think of any tactics to bring about a change, then probably this person is far from UX mastery.
6. Optimizing Tasks
Task analysis is just the beginning of formulating a successful UX design. What follows after is the optimization of those tasks. Keep in mind to avoid automating current frustrations during the optimization process.
An experienced UX practitioner is well versed in re-engineering the task flow to bring out a productive flow. Even simple features in UI for example, shipping details in business days can miss the mark.
Such shipping UIs cause more confusion than clarity. UX experts who have seen everything under the sun know how to optimize common processes and make it user-friendly.
7. Making Users Happy
If you ask a UX candidate the main motive behind UX and pat comes the answer- to make them happy, that is where you got to think again. ‘To make the users happy’ has become the sure shot mantra for UX aspirants, but the problem is knowing is not sufficient. Yes, making users delighted is indeed one of the objectives, but the real thing is –how will the design make them happy?
If the candidate fails to answer this question then chances are there won’t be any execution too. Okay, if making the users happy is a vague motive in UX design, then what is it that can really benefit the users? Users come here to seek solutions to their problems and attain the desired result.
Give them the right knowledge so that they can meet their needs and get outcomes even beyond their expectations. This is truly the best objective you can fulfill.
8. User-Centric Design
Many wannabe designers are fully acquainted with personas and even create rather lame ones, but a UX pro knows very well how the user behavior will affect the designs.
One of the major ingredients in great user personas is details of expected user information. Your UX candidate must be clear how the designs stem up with expected user knowledge and display required knowledge that is not even expected by the user.
Expert UX professionals measure personas in terms of cognitive and behavioral characteristics such as knowledge base, motivations and desired outcomes; all of which are consequential for designs. They refrain from explaining users in terms of marketing parameters like income, marital status, employment status, which are as such no help in the design process.
9. Prototyping Pro
New versions of the software are hitting the markets now and then. Even websites updates are made on a daily basis in these times. With technology surging ahead with quick advancements, it is important to evaluate and reiterate a design without much delay.
Design can’t be evaluated without a prototype thus, it is essential to be skilled in rapid prototyping so that the UX design can be better communicated and assessed.
Rapid prototyping can become an asset for every UX designer and should be rendered for better interactions which might not be possible with old-school mediums of wireframes and visuals.
10. Business Brain
Providing users with pleasant user experience has become somewhat a usual thing for the organizations. As the importance of UX design expands on the horizon, UX designers have to contribute to enhancing the business of the company and attend all the business meetings with the other department heads.
UX designers in the coming times will not only have perfect design skills but will be sharp in their business tactics as well. They will have to be used to in giving presentations, dealing with business stakeholders, writing business cases and much more beyond their specific scope.
11. Check On Real Issues
Any wannabe UX designer can immediately recognize minor design errors at first glance. But an experienced UX practitioner starts by enquiring about the users and the required tasks to evaluate why the design couldn’t satisfy the users. The analysis will be more practical and strategic and highlight significant issues like cognitive loading, interrupted flow etc. instead of basic problems like visual clutter, button color, and navigation arrangement.
A UX pro can walk through any design and pinpoint the limiting factors that are curbing the performance. Your UX candidate can rightly fill the criteria if he/she can explain the apt approach to solve design problems and justify the choice of approach for users and domain.
12. Participatory Layout
As the design is scaling high with innovation, so is its reach. Owing to participatory design, the design process is not only open for users but for other interested parties as well.
With organizations getting more exposure, they are stressing too much on UX and hence are involving many people in the UX design process. UXers, with time, have to become adroit in organizing collaborative workshops, conducting synergic design sessions and making the stakeholders participate from all across the organization.
13. Unique Design
The more skilled your UX designer is, the more different your layout can be. If they are simply copying other sites and not adopting a unique approach, then you have chosen the wrong designer. Most websites tend to commit common mistakes and other sites simply by copying them fall prey to these errors. A real UX expert doesn’t fall for the trap of imitating other designs and deliver poor designs as a means of shortcut. Your UX candidate should take the challenge of making a design different in stride.
They should be versed in their user research to have a clear idea of motivations, triggers, perceived problems and expected results of the relative users. These are absolute drivers of an awesome UX design and can be relied upon for creating a successful layout.
14. Data-Based Design
There are design methodologies that actually contradict well-established usability standards. For example, cascading drop-down menus are quite common in the navigation system but research indicates that the users aren’t much comfortable with them and give poor performance.
Every design approach has its positives and negatives. A good UX designer should be able to give data-centric and experiential reasoning to justify the design decisions undertaken.
15. Published Views
Another factor that determines the skills of a UX designer is their published posts. You can know a lot from their blog posts or even their LinkedIn discussion entries. You can judge from the fact that is you able to learn something new from their knowledge or is it the same old repetitive fundamental information they are thriving on?
Their perspectives in these published entries can reveal their mindset and the approach they adopt while designing. Do they have the courage to contradict or do they follow what everyone believes? Their opinions can truly voice for their experience and expertise in UX design.
Every designer has a toolbox full of techniques, but it is the art to understand what each tool can do best that matters the most. There are various aspiring designers who create a false play with their knowledge but lack the qualities and abilities mentioned in this article above. Follow the checklist and see for yourself how skilled your UX designers are to accomplish desired UX design goals.
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