Grow Fast in Your UX Design Career — Technical Skills

Grow Fast in Your UX Design Career — Technical Skills

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about soft skills for UX designers — be a great communicator, driver, and success together. In this article, I will talk about technical skills — an eye for beauty, a heart for users, a deep understanding of business, and the ambition to strive for perfection.

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1. Master the fundamental knowledge

“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”

— Steve Jobs

What’s this about?

This is about the foundation: Psychology, UI components, design principles, and design philosophies… At first glance, a user interface consists of components. But what are the function, usage and behavior of every single UI component? How can they work well together? And how to use design principles in decision-making and articulating? Which design philosophies do you believe — prefer function over form, or keep it simple and stupid?

How to build it up?

  • Master the function, behavior, and usage of every UI element. Refer to industry-standard design language systems such as Material design.
  • Make design decisions based on Ixd & VD design principles that help you explain your ‘design instinct’. Apply them also when convincing others.
  • When seeing others’ work, think about why good or bad based on principles. Note down your takeaways and apply them in your work.
  • Develop your design philosophy. Reflect on which philosophy is proven under what case and practice your learnings.
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2. Have a holistic view

“Where you innovate, how you innovate, and what you innovate are design problems.” — Tim Brown

What’s this about?

This is about NOT limiting yourselves on one screen, but having a global view of the whole product. What does the overall user journey look like? What can be the impact of my small change on the entire journey? Is the experience consistent through all the funnels? What is the role of each part of the product? Which part causes the most user pain points and which part has the biggest business potential?

How to build it up?

  • Conduct a page auditing for the product you are working on. Review ALL the screens, status, and features. Understand the information architecture on a product level. Also, discover inconsistency issues & bugs.
  • Make a user journey map with the framework with the current product, user expectations, user pain points, insights, and known problems.
  • Think from a service design point of view, and extend the user journey to a service blueprint. Understand how your organisation delivers an experience with the existing resources.
  • Keep the holistic view in your mind for every task, and switch from micro to macro when needed. Update the journey map with new features as time goes by.
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3. Solve problems

“The goal of a designer is to listen, observe, understand, sympathize, empathize, synthesize, and glean insights that enable him or her to ‘make the invisible visible.’ –Hillman Curtis

What’s this about?

UX designers are problem solvers. Before directly jumping to make something, ask yourself that is a problem exist and where is the evidence. Always find the root cause of a problem and be clear about when you are confident that a problem is solved. If a problem can be solved in many ways, which criteria can help you to make a choice? And if a problem cannot be solved at one go, what are the steps to tackle it?

How to build it up?

  • Be very familiar with UX design methods, knowing when to use which method. Involve yourself in all the phases of problem-solving, end to end, instead of just executing the design.
  • Experience your product and the competitors all the time. Proactively gather available data & insight from user research, experiments, and analytics. Spot user pain points that make the business suffer.
  • Ask ‘why’s until you reach the root cause of a problem. Be clear about its’ impact on both user and business sides. Choose one solution by listing the pros and cons of every possible solution.
  • Apply the right business & user behavior metrics for measuring success. Have a clear prediction on how the metrics will behave. Be able to design for validation and discovery insights from experiments. Use these insights to keep iterating until a problem is solved.
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4. Create values

“Some people say ‘give the customers what they want’, but that’s not my approach. Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do.” — Steve Jobs

Good design create values. To do so, you need to understand the market, the trend, the business, and most importantly, the users. What problems do they usually face? What can help them reach their goals? What can make their life easier? What can bring them happiness? Have a heart for your users and make things they really need.

  • Put yourselves into users’ shoes — not just by imagining you are them, but by conducting user research, reading their feedback, and analysing their behavior. You should be able to answer these questions easily: what are they missing and what do they desire? Create an empathy map to visualize your findings.
  • Understand the business model — how your product brings money and what are the expenses. You can create a simple cash flow diagram. And point out what features drive for short-term success, etc conversion rate, and what features drive for long-term success, etc brand loyalty.
  • Identify the areas where user needs meet the business need. They are the big wins. However, when business growth means sacrificing user experience, your role becomes the defender for your users, as bad UX will result in long-term business damage. Use techniques to balance user needs and business needs.
  • Create a positive influence on society, humanity, and the world. Although it is big to say, a good product/design should do so.
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5. Be ambitious and strategic

“It is not enough that we build products that function, that are understandable and usable, we also need to build products that bring joy and excitement, pleasure and fun, and, yes, beauty to people’s lives.” — Don Norman

What is that about?

Never let limitations, either in technical or budget-wise, blowdown your ambition for making a product perfect. The best designer can translate a big fluffy vision into something tangible and make sure it lands on the product. It is like renovating a building. Although you cannot make it in one go, visualize the ideal situation, integrate resources along the way, and step-by-step reach your goal.

How to build it up?

  • Understand product strategy with a strategic design mindset. Ask yourself and answer the questions: Which stage of the product cycle your product is in? How to make your product stand out from competitors by feeding the user needs? What features have the most potential to make it happen?
  • Participate in defining a vision with a product vision board so that user experience is considered and prioritised. Brainstorms bold ideas with your team based on the product vision board. Visualize the ideal product composed of these ideas. The visualisation helps you communicate.
  • Convince your stakeholders with the vision by showing evidence and applying storytelling techniques. Influence them with your passion for perfection. Get support for the main features of the vision.
  • Plan the vision along with the product road map and make sure it is shipped by keeping track of the progress. Clean-up un-wanted features first and monitor the impact. Implement low effort and high-value ideas before high-cost ones to validate fast. Prepare an MVP version of ideas and scale them later when their values are proven.

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My other articles:

Soft skills & technical skills for growing fast in your UX design careers:

Grow Fast in Your UX Design Career — Soft Skills

A design method mind map for designers at all levels:

UX Design Methods In A Mind Map

About product design philosophies:


Grow Fast in Your UX Design Career — Technical Skills was originally published in UX Planet on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.